The Chiropractic Myth
"Oh I BELIEVE in chiropractic"
"Yeah, I need to get REALIGNED sometime soon"
"My hips become UNLEVELED about once a month"
These are statements that as a chiropractor I hear everyday, and I'm sure my colleagues do as well. Now I'm not one to argue these points every time I hear them, but at some point we all need to release some steam. So here goes.
First of all, chiropractic is not a religion therefore it requires no belief. I don't think I have ever heard someone say, "oh I believe in orthopedic surgery", they just take it to be the truth. So what is the difference? What has caused this faith based relationship with a non-allopathic treatment for musculoskeletal injuries? Well, it is our own fault, the chiropractor's fault. We are our own worst enemy. Our dogmatic and sometimes blind chiropractic ideals that we bind ourselves to tend cripple us in the publics' eye. When part of our profession disregards current research, or continues to pitch an adjustment as the cure for cancer we will continue to be viewed as a cultist movement rather than the predominant and viable choice for musculoskeletal injuries. Now I know some people out there are saying, "well the psychosocial aspect of the treatment is known to be just as important or more important than the treatment itself", you are exactly right. That is not a belief issue; instead that is a perception issue. OUR reality does not exist in belief it lives in perception.
Second, believe it or not we are not realigning your spine, nor are we moving bones back into place or un-pinching a nerve. I know this may be blasphemous to some chiropractors, but the truth is that we are actually inducing movement into the joint or joint complex that may be inhibited by osseous, muscular, tendonous, ligamentous structures or any combination of the aforementioned. Through the induction of movement in this inhibited joint, a neurological resetting and muscular relaxation occurs due to the fast twitch muscle reflex being activated. Certain pain inhibiting chemicals are also released in accordance with this adjustment. Other effects of the chiropractic adjustment have been researched, such as the increased or decreased parasympathetic/sympathetic function and improved immune response, but most of these have not been studied in depth enough to result in viable data.
My last point goes hand in hand with the previous statement of "moving bones", I constantly hear patients stating that their MD, PT or other practitioner told them that their "hips are unlevel" and that they should possibly get adjusted. First of all, I truly do appreciate the referral, but this is like me sending someone to his or her primary care doctor for an ibuprofen deficiency because they have plantar fasciitis. The NSAIDS may mask some of the pain, and may in fact give enough relief to aid in healing, but that isn't really their problem.
I'll let you in on a secret, EVERYONE'S HIPS ARE UNLEVEL!!! Humans are not symmetrical, so in essence we are never level and we don't really need to be. Of course a huge difference in leg length, scoliosis or some other deformity can cause unleveling or rotation, but it really boils down to how you move. If your "hips" measure differently but you can move through all planes of motion and you are pain free then WHO CARES! Yes sometimes orthotics, heel lifts or other aids are needed to help true anatomical variances, but those are not things that will ever be remedied by a chiropractic adjustment alone.
All of this being said, I am and always will be a chiropractor first, but we need to start being smart and stop being lazy. We are not moving C7 back into place, or leveling a patients hips, and if you think you are...well, you're wrong. Start educating yourself but more importantly your patients and the public. Chiropractors do have a profound impact, but that impact needs to be completely understood in order to be PERCEIVED appropriately.
"There is no truth. There is only perception."
- Gustave Flaubert
Until next time...
Stay light, stay fast.
Dr. Beau Beard, DC, MS