Power to the Patients!
President Barack Obama commented on the huge problem this nation faces: healthcare reform. “The runaway cost of health care is punishing families and businesses across our country,” President Obama said. “We’re on an unsustainable course, and it has to change.”
His renewed call for change is long overdue, ever since the Health Care Reform Act initiated by President Clinton in 1993 was defeated. Obama’s election may be the critical turning point in this legislative effort, but it will not happen without opposition from the American Medical Association (once called “the most terrifying trade association on earth”) and its allies in the medical cartel that are in total control of a $2.4 trillion capital market.
President Obama may find it easier to fight the Taliban terrorists than fighting the American Medical Association, a lesson the chiropractic profession can attest to as the original healthcare reformists who have fought to survive annihilation in the medical war, a story untold in the popular media.
Indeed, chiropractic has been the profession less regarded for many reasons—some self-inflicted and most sheer medical propaganda—a story never properly told to the American public.
A book about chiropractic is not sexy or thrilling, but in these economically challenging times, it is an appropriate topic for discussion in that it is a less costly and equally viable treatment for most spinal injuries and neuromusculoskeletal disorders. In fact, some types of brain disorders are now associated with spinal injuries and back pain.
It is also an interesting story in the history of American healthcare—a story that needs to be told in this day of healthcare reform, and it is a story that will explain, in part, why Americans are still so sick and disabled despite all the wonder drugs, shots, and surgery. Just as the war on cancer has been a failure, so too has the medical war on back pain been an expensive failure, yet few Americans understand why.
We chiropractors consider ourselves the original healthcare reformers because we were the first to fight for freedom of choice in healthcare, we were the first healthcare activists jailed and persecuted by the medical mob, we were the first to question the ineffectiveness, costs, and dangers of drugs, shots, and surgery that has now led to a healthcare crisis, and we were the first to bring a new alternative to the medical model.
But this medical warfare is less well known and continues to this day despite chiropractic’s legal, scientific, and legislative victories, and popular public support from satisfied patients. What the medical war has never had was the transparency of the media since many journalists, such as Ann Landers, were on the payroll of the AMA. There was no Woodard and Bernstein to expose the underbelly of the medical cartel or the damage it did to chiropractors or American healthcare, until now.
In 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, and urged Americans to “judge a man by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin,” I had no idea that, as a chiropractor, I would someday feel the same torment, not over the color of my skin, but over the nature of my diploma.
Never before had I as a WASP—white Anglo-Saxon protestant—experienced the bigotry that black people in America have endured for centuries. Never as an educated man from a highly renowned university had I been subjected to insults and discrimination until I became a chiropractor. Now thirty years later, I still feel the same torment knowing how misrepresented my helpful profession actually is.
Just as Dr. King dreamed of the day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers,” I wonder when medical doctors (MDs) and chiropractors (DCs) will practice together in every hospital for the betterment of all patients. After all, our mutual enemies should not be each other, but pain and disease. Somewhere in the fray, this point has been missed. As I have learned about political medicine, there are right ways (drugs, shots, surgery) to get well and wrong ways to get well (everything else).
For chiropractors, though we have struggled for over 110 years battling against the slings and arrows of outrageous medical conduct and media prejudice, our profession often seems to remain in shackles despite our successes. It is analogous to the black community in many ways—despite their successes in sports, arts, science, and now in politics with the first black president, racists still condemn them. Just as chiropractors now experience, our success clinically and in the research arena go unseen and unacknowledged by many who still think we practice today as they did 110 years ago.
Little did I know then that the same fight against discrimination that Dr. King fought and my career in chiropractic would parallel each other. At that time I was so thankful for discovering chiropractic care that I later made it my career. I entered chiropractic just as naïve as when I was a freshman crew-cut athlete at Berkeley. I was, in effect, jumping from the political pot as a student at Berkeley into the medical frying pan when I decided to become a chiropractor.
Certainly a discriminatory attitude still exists in the American medical profession, but it does not concern the treatment of black patients or discrimination against black medical doctors which previously existed; rather, it has been directed almost exclusively toward chiropractic healthcare and those individuals practicing this time-honored healing art.
Unlike racial segregation, apparently it is still acceptable to discriminate against doctors of chiropractic; ironically, I know of black MDs who discriminate against chiropractors. For all intents and purposes, chiropractors remain the proverbial “niggers” of the healthcare profession who are regarded as outcasts reviled by most MDs, demeaned as quacks by many in the media and public, and excluded from hospitals and the mainstream healthcare systems despite being the third largest healthcare profession in the country.
In addition, the paradox of this situation is the recent abundance of spinal research now shows the clinical superiority of chiropractic hands-on healthcare to anything traditional medicine has to offer for the current epidemic of back pain.
It is time publicly for someone to ask the question: Where did this overt prejudice come from? In fact, it came from within the medical closet of skeletons long hidden from public view.
Sadly, as you will learn, “Jim Crow, MD” attitude still exists in the medical field that discriminates against doctors of chiropractic and segregates them outside the mainstream healthcare delivery system. It is the last bastion of segregation that openly continues unabated in our society today due, in part, to the media that has historically been complicit in this crime.
In fact, there’s no question this discrimination has endured for nearly 110 years considering the simple fact that you have probably never read an article or seen a news program that has mentioned this medical holocaust against chiropractors? Never!
Considering the massive effort to impugn the reputations of chiropractors, ruin their careers, and deny patients access to their care, chiropractors’ anger is understandable. As in times past, activists such as Dr. King had every right to call for a social revolution; today, chiropractors have similar reasons to call for reform and equality in the healthcare delivery system in America.
Few people realize that chiropractors have been collectively jailed over 15,000 times in the first half of the twentieth century simply for helping patients. No other health profession can make the same statement or show the same dedication to their cause.
The “war” between the AMA and chiropractors has been especially bloody for those early chiropractic pioneers who were charged with practicing medicine without a license when, in reality, their real crime was practicing medicine without the use of drugs or surgery. Before state laws protected chiropractors, anyone who purported to help sick or injured patients were accused of practicing medicine without a license.
This medical war has not only hurt chiropractors, but it has also left millions of innocent patients with back and neck pain as victims of this war who were misdiagnosed, misinformed, and mistreated by drugs, shots, and surgery.
After practicing thirty years as a chiropractor, I feel like a Marine fighting on the front lines, weathering powerful foes and seeing firsthand the carnage of this medical war in the forms of patients who have often been wounded by traditional medical treatments—those patients who become addicted to drugs, have spinal shots that do not relieve their back pain, and patients who have undergone back surgeries which ultimately failed.
Their suffering not only stems from failed treatments, it also stems from lost hope, as chiropractors have seen for decades as the proverbial “last resort.” Even then, patients are discouraged by their medical doctors and insurance providers from seeking alternative care such as chiropractic. This tragedy of misdiagnosis of spinal disorders and medical treatments is more profound than many people realize. Although other unnecessary surgeries have plagued our nation, none leave patients more disabled than failed back surgery. One can live well without their tonsils or appendix, but a failed back surgery is a totally different problem and creates suffering beyond the back pain itself.
What would you say to a young thirty year old man who has had five back surgeries that included metal screws and plates, but who was still in pain, disabled, and would never work again? How do you tell him he has been misdiagnosed, misinformed, and mistreated? How would you respond to him when he tells you how his life has been turned from being an avid sportsman, hunter, golfer, and fisherman to now being bedridden with chronic pain and depressed?
What would you say when he tells you his wife left him after he became addicted to prescription narcotics to deal with the post-surgical pain? How do you console him when he admits the surgeries caused him to become sexually impotent? How would you respond after learning this fiasco has already cost the workers’ compensation program over $1.3 million?
Amazingly, a simple heel lift in his shoe and two adjustments of his sacroiliac stopped this patient’s back pain. When asked why he did not seek chiropractic care first to avoid surgery, he replied that he was told that chiropractic care was not covered by workers’ compensation insurance (which is untrue) and that chiropractic care would paralyze him (which is also untrue). He was the victim of a greedy surgeon and a perversely motivated workers’ compensation insurance company aimed at exploiting his case rather than helping him by using the least expensive, yet most effective, treatments.
This is just one case—out of hundreds of thousands annually—that should serve as a warning to millions of Americans who also are misdiagnosed, misinformed, and mistreated annually for common back pain.
Today, I would ask everyone with preconceived ideas about chiropractic healthcare: Back off with your medical bias, understand the partisan source of your prejudice since I will prove most of it is simply medical misinformation, and let me tell you how chiropractic healthcare can help you and your family, just as it’s helped mine.
The issue today is not just about proving the potential benefits of manipulative therapy in treating spinal injuries. Rather, it is about getting this information into the hands of the public and overcoming the public’s skepticism and the bias created by medical misinformation. Sadly, this may take another generation since too many older medical doctors and patients believe these lies to the extent that they remain unconvinced that those “damn chiropractors” were right all along about many things, not just the best care for back pain, such as prevention and wellness, issues long espoused by many chiropractors.
Rather than the open-mindedness of true scientists, as you will learn, many MDs became myopic pawns of political medicine instead, spouting the drivel of medical bigots. Many MDs still practice outdated treatments, ignore the new research on chiropractic care, and many just “don’t buy it” no matter what the facts may show. Little do most people realize how conservative and intransigent the medical world actually remains today. Indeed, if the electronics industry were as slowed to change, we would still be in the vacuum tube era.
This is disturbing information to learn about your favorite medical doctors. There is a mean side of medicine that few in the public are aware of, but about which every chiropractor is painfully aware—just ask the chiropractic pioneers who were collectively jailed for fighting pain and disease with only their hands.
So please allow me to relate the sordid story of how the medical profession aimed to destroy the chiropractic profession, and how recent research now shows that chiropractic care has been vindicated as the best form of care for the majority (not all) of spinal disorders, as well as being recommended for other health care problems, like fibromyalgia, hypertension, asthma, colic, otitis media, chronic fatigue, and other neuromusculoskeletal and spinovisceral disorders.
Today’s chiropractic is not what our grandfathers knew. Nor is it what my predecessors or their medical rivals knew since I believe chiropractors were ahead of their time as the latest research now suggests. Early chiropractors saw the miraculous results of their treatments; they just could not properly explain them in scientific terms as we can today.
Indeed, this book is the breakthrough the chiropractic profession has needed to showcase its struggles, its accomplishments, and its vindication as a viable and important health care profession.
Certainly, it’s time to judge chiropractic by what is real, not by what is imaginary. Indeed, it’s time to get past the prejudice to learn how chiropractic spinal care may be the most important care you will ever receive.
JC Smith, MA, DC
Warner Robins, Georgia
 Obama speech when he nominated former Sen. Tom Daschle to head Health and Human Services and the White House health reform team, Dec. 29, 2008.
 Mayer, Milton Sanford, The rise and fall of Dr. Fishbein, Harper’s Magazine, Nov. 1949, pp. 76-85.
 “I have a dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.