An interesting study came across my desk recently.1 What makes this paper interesting is the effort on the part of the authors to "explore the value of using more holistic outcomes measures when evaluating treatments for back pain." Needless to say, chiropractic care was included in their evaluation.
The authors examined several studies that focused on "nontraditional outcomes that capture treatment effects." While perhaps insignificant to some, I believe this area of study will lead us to a greater understanding of wellness and provide clues as to how the chiropractic adjustment impacts health on levels not considered by most.
Of the 11 "holistic outcome measures" identified for all forms of "CAM," chiropractic care elicited six from respondents:
- Options = Hope: Thirteen percent of patients who received chiropractic care felt it provided options that made them feel hopeful. The authors noted that "some participants stated that having this new option meant that they no longer had to use pain medication or consider surgery." Patients expressed that they were "hopeful and confident about their own ability to affect their condition."
- Positive Changes in Emotional State: Thirteen percent of chiropractic patients also experienced positive emotional changes; "the most frequently mentioned effect was reduced stress and worry." "Other emotional changes included a generally improved psychologic state, being happier or more cheerful, feeling more control over emotional responses to pain and other stressful circumstances, and a greater sense of physical and mental balance."
- Relaxation: Four percent of people who received chiropractic care reported an "increased ability to relax." The feeling of relaxation was focused in specific areas of the body for some patients while a general feeling of relaxation was cited by others.
- Increased Body Awareness: Four percent of patients stated that chiropractic also"increased their awareness of their bodies." Some expressed that chiropractic made them aware of "when pain begins, what causes it, and what one can do about it." "In other cases, respondents described a deeper sense of being in touch with and listening to the body; one referred to it as 'awakening.'"
- Changes in Thinking: Four percent of chiropractic patients also noticed that they had changes in their thinking that increased their ability to cope with their back pain. Some experienced "a changed philosophy or consciousness or a more positive attitude."
- Well-Being: Four percent of those who experienced chiropractic care also experienced a greater sense of well-being. As one patient noted: "I thought it contributed to an overall sense of well-being."
When we combine these outcomes, we see that (according to this group of studies) it is not unusual for chiropractic patients to experience increased bodily awareness, positive emotional changes and a greater sense of well-being. One can only begin to hypothesize about the physiologic changes that occur in the bodies of adjusted patients that evoke these outcomes.
While these outcomes are not news to you, the doctor or student of chiropractic, they are just beginning to be considered by the non-chiropractic research community. More research will undoubtedly uncover more positive outcomes. Imagine what we could learn if only 1 percent of the money that is currently wasted on drug research could be spent on wellness research!
These studies set the stage for more discovery and understanding about the effects of the chiropractic adjustment beyond the musculoskeletal. What you see in your clinic is now beginning to be measured and quantified.
Given the above, we should not be shy about sharing chiropractic's potential holistic benefits with our patients and community. Studies like these can help underscore just how powerful an adjustment can be.
- Hsu C, Bluespruce J, Sherman K, Cherkin D. Unanticipated benefits of CAM therapies for back pain: an exploration of patient experiences. J Altern Complement Med, 2010 Feb;16(2):157-63. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20180688
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