‘Crooked Man,’ standardized exams could clarify public perception of chiropractic adjustment benefits
The longer one practices the art and science of chiropractic, it seems the more confusing the public’s perception of the word chiropractic and chiropractic adjustment benefits becomes.
Words can certainly describe chiropractic, as in most state scopes of practice, as “the removal of nerve interference,” but what a patient can expect when randomly walking into a chiropractic office today is similar to participating in a “Secret Santa” party.
Diversity in treatment
Today we have chiropractors who use instruments to treat patients; we have chiropractors who use muscle testing to treat patients; and we have chiropractors who use blood and urine tests, and then prescribe nutritional products to treat patients, as many chiropractic neurologists do.
And then we have chiropractors who use laser therapy to treat most conditions that come into their office. Every now and then, we have a chiropractor who lays you down on the table, gives a good thrust here and there, and wishes you luck as you walk out the door. Sure, all of this can be chiropractic and is natural health care, but by no means is it a well-defined model of care that can be effectively mass-marketed to an already-confused society. And, the more diverse we become in service, the less likely chiropractic is as a profession to ever truly and clearly educate the masses as to who we are and what we do.
There are likely many reasons for this vast diversity in how we practice chiropractic throughout the country and the world. Usually, it has a lot to do with who your teachers were in school and beyond. Another very likely reason is desperation, as chiropractors are having to make decisions on a daily basis as to how to make enough money to keep the doors open in this shrinking and complicated musculoskeletal health care reimbursement industry.
A messy message
As a profession that is misunderstood by many, maybe even including chiropractors, it seems it would be wise to design a core model so that the public can learn who we are and what we do. Most don’t know it, but the musculoskeletal industry is the largest cost in health care. No one is fixing the problem. Everyone is just patching people up along the way. There would be no better time to say we are the ones who can get you better than the rest. The fact that we don’t use meds or surgery, but approach musculoskeletal naturally, automatically puts us in the running. As the largest non-drug-oriented profession to care for musculoskeletal, it should be easy to win this war.
But our core message is messy, convoluted, ego-oriented, and creates an impossibility for this profession to move forward and grow. You’d think those in charge of the profession would recognize this basic issue and design that core chiropractic adjustment benefits message.
So, what should that core message be? What can all chiropractors live with? What definition can we create that would allow the public to more clearly understand what we do and drive more people into chiropractic offices so chiropractors don’t have to create some alternative means to make a living?
The ‘Crooked Man’ explanation
For years, I’ve used “Crooked Man” as a means of explaining to people why they should be in my office and what I will do when they come to my office. I explain that every human being is Crooked Man. Everyone has biomechanical imbalances and faults, and these are the foundational contributors to injuries and premature breakdown. If we can identify them sooner, we can make necessary improvements to reduce injury and delay degeneration, adding years to their quality of life. I’ve found this graphic explains biomechanical faults effectively and makes it easy for people to understand.
The second means of making chiropractic relevant would be to establish a standardized examination of the musculoskeletal system that will provide information as to where these imbalances and biomechanical faults exist. The exam would look at joint range of motion, muscle integrity, alignment, spinal curvatures, centers of gravity, femoral head height, the three arches of the feet, and leg length. This seems to relate to everyone and would certainly provide a wealth of information to the examining doctor, even if the patient had no symptoms.
With this exam becoming standardized in our profession, we would be the only profession that looks at the biomechanics of the patient on a routine basis. Most offices take a history, do a brief ceremonial exam and get to the treatment as quickly as possible. Many believe this is what the patient wants and will help to build a stronger reputation and practice for chiropractic adjustment benefits.
On the contrary, people want to know what the problem is. And, remembering everyone is Crooked Man, patients would rather spend more, take longer and go through all the testing to find out the cause of their problem, instead of jumping into treatment without knowing. In our office we X-ray every patient. We perform a digital foot scan on every patient. We order MRIs 3-5 times per week. We continually seek more information, not less. And, we oftentimes delay treatment until we have all the information. Patients respect that.
If they are in extreme pain, we will provide treatment for the pain with the understanding we don’t know exactly what the cause is, but we will treat your pain until we get all the results from your tests back.
Providing the biomechanical solution
No other profession provides this type of information to patients. It’s called biomechanics. It’s called human architecture. It’s called mechanical engineering. All these titles make what we do seem more professional. Once we know a patient’s biomechanical faults, now we can begin telling the patient what their options are.
The patient can rest for two weeks, but they’re still Crooked Man in two weeks. Maybe the pain is less, but the problem is still there. They can take over-the-counter meds, or even prescription meds. But, with the picture of Crooked Man fresh in the patient’s mind, why would they ever do that? People are dying from these meds, and in the end, they’re still Crooked Man.
We are the only profession that can provide this high-scale biomechanical exam, and once you get these findings, we are the only profession that can truly address and fix these faults. Chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy (I use cold laser), custom orthotics, nutrition, rehab and lifestyle changes. No other profession can come close diagnostically or therapeutically.
Our profession should give it a long, hard look and see if this might not be a good path to go down for the future of promoting chiropractic adjustment benefits and the health of our profession.
TIM MAGGS, DC, has been in practice for 40 years, and now specializes in the evaluation, care and treatment of middle and high school athletes. He is the developer of The Concerned Parents of Young Athletes Program, designed to raise the awareness of sports biomechanics, and he can be reached at CPOYA.com.
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