THE DEATH OF TRADITIONAL CHIROPRACTIC

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Historically, chiropractic has been practiced in many ways. There is evidence of the use of traction devices and mechanical therapy as far back as 1908 and before. But despite these infrequent (or sometimes frequent) aberrations, there still was a traditional approach to the practice of chiropractic. Chiropractic was still an approach to “getting sick people well,” either by removing the cause of disease or removing the cause of dis-ease. Correcting vertebral subluxations was the cornerstone of the approach to achieving that objective. Occasionally, some would wander into other areas they felt represented a cause of disease or dis-ease, such as nutrition, but the objective was always the cause, and the treatment of symptoms was looked down upon. Those that moved into the area of treating symptoms or treating disease (it is in fact one and the same; disease is merely a name given to a group of symptoms) were termed “mixers.” Those that held to traditional chiropractic were termed “straights.”
These clear lines of delineation were destroyed in the early seventies. The exact time and the multitude of contributing factors are not necessary to this “obituary.” Some of the factors were accreditation, political control by the mixers, medical insurance inclusion, governmental recognition, and not the least, the expansion of the medical model of treating disease into non-drug, non-surgical areas, e.g., holistic healing, sports medicine, and physical medicine. All of these factors, and more, destroyed the practice of traditional chiropractic as it had been practiced by most chiropractors for nearly eighty years.
From the ashes of traditional chiropractic arose two new professions. The first of these professions took upon itself the objective of the drugless treatment of disease. They believed that any method of treating disease, apart from drugs and surgery, was part of their domain. Somehow, they assumed that organized medicine would willingly relinquish that area to them or if medicine would not, they could outperform the medical profession in head-to-head competition. This new professional goes by various titles chiropractic physician, doctor of chiropractic, and chiropractor. Individually, the broadscope practitioner may vary little or greatly from the traditional practitioner. Usually he is less conservative than the traditionalist because he does not pretend to hold to any historical or traditional basis as a rationale for his practice. He rejects any interpretation for the practice of chiropractic except the state law, despite its ambiguity, diversity, inconsistency, and constant change.
The second profession that rose from the ashes of traditional chiropractic has caused some confusion. Unfortunately, it called itself “straight chiropractic,” assuming a name that had already existed as part of traditional chiropractic. This second new profession had as its objective the correction of vertebral subluxation to enable the innate intelligence of the body to better express itself. Its practitioner is a strict conceptualist evaluating every aspect of practice as to whether it is consistent with the objective and whether it conforms to the chiropractic deductive model. He or she has no qualms about removing procedures that are not consistent. Dr. Thom Gelardi, the most noted leader of this profession, tells of his experience, as an example. He took blood pressures in his early practice, simply because as a graduate of Palmer, he was taught to do so. However, some years into practice he realized that blood pressure information did not enable him to better determine vertebral subluxation, which was his objective. He also realized that it was inconsistent with the philosophy. We as chiropractors do not know what the perfect (normal) blood pressure should be for our patients at any given moment. He had no difficulty in leaving that out of his practice, because a person practicing orthodox chiropractic will only do those things which are consistent with chiropractic’s original objective. Notice the objective has nothing to do with disease although a person with disease is better off expressing more of his/her innate potential. But then a person with no disease is still better off expressing more of his/her innate potential. The absence or presence of disease has very little to do with whether a person should be under care or not. It must be understood that it is the objective of the chiropractor that is in view not the desires of the patient. Even though a patient with a good nerve supply and a disease is better off than one with a poor nerve supply and the same disease, the chiropractor is not a disease doctor. A patient with a good nerve supply may become a better golfer but that does not make the chiropractor a golf doctor. A pregnant woman is better off with a good nerve supply, but he’s not a pregnant doctor (no pun intended). The benefits of a good nerve supply are as numerous as the people in the world, each one benefits individually. But the objective of the “straight” chiropractor is the same for all to enable the innate intelligence of the body to better express itself. These two groups are the two new professions that have arisen in the last fifteen years, replacing the chiropractic of our forefathers.
It should be noted that in addition to these two there are other “splinter groups.” Some are new, some have existed since before the emergence of the modern chiropractic. Those that want chiropractors to utilize medication and surgery are one of these groups. A second group and one that bears some attention primarily because of its size is a remaining segment of traditional chiropractors. They have their colleges, national association, and adherence to much of the chiropractic philosophy (but not all of it for they would have to abandon their position which has points inconsistent with aspects of chiropractic philosophy). This type of practice changes very little over long periods of time, but it does change. It adds or drops procedures, which may or may not be in conflict with the philosophy. It usually allows the will of the participants to dictate. Traditions come and go, and those that remain for extended periods of time are incorrectly thought to be part of the original tenets. Often the philosophy must be interpreted differently to allow for these new ideas. Feelings and emotions take precedence over concepts and principle.
These practitioners are still practicing the “chiropractic gets sick people better” model or “chiropractic corrects the cause of disease” concept. They do it because that was straight chiropractic in the 1920’s. The fact is that “getting sick people well” and “correcting the cause of disease” whether it was or was not practiced as straight chiropractic in the 20’s, 30’s or 1895 is not consistent with the objective and philosophy of chiropractic. The body gets itself well and chiropractors correct a cause of DIS-EASE, not disease, two very different terms. They are willing to set aside principles for expediency. This group of chiropractors has justified diagnosis in chiropractic because chiropractors traditionally took blood pressure, listened to hearts, and used diseases for Meric chart adjusting. These procedures are philosophically as wrong today as they were in 1920. Perhaps our forefathers did not know any better and we can excuse their actions. But we now know it is not consistent with our philosophy or our objectives. They may have had legitimate reasons seventy years ago. It really does not matter. The important thing is that from our standpoint today it is wrong. Slavery was as wrong in 1860 as it is today. However, by 1860 it was a geographic tradition and even necessary to the southern economy. That did not justify continuing it, and today no one would consider reinstituting the system as a traditional part of America.
Traditions, no matter how good and pleasurable they appear to be, if inconsistent with our philosophy and objectives, must be set aside. The orthodox chiropractor (“new straight”) is willing to do this, the traditional chiropractor is not. Evaluating procedures by tradition rather than philosophy and objectives causes the incorporation of other procedures in chiropractic. The traditional chiropractor has embraced diagnosis, nutritional therapy, and relegated the philosophy to tradition itself. The traditional chiropractors are antagonistic toward the two major groups. However, their position is untenable. They claim not to treat disease but must support the use of diagnosis by chiropractors. They claim the drugless treatment of disease is not their objective yet they are aligned, by virtue of accreditation, with those who have that as their objective. Like most traditionalists, they are unwilling to accept that their model of chiropractic is not practical or workable any longer. It is sad that so many of this group, which is represented by the two largest schools in the country, cannot see the need for the emergence of a new chiropractic model. Sadly, they keep plodding along. Although this group of traditional chiropractors have more in common with the “new straights” than the “new mixers,” they tenaciously hold to their traditional, outdated chiropractic, while their members continually defect. The irony is that most are defecting to the “new mixers” rather than the “new straights.” Perhaps it is time for the leadership to realize the weakness of their traditional position, the need to be part of a new model of chiropractic and join those who are working to that end in preserving, not the tradition of their chiropractic forefathers, but their intent. It is time the traditional chiropractors recognized their position to be untenable. We cannot practice chiropractic according to a seventy, eighty, or one hundred year old tradition, especially when aspects of that tradition are inconsistent with modern thought, with the chiropractic philosophy and objectives , and with the best interests of the perpetuation of our profession. We can practice chiropractic according to a seventy, eighty, or one hundred year old philosophy and begin to remove the traditions which are inconsistent with that philosophy. If chiropractic is to take its rightful place in the 21st century, we must. v7n2

 

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