Patient Media

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Half Full or Half Empty?

Are patients available for a new belief?Conventional wisdom suggests that the best person to explain chiropractic to a patient would be a chiropractor. After all, with a formal education, board examinations and years of experience, you'd think that a chiropractor would be uniquely qualified to explain chiropractic principles.

But that's often not the case. While most chiropractors are incredible at delivering chiropractic care, such skill has little bearing on one's ability to effectively communicate chiropractic. In fact, in most disciplines, the more you know, the more difficult it can be to put things in plain language for a novice or beginner.

It requires something called "beginner's mind." In other words, having a lack of preconceptions or understanding—an essential skill if you hope to connect with a patient weaned on a medical model of sickness care.

However, that's not the biggest barrier to effective chiropractic patient communications.

Back in the day, at seminars I would explain the real barrier to effective chiropractic patient communication using a powerful metaphor. Holding an empty glass, I would slowly fill it from a pitcher of water.

"Childhood vaccinations," I would say, filling the glass with about an inch of water.

"Staying home from school with obvious symptoms," adding another inch of water.

"Having your tonsils taken out," adding more water.

"A fear of germs," adding still more water.

"Catching a cold from a friend," adding even more water.

"Taking aspirin for a headache," completely filling the glass.

"This is how many patients enter a chiropractic practice," I'd observe. "They already have a model of health and healing that they assume explains their experience. You're inclined to ignore it because you're on a mission."

Then, I'd continue pouring water into the full glass!

"Health comes from the inside out," I'd say, as some in the room would gasp at the water hitting the carpet.

"Subluxations are the underlying cause of disease and ill health," as more water hit the floor.

"Reducing nerve interference is the key to better health," as a visible puddle was forming on the carpet.

"Chiropractic adds life to years and years to life," and I would pause, allowing the shock to subside and obeying the silent begging to stop pouring water on the hotel ballroom floor.

After a pause, I would deliver the punch line.

"You can't put something in (chiropractic) until you take something out (medicine)."

Theatrical? Sure. But it's true. Most patients effectively deflect your patient education overtures with a nod or two without actually being convinced. You're trying to "install" a chiropractic mindset without producing sufficient doubt about their pre-existing allopathic mindset.

Ignore this and your so-called "patient education" is largely a waste of time as you make pronouncements and assertions that are rarely embraced by patients and simply passed off as the ravings of a real doctor wannabe. Worse, patients retain their allopathic mindset and assume your adjustments are treating their symptoms!

Here are some of the issues to be mindful of when introducing a new patient to chiropractic care, knowing that most are under the spell of the mainstream medical model. Ignore these and you might as well adjust patients in total silence while dreaming of retirement:

Germs – In their world, unseen microbes rule the world, whether swine flu, avian flu or just H7N9, germaphobia appears to be the national religion. With Purel dispensers seemingly everywhere, we've learned to sneeze into our elbows and think twice before shaking hands. Most patients believe germs cause disease. "Is that clean headrest paper?" Yet, germs no more cause disease than baseball bats cause home runs. Neglect this belief and your "subluxation theory" will fail to get traction for anything beyond headaches and back pain.

Blood – Apparently, the medical community thinks that the quality of one's blood is the key to health. "Normalize" blood chemistry and apparently health will manifest, so the thinking goes. The fact is, most of the markers measured in blood are merely symptoms or effects. Yet, cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood pressure medications have devoted recipients who are often quick to defend their value and efficacy.

Drugs – When I encounter those who use prescription medications (and will for the rest of their lives), I often ask, "What's the difference between a 'good' drug and a 'bad' drug?" The answers are amusing. But on a deeper level, relying on outside-in solutions represents a fundamental mistrust of the body. Start here if you want to make profound change. Do patients trust their body?

Vaccination – Seems a month doesn't pass in which some outbreak of a communicable disease is mentioned. Ironically, many who are affected had been previously artificially immunized. The enemy of the truth here is merely a bit of research and a good dose of critical thinking. Yet, countless dutiful parents have their children injected with some man made potion and obediently stand in line to get their flu shot. "Come on sheepeople. Think!" Being a contrarian requires far too much personal responsibility, so millions capitulate.

Genetics – Most people believe that "DNA is destiny." As the mainstream media trumpets the latest discovery of the gene responsible for this or that, most people have been seduced into believing that genes automatically express themselves and manifest disease. This is such a huge deception that when Angelina Jolie had prophylactic double mastectomy there was hardly a raised eyebrow in the mainstream media accounts. When you encounter such beliefs, have them Google the word "epigenetics."

Pain – While pain is what brings total strangers to your practice, pain is rarely the problem. In fact, the meaning most people attach to pain represents a huge opportunity. (Patient Media has a brochure dedicated to this issue you might find helpful.)

Luck – And let's not forget the roll of the dice when it comes to health. This is how many explain away smokers who don't get lung cancer, the seemingly random occurrence of Alzheimer's and all the rest. It's the perfect strategy to detach oneself from the personal responsibility of lifestyle choices that affect our health.

I'm sure there are others, but if you can produce just a hint of doubt about these seven, you'll have a far more attentive chiropractic patient. Until you undermine the mass hypnosis of allopathic medicine, you have little hope of inspiring a patient to embrace chiropractic as a long-term lifestyle adjunct.


Ask questions. Find out what patients believe about these subjects. Dig deep. Why do they think such and such? How certain are they? How did they acquire their belief? Seek to fully understand where they're coming from.

Reveal your own beliefs ONLY if asked.

This is important. Only reveal your beliefs if you're asked. Until you are, their "shields are up and phasers are on stun" and they're unavailable for your conclusions.

"But what if I'm never asked?"

Yes, tragic, isn't it?

You may very well be confronted by the fact that few people you currently attract are actually interested in true health and merely favor drug-free pain relief.

By William Esteb

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Comments (1)


Bill, great post. I'm curious if you have any suggestions on questions that can be asked to allow people (patients) to begin looking at their health beliefs from a vitalistic view point? Thanks.

WDE: I don't think it works that way. I think you ask them questions and they're either curious and ask you about your vitalistic worldview or they don't. Only until you bring some critical thinking to bear on their current beliefs is there any hope they'll be interested in yours.

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From July 18, 2013 6:00 AM

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