It’s that time of year again. Actually it starts even before Halloween when store decorations featuring ghosts, goblins and witches are often fighting for attention from the Jingle Bells, Santa’s and nativity scenes.
This post isn’t about rising above political correctness to wish others “Merry Christmas!” This is about your practice and whether December is among its busiest month or slowest. Which is it?
If you think talking about the birth of the savior of the world is controversial, read on. Some may find the following observations about chiropractic in December even more contentious!
It probably makes sense to start at the beginning. In other words, what would cause the bones in someone’s spinal column to misalign and distort nerve communications between the brain and the body? What would cause someone to manifest a vertebral subluxation? In other words, “What would cause someone to lose the biomechanical and positional integrity of one or more spinal vertebrae?”
Personal experience suggests that the spinal column can manifest the effects of three different stressors: physical, chemical and emotional. Or, in the words of D. D. Palmer, trauma, toxins, and autosuggestion. While this assertion is a hundred years old and seen by some as merely the rantings of a self-published fishmonger moonlighting as a magnetic healer, I haven’t heard a better explanation.
And when do these three stressors show up in abundance? You guessed it. December! When the combustible combination of a sedentary lifestyle is supplemented by the fudge, alcohol, rich foods and emotional tensions caused by financial pressures and the forced proximity to intolerable in-laws.
If patients recognized the three types of stress and the role they play in their overall health and well-being, your most health-conscious patients (if you have any) would probably make a beeline to your practice throughout the month of December. Naturally, if nervous system stress is not part of your chiropractic patient communication repertoire, or you don’t tend to attract health-conscious individuals, then December is probably pretty lonely.
Helping patients appreciate that their particular flavor of spinal dysfunction is the effect (symptom) of physical, chemical or emotional stress will require confronting one of the most prevalent patient misconceptions about chiropractic: that your adjustments treat their headaches, back pain, subluxations or anything else.
Insurance carriers, which most patients expect will cover all or some of your ministrations, are singularly uninterested in this distinction. It has seduced many chiropractors into taking the path of least resistance with their patient explanations. And thus the current state of affairs.
I’m increasingly convinced that the widespread belief among patients (and many chiropractors!) that chiropractic care treats aches and pains rather than reviving the patient’s ability to self heal is the root of many of the challenges facing chiropractors.
Okay, with clarity about what chiropractic care does and doesn’t do, the next obligation is to acquaint every patient with the three types of stress so they can recognize them and sense when their ability to accommodate them is compromised.
While our stress poster is a good start, the best strategy I know is to cover a wall in your adjusting room with white butcher paper or obtain a large dry erasable white board and divide the surface into three columns, labeling each with the headings Physical Stresses, Chemical Stresses and Emotional Stresses. Then, encourage patients to write examples of stressors that produce subluxations.
After a month or so you’ll be astonished by the result. Sure, it’s messy and so unlike what some patients expect to see on the practice walls of a licensed professional, but so what? Changing the consciousness of patients is a messy business!
Attracting the Health Conscious
Another important action step to take if you want busier Decembers is to start attracting patients who want better health.
If you neglect to explain that each patient’s inborn ability to self-heal is the hero (not a doctor, drug or adjustment) then you tend to attract patients looking for a short-term “diet” of chiropractic treatments to alleviate their spine-related ache or pain. There’s no shame in this. You can help a lot of people this way and it’s certainly better than a drug solution. However, these patients, regardless of what they say, are rarely interested in better health. Thus they tend to disappear in December when other, more pressing demands on their time and money show up.
Stabilizing your practice with more health-conscious practice members requires that you become attractive to those who value their health. Which, among other things, means you may need to become healthier physically, mentally and socially yourself. Only then does it make sense to network with other professionals who cater to a more health-conscious crowd (Pilates and yoga instructors, midwives, acupuncturists, health food store owners, etc.) and begin marketing your services more appropriately. Which means far more than adding “wellness” to your practice name! Drop the emphasis on symptoms. Become more curious about each patient’s overall life and well-being. You may even want to learn some additional skills that would better equip you to deal with the chemical and emotional subluxations you encounter.
Granted, this won’t fix your practice this December, but resolve to make the relevant changes to your practice orientation and patient communications in the New Year, and next December will be a far different experience!