Progress involves stepping back, looking at ourselves objectively, and discussing who we are, what we do, and why we do it.
I received a letter from a chiropractic student commenting on one of my articles who, in essence, stated that chiropractors should only adjust and had no business prescribing or recommending nutritional supplements to their patients or to their patient athletes. This student felt it would just reinforce those "extremists" who think that nutrition can cure everything. He suggested that I address this issue in my column. My initial reaction was knee jerk -- why listen to a different kind of extremist? However, after a few days I realize that a dash of this author's philosophy would help you, the readers, better understand my future articles.
The chiropractic adjustment is an incredibly powerful healing tool. Its results are generally nothing short of awesome. It is my opinion that the only health care professional who gets better, faster results than a chiropractor who performs manipulation, is a chiropractor who employs physical therapy, stretching, strengthening, soft tissue, and nutritional support in addition to manipulation. However, other professionals do receive cases where, for one reason or another, the patient discontinued chiropractic care on his own. When this happens, the new provider will normally quickly announce "another chiropractic failure" and begin to implement an "education program" consisting of the standard "don't ever go to the chiropractor again." Conversely, most chiropractors have many patients who receive less-than-adequate care from medical doctors and physical therapists. This results in the bilateral practitioner animosity where no one wins and the patients often lose.
I feel that chiropractors should continue to seek other health care professionals, and establish working relationships to insure that the small percentage of patients who do not fully respond to chiropractic are able to be referred appropriately. Patients benefit by receiving a second opinion as well as a multi- disciplinary approach to their problem. The doctor benefits by remaining involved in the case as well as enhancing his status with the patient by being responsible for the referral; and the profession benefits by a chiropractic referral as opposed to a chiropractic failure.
One of organized medicine's biggest failures (from their point of view) was their inability to exterminate chiropractic. It's not that they didn't try. They did. The fact is, the public demands the best, and won't settle for a narrow-minded approach to health. Thus, chiropractic has not only survived, but flourished. As the competition for the health care dollar increases, the narrow-minded in all professions will suffer.
This brings me back to the aforementioned letter. If we don't give nutritional counseling and guidance, who will? Are medical doctors (who have essentially no nutritional training and who have for the better part of this century discounted nutrition as an important part of health care) now going to have this job?
With the explosion of interest toward natural health care, we are seeing more and more studies on diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements. There are literally hundreds of research-backed examples of total nutritional incompetence by the medical community. It was only a little more than a decade ago when people who proposed a diet/cancer link were laughed off the podiums by you know who. Chiropractors who, until very recently, have traditionally been very nutrition oriented were called "health food nuts." The traditional community often thought it folly that we advised people to eat fresh, raw food, grown without toxins. For years, they said our vitamins, minerals, enzymes, herbs, and other factors were nothing more than placebos and, in fact, were probably toxic to a patient's health. Are these the people who we are going to give the nutritional keys to now?
Then there are the dietitians. You know, the ones who design the menus in hospitals. Need I say more? These are the same folks who told us for years that a meal consisting of a cheeseburger, fries, soda, and a fruit pie was healthy because it contained calories from the four basic food groups. Are we going to lie down and let these folks handle nutrition?
I feel the chiropractor is by far the most qualified health care professional to use nutrition in the care of patients. We have been decades ahead of the allopaths in our nutritional knowledge. Our application of the correct types of foods to ingest as well as our education in the use of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, co-factors and other non-toxic substances, to restore the body to a homeostatic state, is a standard for all others to measure themselves against. Discontinuing our practice of sports nutrition, or any kind of nutrition, would be as dumb as discontinuing physical therapy. (Remember, chiropractors have been performing physical therapy on patients well before physical therapy became a profession.)
Sports nutrition is an integral part of sports chiropractic, and the sports chiropractor is easily the most valuable health care professional an athlete can have. The reason is simple. No one else comes close to having the amount of therapeutic weapons we have. In addition to our diagnostic and manipulative abilities, our knowledge of anatomy and physiology enables us to employ a multitude of soft tissue techniques; to instruct athletes in what is biomechanically advantageous for their sport, from stretching and flexibility, to strengthening and conditioning. Add to that our knowledge of physical therapy and nutrition, and it is no wonder we are so successful in the management of athletic injuries. Those who treat only with medication, or massage, or physical therapy, or nutrition, or strength training, or conditioning, or manipulation, simply cannot compete with the chiropractor who does everything to help the body balance itself and nothing to inhibit the healing process (which often occurs when patients are over medicated).
In closing, I have one final thought. I'm sick of getting junk mail from marketers who want to sell me ideas on how to treat a patient longer. To me, the best doctor is the one who does everything he can to heal every patient as quickly as possible. This includes nutritional support when indicated. Which doctor would you go to -- the one who will solve the problem in 3 visits, or the one who needs 12 visits to do the job?
G. Douglas Andersen, D.C.
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