Just as all Americans live in relative peace here in the U.S. because our military stands guard throughout the world, we have a group of unsung heroes in chiropractic known simply as the "research community." I wish they would be more vocal at times, but they are usually too busy working to enter the fray.
Let me give you an example. My whole day could be filled with reviewing the products and ideas of potential vendors wanting access to the clinical community in chiropractic. Many times, taking time to evaluate these inquiries is an exercise in futility, but I always have a look because you never know what might be worthwhile.
I have developed a set of routine questions that I ask in dialogue with these vendors. Yesterday, the interview started with a gentleman telling me that a friend of mine, someone I respect greatly from a recognized chiropractic college, really liked his product and had introduced it to some students at the college.
My first question focused on where the vendor had gotten his degrees and how many papers had been published in peer-reviewed journals regarding the product. He was self-taught and had no papers. Then I asked if he had any clinical trials to support the product; he replied that he didn't and was hoping my friend at the college would assist him. And what about funding for the trial? He had no plans for funding. The interview was a short one.
Time and again, I see chiropractors chasing the newest treatment method or piece of equipment without any effort to assess the research (if there actually is any) behind it. These doctors are usually good-hearted people who want to believe in the promises – and don't we all? After all, we all want to help patients to the best of our ability. But disappointment ensues when the technique or product isn't as effective as promised. Clinical research is the remedy to this disappointment, and those who steadfastly support it should be congratulated for their undying commitment to revealing truth.
I remember when I first started working with the research community more than two decades ago. I was a clinician by training and knew little about the research world and the rules that governed it. My friend, Jay Triano, a recognized researcher, quickly brought me up to speed by being harshly critical of my first paper in a letter to the editor of a respected research journal. Like many chiropractors, I was proud of my work and sensitive to his criticism. In fact, I almost quit researching after that letter. But it was also a moment of growth for me, as it helped me decide if I was willing to open myself up and be exposed to future criticism from the research community. I decided I could handle it, and I've since learned that these debates in literature and among researchers help treatments evolve and ultimately provide the greatest benefit to patients.
So, the next time you are approached with the latest trend or development, ask those same questions I asked of that vendor the other day. And if you're not sure of the answers, reach out to a friend in the research community. I've found they're always eager to provide a valued opinion. And while you're at it, remember to express your appreciation to that researcher for their outstanding work and for being more concerned about creating valuable data than self-promotion. The work of a researcher is often quiet, but it's ultimately the foundation for everything that works in health care.
Click here for previous articles by Arlan Fuhr, DC.