It is interesting when people ask about my profession. After stating I am a physician, the question that always follows is, “what kind of physician?” I found out quickly that my answer (“a really good physician!!) was not the answer they were looking for. Once the word “Chiropractor” was mentioned I could see a mixed review of positive acknowledgement and “disappointment” in various faces. Although I found it amusing, I would then follow their question with, “so when was the last time you saw your chiropractic physician?” Some, who had never seen a chiropractor before would state, “oh, I don’t believe in chiropractors.” My inquiring mind had to follow this comment with, “what exactly do you not believe in?” After learning this question created temporary neurological impairment demonstrated by their inability to vocalize any meaningful content, I assisted them by asking an additional question. “What do you think a Chiropractic Physician’s job is?” This question seemed to restore all neurological function as the words clearly flowed. Here were some of the comments and beliefs:
“They crack your neck and back.”
“They massage you to make you feel better.”
“They fix you if you’ve been in a car accident.”
“I don’t know what the hell they do!”
I began to realize that most people were unclear about the responsibilities a chiropractic physician performed. There are differences based on the state you practice in, however, in the state I reside (North Carolina) we are considered primary chiropractic physicians. This means that patients have direct access to our offices without the requirement of referral from any other health professional. This also means that chiropractic physicians are responsible for performing examinations based on the patient’s health history and presenting symptoms. This places the primary chiropractic physician and primary medical physician on equal grounds when it comes to evaluating and diagnosing health conditions.
Once a diagnosis is made each doctor must decide what type of treatment would best resolve the presenting condition. If the condition related to abnormal function of the musculoskeletal system (typically causing pain, loss of range of motion and or function) a chiropractic physician would provide various forms of treatment to correct these problems. If the condition related to bacterial or viral infections resulting in some form of illness, the medical physician would prescribe various pharmaceutical agents to address the condition. Each doctor has their own purpose and function and, in a utopian society, would work together seeking the best course of action for the patient.
Chiropractic physicians have a tendency to be more holistic. They view the body and person as a WHOLE BEING rather than only treating what appears to be the deficient area, organ or system. Medical physicians have a tendency to focus more on symptom care and helping their patients return to a pre-diseased state. Both types of doctors offer important healthcare services to their patients.
Chiropractors, in general, schedule more office visits with their patients because the goal of their treatment plans address the ROOT CAUSE of the presenting problem rather than narrowing their focus to SYMPTOMS and temporary relief. Most people realize that symptoms are the last phase of a problem to surface and the first phase to diminish. It is important to realize that symptom free is NOT synonymous with healthy. A good example is tooth pain. Anbesol may relieve a tooth ache, but an underlying abscess may be the ROOT CAUSE of tooth pain. Clearing an infection requires more time to “fix” the underlying cause of the problem than anesthetizing (with Anbesol) nerve pain from a tooth. In this example, the patient would then be given the following responsibilities.
brush teeth twice a day
take prescribed antibiotics to ward off the infection.
If the patient did not comply with the doctor’s instructions, it would likely require more time and more expense to restore proper health.
Chiropractic health care is no different. If the patient does not comply with lifestyle modifications needed to correct the underlying problems, the duration of care can be prolonged. This is THE PRIMARY REASON why people return for office visits over and over. In many cases, patients would rather let a chiropractic physician provide treatment repeatedly to restore normal function than to take the necessary steps to reduce the dependency on the physician. In these cases, the physician is being utilized as a “band-aid. It is important to realize that the physician’s treatment is not an alternative to the patient’s personal responsibilities in restoring and maintaining good health. To maximize health, the chiropractic physician AND THE PATIENT must participate together.
So the next time you hear the “rumor” that chiropractic patients have to keep coming back for more and more care, you will know the truth. Whether you are a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of medicine or doctor of dentistry, your patients need to come back for care for the REST OF THEIR LIVES to optimize their health. The FREQUENCY, however, is all based on the goals and patient compliance. Patients willing to make the necessary lifestyle modifications including (1) nutrition, (2) exercise, (3) hydration, (4) stress reduction and (5) increased quality sleep will likely need care less frequently. Periodic evaluation and treatment in the chiropractic office to maintain proper nerve, muscle and joint function will help slow down or prevent degeneration (joint, bone, disc and soft tissue.) Degenerative changes (including arthritis) are ABNORMAL, but frequently occur because the consumer is not educated on the NECESSARY steps to prevent it.
If you have never been to a chiropractor, I suggest you do some research and find a good qualified physician able to clearly communicate and work with you to help achieve the goals YOU DESIRE. If it’s been a while since your last visit, call your chiropractic physician today to schedule an appointment for a check up. Don’t wait until symptoms surface. Maintaining good health reduces painful episodes, degeneration and saves substantial healthcare costs.