You’ve probably heard that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” Apparently, add chiropractic to the mix and you have an even greater separation.
I mention this because on Monday, March 8, 2010 the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), the governmental body ostensibly created to “protect patients” (apparently from chiropractors) and “set standards” (apparently for chiropractors), released their new leaflet (brochure), “What can I expect when I see a chiropractor?”
Besides being a collector of chiropractic brochures going on 25 years, I’m keenly interested in what the GCC might have to say. Especially in light of the recent brouhaha regarding what is permissible for a chiropractor to publish on his or her practice website in the UK.
I quickly found two serious, yet common errors on the second page. And they weren’t merely typographical errors.
When chiropractors, or governing bodies in this case, make such errors, they find themselves swerving over the double yellow lines from the practice of chiropractic, into the oncoming traffic of the practice of medicine. Which, I assume, chiropractors in the UK as elsewhere are specifically precluded from doing.
Keep in mind that chiropractors where granted the privilege to practice chiropractic, at least in the US, without the fear of being incarcerated for “practicing medicine without a license” by being licensed as a separate, distinct and nonduplicative healing art, different from medicine.
This is often forgotten by those too young to know or speak with chiropractors who were jailed. And while I’m not sure about the historical circumstances that prompted licensure in the UK, it would seem safe to imagine that it too would have been as a result of recognizing the distinction between chiropractic and medicine.
Common Mistake #1: Offering Chiropractic Treatment
The subhead on page two of the new GCC patient brochure reads: What is chiropractic treatment?
Now, if this indiscretion were the only one, I’d probably look past it as I do countless times when speaking with some chiropractors who routinely use the word “treatment.” Many refer to their intervention as a “treatment” and the place in their practice where they do it as the “treatment” room.
“And?” I can almost hear some chiropractors uttering.
Treatment is the practice of medicine. Consult Dorland’s Medical Dictionary and you’ll find the first definition is “the management and care of a patient.” This isn’t how most chiropractors use the term. But the second definition is: “The combating of a disease or disorder.”
Many chiropractors “treat” subluxations as if they were medical doctors “treating” cancer or failing gall bladder. Clearly medicine. And, as in medicine, the intervention is intended to fix or cure, in this case, the offending spinal condition.
“And?” I hear the perplexed readers who are still with me asking.
Chiropractic doesn’t fix anything. If there’s going to be any fixing, the recipient’s body will do it. Little or no credit is attributed to the intervention itself. This may be at odds with technique peddlers, but the hero in chiropractic is the recipient, not the miracle adjustment or, in the case of medicine, the miracle drug. Instead, the intent of the chiropractic intervention is to enhance the circumstances in which a patient’s inborn ability to self-heal can be more fully invoked.
If a governing body makes this error, it’s easy to see how the governed might be confused, if not worried.
Common Mistake #2: Limited to Bones and Muscles
The first sentence in the GCC leaflet following the use of the word treatment reads, “Chiropractors are concerned with the framework of bones and muscles that support the body (the ‘musculoskeletal system’).”
Really? That sounds more like an exercise physiologist. Or a physical therapist.
Remove the neurological implications of chiropractic and you have either an overpaid spinal therapist or an overeducated massage therapist!
I can understand how an observer watching a chiropractor at work might reach the conclusion that chiropractic is about bones and muscles. But that would be like saying that “electricians concern themselves with wire insulation.” Are they mindful of insulation? Certainly. But they’re considerably more interested in the circuit. Same with chiropractors.
Restrict chiropractic to bones and muscles and it becomes clear why a governing body might get nervous (pun intended) about chiropractors in the UK seeing newborns, infants or those with visceral or whole-body organic complaints. Why would a chiropractor invite parents with a colicky baby to consult their practice? Or a bed wetter? It just wouldn’t make sense.
If, as a regulatory body, you look through a bone and muscle lens and see chiropractors who simply want to revive the integrity of nervous systems, regardless of the presence of an obvious or named disease, it’s easy to see how misunderstandings, even disciplinary actions could follow.
By the way, are you curious to know who voted to establish this regulatory body with deep government pockets and the authority to reprimand chiropractors in the UK? Drum roll please… chiropractors! Yes, but order all the leaflets you want. They’re free.