As a writer, most of the time you just know when you write a line or make a statement that is going to evoke tremendous emotional response.  What is surprising is when you make what is, in your mind, an innocuous statement and somebody responds in great length.  In the Pivot Review Vol. IX, No. 1, I made the statement “I would rather have a card-carrying mixer on a straight college campus, saying chiropractic should embrace medicine than a chiropractor who identifies himself as straight, saying chiropractic gets sick people well.”  I received a well-written, strong, but gracious three page letter from a chiropractor.  From his letter I assume he was a practitioner of over 50 years and his father was a 1921 Palmer grad!  Out of respect and admiration for him, his father and the thousands of other old-time straights to whom we owe our very existence, I would like to share some thoughts on “chiropractic getting sick people well.”

                                                                                                                              B.J. was largely responsible for the idea that chiropractic gets sick people well.  He was almost obsessed with the idea that the innate intelligence of the body does the healing, that it can heal every manner of medical problem and that the outside-in approach personified by medicine was wrong.  B.J. always knew that chiropractic addressed DIS-EASE, incoordination, a lack of innate expression in human beings.  Unfortunately, his emphasis was upon restoring EASE, primarily to people judged by the medical community to be sick, those with the symptoms of disease.  Consequently, chiropractic became associated with getting sick people well.  It’s not difficult to understand.  Chiropractic has become associated with back problems in a few short years without even trying.  It is a whole lot easier to associate chiropractic with something tangible like getting sick people well than it is something intangible like the increased expression of the innate intelligence of the body.  Medicine respects results, so B.J. had to play the results game to get their attention.  Most chiropractors who had (and still have) an understanding of the deductive philosophy of chiropractic could get excited about knowing they were increasing an individuals potential in all areas.  However, most of the public and all of medicine needed to see results and the most easily demonstrated results of increasing an individual’s potential was in the area of health.  The most remarkable demonstrations of increasing an individual’s health potential is the coincidental disappearance of their diseases.  So that’s what they did.  However, straight chiropractors have always known that it is not chiropractic that gets sick people well.  We have just failed to communicated it to the public.  Knowing that chiropractic does not get sick people well is what keeps a chiropractor straight.  If chiropractic gets them well, then it can only benefit people to add procedures and modalities to chiropractic to get better, faster results.  In fact, that’s exactly the thinking of a mixer.  We know, however, it is the innate intelligence of the body that gets sick people well.  How are you going to improve upon the Wisdom of the Universe?

          Old time chiropractors understood chiropractic was not just for sick people, it was for everybody.  You cannot build a high volume practice taking care of sick people.  There simply weren’t that many people to go around in those days and they got better too fast under chiropractic care.  Most of the hundreds of people a day walking into the offices of the Bahans, the Scallons, Anton Meister, Bill Werner and other old time greats were not sick, they were going to stay healthy, to enable the innate intelligence of their bodies to better express itself!

          I am firmly convinced that our chiropractic forefathers knew that chiropractic did not get sick people well, that it was the innate intelligence of the patients’ bodies that did.  There is a subtle difference.   Years ago however, that difference was not as important and so we can forgive the old time straight chiropractor who still says this.  There is no doubt that his heart and philosophy are in the right place.  But we live in a different era now.  We have to be more careful about what we say and how we say it.  We must not only be sure of what we are saying but we must try to understand every conceivable way what we communicate can be interpreted.  We can no longer advertise “Headaches?  See your Chiropractor”.  We know that people with headaches should see a chiropractor just as much as people without headaches should see one.  But that ad implies we treat or cure headaches and that is what the public will read into our ad.

          We can no longer claim to get sick people well without scientifically acceptable, empirical data to support those claims.  We cannot say that vertebral subluxation or DIS-EASE is the cause of all disease or any disease without research to support that statement.  We can say that having a good nerve supply is important to health and that interference to the nervous system’s function due to vertebral  subluxation is detrimental to one’s health.  Modern day straight chiropractic does not approach the subject of disease or its causes but instead focus on DIS-EASE and its relationship to health.  Medicine treats disease and sick people appear to get well.  It even occasionally addresses causes of diseases.  For example, medicine says the germ causes an infection.  It administers an antibiotic and the infection goes away.  Which is more important as the cause of the disease, the germ or the body’s resistance?  The medical doctor says it is the germ and believes he has research to prove it.  The old time straight chiropractor would say it is the resistance of the body that is the cause.  The modern day straight chiropractor says “we do not have the slightest idea which is the cause or which is the most important factor, but we do know that resistance is a factor and vertebral subluxation is a factor in resistance and it doesn’t matter what place of importance that factor occupies, it needs to be addressed.”  Straight chiropractic addresses vertebral subluxation.

          One final point on the subject, a very important point.  Changing people’s perspective is important to straight chiropractic.  The idea that chiropractic gets sick people well (and the corollary, that chiropractic succeeds where medicine fails) is somewhat antagonistic to the idea of straight chiropractic.  It presents chiropractic as a miracle cure thus encouraging poor health habits.  If chiropractic gets sick people well, there is less need to take care of your health and maintenance is not that important.  It is not necessary to do those things to maintain health including getting your spine checked regularly.  That is a perception of health we are trying to change in order to make a healthier world.

          We owe a great deal to our chiropractic pioneers.  From D.D. who thought he got a sick black janitor well, to the 1921 Palmer grad whose son related to me how his dad drove his bobsled twelve miles through a midwestern snowstorm to adjust a farmer with pneumonia and stay with him through the night until he got well.  We cannot and should not diminish or belittle what they did ad what they gave us.  We stand today on their shoulders.  But in that position we have a little better view down the road to see where our profession is going and where it should go.  That vision we have is because of them.  Being able to see a little further, and a little better is because of the “boost” that they have given us.  Expressing that clearer vision does not belittle them or what they have done.  On the contrary, it is the greatest honor and tribute we could give to them.  For only in expressing that clearer vision will we perpetuate the profession that they lived and loved. v9n2

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