We Need To Improve Our Approach


Having been involved with chiropractic for over 30 years and closely associated with chiropractic education and communication for many years, I have seen some changes taking place.  In the early 60’s there was virtually no communication, no “message” that the chiropractic profession had to offer the public.  Perhaps it was our low self-esteem or dwindling numbers.  Perhaps it was in part due to the leadership in our profession who said advertising was unethical, unprofessional and even passed laws to make it unlawful to advertise, to promote chiropractic or chiropractor.  Whatever the reason or reasons there was little in the area of chiropractic education directed toward the public.  There were no courses in chiropractic college on patient education, virtually no one did lay lectures.  Other than Jim Parker there were no practice building seminars, no practice management consultants (which may have been more of a blessing than a problem!).  In the mid-60’s the profession began to attack medicine and challenge its authority.  It became acceptable in that anti-establishment period. Medicine was about as establishment as one could get.  Some new seminars, D.E., Living Principles and others came into existence.  State organizations became more active, laws restricting advertising were thrown out.  The advertising period was upon us.  Unfortunately much of it was poor and while representing the straight chiropractic of the 60’s and early 70’s, it was not acceptable by today’s understanding of straight chiropractic.  I looked at some of my own personal ads during that period and cringe.  The only thing good about these ads was that I look much younger in them!  Well, there was something else good about them.  They attracted patients. Presenting chiropractic as good for every condition affecting man really brought in the patients.  But as our understanding of chiropractic increased, it became evident that we could not continue to present chiropractic as a cure for medical conditions or a substitution for medical care.  Ads bashing the practice of medicine inferred that chiropractic was an alternative.  Some of the straights of the day stayed with that idea of getting sick people well and became the present day traditional straights.  They have large practices, diagnose to determine whether chiropractic can cure the particular patient and use a few other things like nutrition and sports rehabilitation (sports chiropractic).  They talk about chiropractic getting people well from every disease known to man.  But most of us moved on. Unfortunately, the chiropractic that we now practice (objective chiropractic) does not market well.  We cannot make grandiose claims.  We do not claim to cure or treat anything.  We do not even advertise that we can help musculoskeletal conditions.  Most of our profession is focusing solely on that and our straight marketing/patient education/public relations/advertising must overcome that image.  The problem is, we are not doing a very good job of it.  How do you get the big idea across in a 30-second spot or in a newspaper ad?  If we had 60 hours to sit down with each new patient and give them Chiropractic Philosophy 101, we might have a better chance of getting the message out. But to try to get across the idea of health in a disease conscious world is really tough.  To get across regular maintenance care when the prevailing thought is only go to a doctor when you are sick is difficult.  Trying to get patients to come regularly to have vertebral subluxations which cannot be seen or felt, corrected is a challenge.  Our only guarantee of outcome, that their body will work better, not that they will feel better, is not the greatest of enticements.  At this point in our evolution it takes quite a bit of effort, energy and time to get that message through the patient’s skull, especially if you are not a gifted speaker or possess a charismatic personality.  The message of straight chiropractic is simple and clear, almost too simple and clear and most of our new practitioners do not have the skills necessary to impart it.  As a result they are struggling.  The teachers putting on the seminars are usually charismatic individuals who articulate chiropractic much better than most of us and we have a difficult time identifying with them and an impossible time imitating them. Does that mean that the average new graduate with debt up to his or her ears must go through a starvation period or compromise principles in order to achieve a level of success? I hope not.  But I believe we must make some changes, not in our philosophy, but in the many ways we present it to the public.  We need to develop in people a health maintenance consciousness, a need for regular chiropractic care.  We must give people a practical knowledge of what the innate intelligence of the body is and how its fullest expression is vital to their life.  We need to develop new media, new techniques and new methods to reach a public used to getting its information in 15 second sound bytes and through the visual effects of the television.  The use or lose law has caused the average person to be unable to focus their attention on anything for more than 5 minutes without all kinds of sensory bombardment.  We need good, eye-catching, new patient-stimulating advertising that is still philosophically sound.  We need literature that is interesting, will be read and does not compromise our straight philosophy.  We must replace the public image of back doctors with our idea of chiropractic.  Until we do this the general public will not flock to our doors.  And until we can show the rest of the profession, which is image conscious, acceptance oriented and monetarily focused, that this is the best way to practice we will continue to lose ground.  I am not belittling the efforts the straight schools have made in the past, nor the efforts the seminar givers and leaders are making.  But we cannot rest on past efforts and we cannot fool ourselves into believing we are individually or collectively doing enough. We need some monumental efforts from philosophers, teachers, leaders, entrepreneurs, state organizations and our national organization.  With all these people and groups working in their individual areas we can turn this profession around. Without it we will be stuck as a minority within a minority. Each of us must step back and say “what am I doing and what more can I do?”  v11n2

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