Much of my three-decade plus career in chiropractic as a non-DC has been spent giving new meanings to some of the more unhelpful patient behaviors that chiropractors encounter. The underlying theme has been patient education, which morphed into managing patient beliefs. (I regularly assert at speaking gigs that if you have any hope in attracting a tribe of cash-paying practice members, you’re actually in the belief-changing business, not the pain relief business or the spinal curve restoration business!)
More recently my attention has turned to the dynamics surrounding disembodiment. In other words, how “connected” are patients to their bodies? Can they detect subtle changes that warn of the need to make change? Or do symptoms need to be full blown before they can “hear” their body speak to them?
I’ve suspected that there was another facet that explained why chiropractic, despite its common sense basis and side-effect-free success, is unable to gain acceptance, traction and critical mass. I think I’ve put my finger on it. Tell me if you agree.
Chiropractic may be too expensive. Not in the financial sense, but in the obligation to assume self-responsibility sense.
If you successfully avoid the temptation of practicing chiropractic medicine (using adjustments to treat symptoms), then you probably explain to patients that they’re the doctor, they do the healing, you have no idea how they will respond to care, if or when they can expect results (even though you have some general estimates) and that the speed of their recovery is largely out of your hands.
Frankly, most people would rather take a pill.
At least when you take a pill, like millions do, you don’t have to think and you don’t have to take the enormous risk of being an outlier to the wisdom of the herd.
See why chiropractic is so expensive (unattractive)?
Some chiropractors try to soften this by investing themselves in the patient’s recovery. They feel defensive when patients reveal their displeasure with the speed of their recovery. They allow a raised eyebrow or some other cue (the car they drive, their last name, what part of town they live in, etc.) to change their clinical recommendations.
Chiropractic care places many demands on patients that the mainstream allopathic model doesn’t. Simply consulting a non-mainstream healer like you raises countless issues. “What will my friends think?” ‘What if my MD finds out?” “What if it’s just a scam?” “What if it doesn’t work?” "Will my insurance cover it?" “I’m not sure who to trust.”
Over the years, several studies amongst chiropractic patients suggest that they’re generally a more educated bunch. Which stands to reason. Chiropractic appeals to those willing to engage in some critical thinking—something that most people stop doing in their teens and find far more taxing than passively watching television or being a voyeur to Charlie Sheen’s career or Lindsay Lohan's latest meltdown.
Who is most likely to make a great chiropractic practice member? Someone willing to question the status quo, who is in touch with his or her body and willing to take personal responsibility for its condition and longevity. In other words, sadly, not very many people.
Perhaps this is why so many chiropractors have chosen the path of least resistance, bowing to patient pressure and practicing chiropractic medicine. As in "treating" the patient's symptoms. As in going into the "treatment" room. As in using adjustments to relieve [enter symptom here]--the practice of medicine.
Practicing chiropractic is difficult. It requires unwavering focus to avoid succumbing to a patient's allopathic worldview. It demands high levels of confidence to ward off the relentless inroads made by drug manufacturers, skeptics and cynics.
Don’t be bummed out! Having clarity about this subject should set you free. Because it’s not you. Or your technique. Or procedure. Or location. Or fees. It’s that, for many people, chiropractic requires assuming far too much personal responsibility. Which, incidentally, isn't something you can change by a persuasive report or a charming tableside manner!
So, while those who are available to pay the high price of personal responsibility may be modest in number, I bet there are enough of them in your community to populate a thriving practice. Unfortunately, they think you're a back doctor. So you’ll want to acquaint them with the truth about chiropractic. Which brings us back to the subject of patient education.
If you have a better explanation why chiropractic hasn’t assumed its rightful place after over a century of incredibly consistent, side-effect-free results, please let me know.