In preparation for the celebration next year of our 30th year of providing chiropractic care to my community in Portland, Oregon, I have been challenged to think about the pillars that support the work we do. These pillars will help provide insight with regards to our unique perspective on health, and will help you understand what makes Day Chiropractic unique in terms of the health care contribution to our patients. So this blog post is on the first of 4 pillars, namely that is the philosophy that not only we (clinic staff and doctor), but also you (our patients) help each other heal. It would be commonly expected in a typical clinic, that you (the patient) would make an appointment with the doctor for an assessment, and hopefully the doctor would give you a treatment recommendation and he or she would do something to you that would (hopefully!) bring about the desired effect. We now realize that an incredible resource is left on the table under that scenario - the influence that each of you can have on each other.
A number of studies have explored the effectiveness of treatment regimens - either individually or as a group, and interestingly some studies have found an increase in effectiveness when study participants are linked together with other patients - some type of synergy exists when we join forces with others on a similar pathway. How many of us have experienced the value of having an exercise buddy to walk with us, or go to the gym with us, etc. to help us follow through with our intended health goals. My first foray into opening up my clinic to facilitate intra-patient communication was initially in the therapy room, then later I realized that since we adjust patients while they are fully clothed in their normal attire, that we could also open up the environment surrounding the adjustment itself, in what could be described as an "Adjustatorium". This was not something I came to quickly - in fact, when we bought our new clinic in 1997, I took down the walls between the adjusting tables - and I was so nervous about that, that I hardly slept at all the night before we made the move to the new clinic. Looking back on my anxious spirit in 1997 to where we are now in 2015, I just smile. This idea has exceeded my expectations far beyond what I could have imagined!
I had heard about the concept of an "adjustatorium", but had never experienced it before. Apparently, early in chiropractic's history, some chiropractors would travel in a circuit, with brief stops in various communities. It was not uncommon for the demand to be greater than the time allotted for that doctor in the town, so a type of lottery would be administered, with patients holding a ticket with a number below a magic number being able to receive care. Often, that chiropractor would adjust patients in front of God and everyone to help serve as many patients as was physically possible. Miracles occurred in that environment, and deep in my heart, I wanted to see that type of response in our patients. I was a pretty confident chiropractor having achieved a lot of success early in my practice, but when challenged by Dr. C.J. Mertz to re-evaluate our success on the basis of miracles we saw in patients under our care, rather than on how busy we were - a new perspective crystalized in my heart.
This was why I became a chiropractor in the first place! My father was an incredible chiropractor who served the people of the town in which I was raised. As I was growing up, the stories that his patients told of how he had saved their lives, or how Mrs. Crawford felt the hand of God touch her when he worked on her back, were a big factor in my decision to pursue a chiropractic career.
We were helping a lot of patients, but it was primarily people who had suffered from injuries from car accidents or work injuries. While we still help those conditions, I look forward with much more anticipation to those cases of chronic fatigue, asthma, headaches, complex neurological challenges like Parkinson's, dystonia, and other types of conditions where the nerve system begins to fail, often without a clear etiology.
We have found that patients who are sick, often feel isolated. They may have told their loved ones, or church family of the health challenges, but still find themselves in a situation that feels very lonely. By opening up our environment into a feel more like a cafe (we call it our "Chiro Cafe") it opens up communication between patients who don't even know each other, and I can't tell you how wonderful it can be for someone who feels lonesome. We have had patients touch in a comforting fashion, pray for each other, exchange recipes, and so many other forms of interaction that I often wonder if the healing influence of genuine care for each other may be even more important that what I can provide!
When you go to the doctor, and are placed in a room by yourself - you don't see what happens to others. In our office, a benefit from the welcoming open environment is that you may get glimpses of a child receiving an adjustment, or stuffed animal getting adjustment (we do have a family practice, after all), an elderly patient or young athlete getting their power turned on!
If I show an exercise like a corner push-up to one patient, I often then take the opportunity to show the others who are in the area the value of that exercise, and many of them will be able to benefit from that demonstration as well.
We have decided to dispense with the trappings of "authority" like my white coat and tie. You already know that I am a chiropractor, and my job is to inspire you to have the level of commitment to your own health goals that you will follow through with your home care and instructions - I am just there to facilitate and guide your body's healing process. It is important that if your appointment is at the end of the day, that my energy level, focus and attention is fully on you and your subluxation. To do that, I need to be dressed with a level of comfort that will allow that to happen.