“So, what do you know for sure,” I asked Gene who had arrived to clean our windows.
“What I know for sure is that I only have nine teeth,” he replied with toothless grin.
“Wow, that’s not very many teeth,” I observed stating the obvious. “What happened?”
“I’ve had two really bad dentists.”
“What a string of bad luck,” I commiserated.
I suppose there is the possibility that this 56-year old had had two “bad” dentists in a row who were inclined to pull his teeth, but the more I thought about it, it occurred to me that his answer was simply a cover up; a rationalization and justification.
It seems unlikely that having only nine of his originally-issued 32 teeth would be solely the fault of his two most recent dentists! No, what he was doing was blaming his dentists for his own lack of discipline and poor health habits. I’m guessing chiropractic patients do the same thing. And it starts with the countless chiropractors who show up as spine fixers.
Spine fixers are those chiropractors who 1) see chiropractic as largely a biomechanical intervention and ignore (or disclaim) the whole body effects of the accompanying nerve involvement, and 2) are inclined to show up as the hero, taking credit for the largely positive effects of adding energy at opportune times and places along the spine. True, most patients see chiropractic and chiropractors in this light, granting spine fixers a wide berth and making it unlikely that most chiropractors would see the danger of assuming this unhelpful persona.
When a spine fixer singlehandedly “fixes” a spine, the micromanaging (“Don’t even think of missing a visit!”), the high level of patient accountability (“Are you drinking more water like I asked you to?”) and their inclination to care about the patient’s health more than the patient does (because they think their reputation is at stake), create at least two unfortunate pathologies:
1. Patients who are afraid to announce their last visit.
2. Patients who seek care elsewhere when their problem returns.
Tragically, these often serve to affirm the chiropractor’s spine-fixing mentality! Since so few patients announce their last visit, these chiropractors see patient relationships ending without a goodbye as, well, normal. For the same reason patients are afraid to announce their last visit, fearing they will be shamed into still more care, when they have their inevitable relapse, they look for alternatives rather than face the imagined “I-told-you-so” from their previous spine-fixer chiropractor. And, since patients don’t seem to return for more care later, the spine fixer imagines that he has, in fact, “fixed” the patient’s spine!
Meanwhile, spine fixers rarely enjoy the reactivations and referrals that should easily sustain a practice that has been around for a decade or longer.
I know. Insurance companies want you to “fix” spines and improve functionality. Which chiropractic seems to routinely do. And sure, the pull is strong. But resist! Help every patient understand that if there is going to be any fixing, they will be the one’s doing the fixing.
Naturally, this flies in the face of most patients' inclination to give you and your amazing adjustments the credit for their health restoration. But it’s a trap!
You can take the credit. In fact, most patients are quite willing to give it to you. But don’t take it. Instead, make the patient big. Make their ability to self heal, big. Make their judgment to buck the cultural bias against chiropractic and begin care in your practice, big. Make their perseverance to continue care without the instant gratification of relief from a drug that numbs their ability to feel, big. In other words, let them and their ability to self-heal installed by God be the hero. Do that long enough and consistently enough and you’ll have an enormous practice of people who will pay for the opportunity to be around you because of how you make them feel.