Chiropractic Medicine


It’s funny how we are often turned off by certain words, terms, or phrases but after a while they seem to grow on us. I really had difficulty accepting the word “straight” in the mid-seventies when it first became a common descriptive term of a school, an accrediting agency and a professional organization. I, like many of my colleagues, felt there was only one chiropractic and if you were not practicing that…well, you were not practicing chiropractic. But the term began to grow on me and as I saw more need to differentiate that which we did from what others who called themselves chiropractors did, I came to embrace the term, adding an even greater distinguishing designation (“objective, straight chiropractic”). So after all these years I thought I had it worked out.

Then, lo and behold, the accrediting agency vanished, straight schools closed or dropped the word “straight” and now the last straight organization has dropped the term. They say it is not because they have changed their philosophy but for one reason or another, the word no longer connotes what we do. Most of those who have advocated the change are colleagues and I have always found them to be honest, so I will accept their word for why the change has been made. I’m sure I will continue to call myself a straight chiropractor or an objective straight chiropractor or a non-therapeutic chiropractor, mostly out of habit or tradition and because I still like to distinguish what I do and who I am from other chiropractors and their work.

I actually never liked the term “principled chiropractor” because I felt it impugned the character of those chiropractors who were not practicing like me, as if they had no principles or integrity. When a word or term has more than one meaning, it becomes problematic. The word “principle” has two meanings, as does “straight” and “objective.” Clearly, we need to explain what we do because descriptive names are not always clear. I cringed when I first heard the term “chiropractic medicine.” I realize there are legal, political and philosophical reasons for chiropractors using that term or claiming that is what they practice. But the term is starting to grow on me. Perhaps they are doing us a favor. We have not had too much success in distinguishing what we do from what they do. We are told the public has not latched onto the term “straight.” The problem is that the rest of the profession has not been willing to adopt the term “mixer” and identify themselves as such. I’ve yet to see a sign outside a chiropractic office that says, “Dr. John Doe, Mixer Chiropractor.” If there had been widespread use of the term “mixer”, we would have had more success with the word “straight” in identifying ourselves and contrasting what we do and what they do. Perhaps they have solved that problem for us. If they identify themselves as practicing “chiropractic medicine,” it may be much easier to explain the difference between chiropractic medicine and chiropractic. Everyone knows what medicine is …the treatment of disease and its symptoms. Explaining the difference between that and straight chiropractic would be much easier if the public knew what the “other side” was doing in contrast to what we are doing. We are not treating, curing, or preventing disease or its cause. We’ve been trying to separate ourselves from those chiropractors who do not have our objective. Perhaps they have done us the greatest service they could by aligning themselves with medicine and helping create the public awareness of the difference. The truth is that even if we do not want to call it such, most chiropractors are practicing chiropractic medicine. If nothing else it will give us another opportunity to describe our unique objective and that can’t be bad. The only downside would be if they started to have laws passed requiring US to diagnose and treat disease. But they wouldn’t do something like that, would they?

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Posted in: Thinking Straight

This article has 1 comment

  1. Bob Vano , DC 08/01/2011, 8:35 pm:

    I don’t know, Joe. Seems I get bothered by the term “chiropractic medicine” a lot! While I do understand your perspective that they are at the least, distinguishing themselves from us —— or are they really? I say it’s confusing to the general public. It’s misleading. And, people will think that chiropractors are now able to prescribe drugs. And since there will be less wait time to visit the chiropractor, they will take advantage. I think it is more of a marketing ploy to drag business in. And yes, most are practicing medicine anyway. But I still think it is misuse of power to use the words “chiropractic” and “medicine” together.

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