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DC to DC: Counseling patients on lifestyle changes, providing holistic care

lifestyle changes

Patients usually seek chiropractic care for pain or injuries, but health and wellness have a strong correlation and lifestyle changes can have a contributing impact

Stress is a constant for many, but during the past year patients have experienced more stress than ever and are seeking lifestyle changes and advice for their primary and secondary (and even tertiary) health care providers.

As a chiropractor, you can counsel you patients regarding their stress and help them by suggesting lifestyle changes.

Neil Boecking, DC, is president of Pro-Care Medical Centers in Texas, which provides patient care including chiropractic, primary care, and specialist care, nutritional counseling and weight management programs. He gave us information and guidance on counseling patients regarding lifestyle changes to reduce stress.

Why should DCs talk about lifestyle changes and stress with patients?

At Pro-Care, we talk about “teaming up to heal up.” What this means is that I can treat patients based on my diagnoses, but it also takes an investment from the patient to get better too.

Most patients, when seeking chiropractic care from us, are coming in because of some acute or chronic pain or injury. Often times, health and wellness have a strong correlation to what may be causing the pain or could hamper their recovery process.

For example, an inactive lifestyle, obesity, type 2 diabetes, or basic nutrition can have a profound impact on one’s health. Treating back pain, as an example, requires active rehab, mobility exercises, a reduction of inflammation, and more. Nutrition and making changes from a stagnant to an active lifestyle plays a key role in one’s recovery.

Should you begin conversations about lifestyle changes the same way with all patients?

Like all people, each patient is unique and requires an understanding on where they’re coming from, their current needs, and their medical history. A patient with chronic back pain who is overweight, on medication to control cholesterol, and has a family history of heart disease comes in versus a young athlete who injured themselves competing in CrossFit, my starting point is going to be vastly different.

However, ideally, I want nutrition to be a core part of the conversation with all patients regardless if they’re introverts or extroverts. Health is health and it doesn’t choose personality types.

So how do you start with a patient and maybe broach difficult topics?

I always start with where you’re at today. What lifestyle are you leading, what lifestyle do you want to lead, and what goals do you have?

If stress is a major driving factor, what roadblocks are in your way to reduce it? What’s at the root cause? This year especially has been a major challenge for folks with stress and anxiety, and we’ve had to look at creative ways to get people moving and to keep them moving.

For example, we did a series of 75+ YouTube videos called Pro-Care Protocols, which are some of our most common active rehab mobility exercises and movements focused on specific areas of the body.

Movement and mobility are a huge component of nutrition!

Can you give an example of how you’ve begun these types of conversations with patients?

The conversation starts as soon as you shake the person’s hand, or in this year’s case, an elbow bump!

You have to build rapport and trust. Every conversation is fluid. As we identify some of the stressors, we’ll peel back the onion layers to understand triggers, causes, etc. Again, no one patient is the same, but it generally leads to some conversation on the reduction of triggers and correlation in lifestyle changes.

As an example, stress can cause inflammation, which then can lead to pain. So, naturally looking at ways to reducing inflammation such as eliminating or reducing sugar consumption (easier said than done) and reducing alcohol consumption.

Certainly, more allopathic strategies such as turmeric or green tea are great. And over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen are options. We like to recommend that in case the pain or injury is reducing our ability to do active rehab.

What are the biggest mistakes that DCs can make when they give advice on stress reduction to patients?

The biggest mistake I see is that DCs can, at times, be too narrowly focused. They’re often focused on treating the issue at hand … sciatica, neck pain, etc. If you treat the patient as a whole versus looking at the patient under a microscope, you tend to have better health outcomes.

So, I always recommend starting the health assessment from a physical, chemical, and emotional standpoint. At times, you can help your patients understand some of the stress that may be causing some of their ongoing issues and get them on a path to lifestyle changes and feeling their best.

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