Thanks to Today's Chiropractic for permission to reproduce this article!
William D. Esteb
One of the greatest temptations for a chiropractor is to make your patient’s
health problem your problem. This is an especially common mistake among male
chiropractors who see “fixing things” as a major source of self-worth.
(This is why we don’t like to ask for directions—it makes us feel
incompetent.) This internalizing predisposition only obscures opportunities
to grow the patient’s understanding and appreciation of chiropractic.
Other chiropractors, with the notion of “converting” a skeptic or
“proving” chiropractic works, find themselves in an equally unhealthy
place in their patient relationships. In their determination to win over the
patient, they fail to see their own selfish motives. While they appear to care
about the patient, their real motivation is to gain acceptance and validation.
Either way, the chiropractor has made the relationship about themselves, rather
than the patient.
Like a bull in a china closet, these self-centered chiropractors overlook the
more subtle nuances of what they are witnessing. Turn your attention to patients,
subvert your ego for a moment or two, and become present to some of these truths:
Truth: Symptoms are merely a sign of the body’s adaptation process.
Fortunately, instead of failing all together, our bodies provide signals that
something isn’t working correctly. Our inability to adapt to our environment
produces headaches, heartburn and a host of other symptoms, including subluxations.
(Yes, subluxations are symptoms!) So rather than death, our bodies provide a
warning system that some prefer to ignore (neglect) or simply numb (drugs).
Rather than rushing in too quickly to turn off the alarm out of some selfish
sense of duty or as a way to bolster your worth, help patients attach a new
meaning to their presenting health problem. Pain has purpose.
Truth: There is a lesson to be learned from their body’s signaling.
In the doctor-centered practice, often the lesson the patient is supposed to
learn is the importance of regular chiropractic checkups. In other doctor-centered
practices, the lesson is about some new thing called a subluxation. In fact,
at a deeper level, that’s not the lesson at all. The real lesson is they
broke “the rules.” One way to look at life is to recognize that
there are universal rules that affect our well-being. Any attempt to ignore,
bend or break these rules will be rewarded with signs and symptoms. It’s
all pretty simple really.
Truth: Their symptoms are not a form of “punishment.”
The health complaints that prompt patients to seek care from a doctor aren’t
some form of Godly retribution. It’s merely a reminder in the same way
that ignoring the law of gravity isn’t punished with a broken crystal
vase when it is accidentally dropped. In other words, symptoms shouldn’t
be seen as a form of judgment or celestial sentence. There’s no emotion
here, unless the patient or caregiver opts to attach one.
The fact is, most patients show up in a healthcare practitioner’s office
because they’ve broken the rules. And with all rules there is a consequence
for breaking them. Sporting events have rules. Break the rules and you can receive
a 10-yard penalty or you can be ejected from the game. Chances are, the people
you see don’t even know the rules! Imagine attempting to play chess, rugby
or any other game without knowing the rules. By the time you’ve exhausted
the trial and error process in an attempt to learn the rules, you’d lose
interest or give up all together. You probably meet people, especially those
that have already exhausted medical solutions to their problem, in this state
of affairs. Thus, acquainting patients with the rules might be even more valuable
than helping them with their presenting health problem.
What are the rules? Fortunately, there aren’t too many. In no particular
order, here are the ones I know about:
You shall breathe. It’s the most obvious thing we do
after we’re born to declare our independence. If you stop breathing, breathe
in a shallow manner or inhale pollutants, there will be a price to be paid.
You shall ingest nutrition. Eating quality food is needed to
provide the essential vitamins, enzymes and minerals to fuel, grow and repair
your body. If you don’t receive the quality nutrition your body needs,
you’ll pay the price later. The same goeswith eating too many of the foods
that may taste good, but aren’t good for you.
You shall expel wastes. What goes in, must come out. If it
comes out too quickly you’ll suffer. If it takes too long to come out
you’ll suffer as well. As important as this rule is, most patients are
clueless how long it takes for the food they eat to go through the “tube”
and be expelled.
You shall have proper hydration. We’re made mostly of
water. Replacing what is lost to facilitate crucial bodily functions is essential.
The key is to drink enough fluids so we never feel thirsty.
You shall move. You were designed to move. A sedentary lifestyle
causes stagnation, poor circulation and hampers the function of the lymphatic
system while muscle tone suffers.
You shall receive enough rest. Your body needs time to renew,
refresh and repair. This is done largely at night while enjoying restful sleep.
Your body will quickly speak up if it needs more or less sleep.
You shall adapt to your environment. Your nervous system orchestrates
every cell and tissue. That’s why chiropractic care is so essential for
good health. Once you stop adapting, you’re dead.
You shall love. You are the product of love. Love yourself
and love others. The more you give away, the more you’ll get.
You shall forgive. You will make mistakes. You will hurt others.
You will fall short of the mark. Forgive others as you forgive yourself. And
then do better next time.
You shall serve others. Your life will have meaning and value
only to the extent you find someone to serve. Break this rule and your selfishness
You shall see this as a journey. There’s nowhere to get
to. You will leave this world as you came into it. With nothing. Become attached
You shall die. Many try to break this one. Even medicine sees
death as a disease state. It’s natural. It’s inevitable. It’s
Ignore or break any of these rules and there is a price to be paid, based on
the seriousness of the infraction. For example, you can go for a period without
getting enough restful sleep. The consequence for breaking that rule is different
from say, ignoring the obligation to forgive others. Yet, breaking any one of
the rules can have a physical, emotional or spiritual price tag that is paid
instantly or much later.
There’s one other rule that speaks specifically to chiropractors and other
wellness care professionals: You shall not steal the patient’s responsibility.
Break this one and practice becomes a burden, resentment sets in and you end
up breaking some of the other rules. Vow to facilitate, rather than fix. Promise
to release, rather than control. Declare your intent to guide, rather than prescribe.
William Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate for over two
decades. He is the creative director of Patient Media, Inc., a patient communication
resource company for the chiropractic profession. Review his materials and request
a free 64-page New Patient catalog by visiting www.patientmedia.com
or calling (800) 486-2337.
© Copyright Today's Chiropractic
Return to the CHIROPRACTIC ASSISTANT Page