Chiropractic Hyperbole


Chiropractic Hyperbole


JC Smith, MA, DC

“You know what’s wrong about you people?” asked a skeptical new prospective patient to me just last week.

“No, please tell me what’s wrong with ‘us’ people,” I replied, not really wanting to hear his response, but curious enough to learn what this medical bigot might have to say.

“You people think you can cure anybody of anything,” he told me with a tone of contempt.

“Oh, really? Just where did you get that idea?” I queried.

“Just open and read the phone book,” he flatly said. “Some chiropractors actually think they can cure AIDS and diabetes.”

I’m not certain if he suffered from too much medical propaganda himself, obviously believing the worse about chiropractic. It’s one thing for a new patient to be afraid and skeptical, it’s another to have one demean you right in your office.

“Please tell me, just why are you here if you feel that way?” I asked. “You seem to have a very skeptical and negative attitude about chiropractic care. Just what do you want me to do for you?” He squirmed in the chair, obviously uncomfortable about my question.

“I don’t know for sure. My back has ached for 40 years, and now it’s interfering with my golf game. But I don’t want to come in here forever. And my insurance doesn’t cover chiropractic. I dunno, maybe I’m in the wrong place.”

There you have it—the typical prospective new patient who enters a chiropractic office, filled with medical misinformation and a touch of chiropractic hyperbole. As I teach my staff members and chiropractors who attend my seminar, most people are 1) cost-conscious 2) medically-tainted 3) chiropractic-naive and 4) health-negligent. Yet, we DCs are somehow supposed to manage these skeptics to better health. Talk about swimming upstream! Without people-skills to transform these skeptics, any DC would be dead in the water.

After he left my office (I sent home with him the AHCPR brochure on acute low back pain in adults and my audio-cassette tape to re-orient him to my scheme of spinal care), I did check the local yellow pages to discover what he meant. While I didn’t find any claims to cure AIDS or diabetes fortunately, it was obvious that nearly every chiropractic ad did claim to be expert in areas that were questionable. For example, my office is the only nationally certified chiropractic rehab facility in Georgia, yet nearly every chiropractor makes claims to be a PI or auto accident specialist. How in high heaven can any practitioner who treats severe spinal injuries such as a whiplash claim to be expert when, in fact, they have absolutely no equipment or training to handle these cases?

Other unfounded expertises were sports injuries, nutritional consultants and scoliosis, although none of them have any post-graduate training or certifications. Indeed, it did appear that the average DC is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. In fact, since most of them are Lifers from the Diploma-Mill, I know how little they know!

I recall a few years ago after the AHCPR guideline on acute low back pain was released, the objection from the super-straights and Big Sid was that chiropractors would be pigeon-holed to just these cases. Obviously that would fly in the face of the Big Idea and the standard chiropractic hyperbole that “Rigor mortis is the only thing that we can’t help,” as Big Sid once explained. While I understand the role of the nerve system as the Master System, clinically I have found that not every dysfunction is caused by nerve interference, nor can it be helped by a spinal adjustment alone. In fact, most degenerative diseases are a combination of many co-factors, such as poor nutrition, no exercise, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, mental stress, and too many pollutants and junk phoods. If any DC thinks he can cure or prevent heart disease or cancer with only an adjustment, we ought to have his urine tested immediately.

After this outcry from our chiropractic fundamentalists in the Deep South not to be pigeon-holed, the former ACA lobbyist, Mark Goodin, remarked in an article in JACA something to the effect that chiropractors finally get their foot in the medical door with this AHCPR guideline, and still we’re unhappy! After a century of being out of the loop, chiropractic care—spinal manipulative therapy—is recommended by the US Public Health Service for acute LBP, yet we seem to snub our noses at it for fear of being pigeon-holed. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot!

I can understand that there’s more to chiropractic care than LBP treatment, but considering that 90% of adults will suffer from this condition (myself included), why can’t our profession make claim to be the best solution for this epidemic? Recently I read where the MDs still treat 59% of LBP and DCs treat around 39%. Could you imagine if the ACA had promoted the AHCPR guideline on acute LBP and positioned DCs as the best solution for this costly epidemic? Instead, some DCs seem more concerned that we’re accepted as primary care providers when, obviously, most of the public disagrees. Why can’t we be content with being viewed as the best specialists for musculo-skeletal disorders, which are rampant according to recent OSHA studies? Must we appear to be all things to all patients, when, in fact, we aren’t.

Not only would our market share increase, but once the patients were in our office, a well-done Health Class could re-position our services in their minds to other health issues and solutions. A simple explanation of the other conditions SMT has helped would enlightened patients to a fuller explanation of our care. Unfortunately, I have found that most DCs do not give any Health Class or even a simple Back School, perhaps less than 10% do. To me, that’s equivalent to a preacher who’s afraid to preach from the pulpit.

So, instead of verifiable claims based on research such as the AHCPR and a Health Class that teaches healthy habits for better health, most DCs rely on chiropractic hyperbole and over-statements about their own clinical skills. And then we wonder why much of the public remains skeptical of our profession, such as the new patient I mentioned?

Could you imagine the difference we could make if chiropractic had a PR program consisting of a national advertising program based on ACHPR and Manga recommendations, followed up by a powerful Health Class in every DC office? Get our collective foot in the door with LBP cases, then teach them the Big Idea of chiropractic, just without the hyperbole. What a difference this approach would make instead of the current program of no effective national PR and DCs making claims that are unfounded about their own expertise and the scope of chiropractic care. Indeed, chiropractic hyperbole—overstatements of care and expertise—remains the bane of our profession.