MICHAEL NOONAN

Chiropractors as family doctors: Once denounced by the mainstream, the profession gains ground

Posted May 01, 2014, at 10:07 a.m.
Dr. Michael Noonan
Dr. Michael Noonan

I recently read an amazing article by Dr. David Edelberg, a medical internist who practices in Chicago. He recommends using doctors of chiropractic as family doctors.

Edelberg started his health center with a chiropractor, Dr. Paul Rubin, and states that partnering with a chiropractic physician was the best decision of his professional career.

My jaw dropped as I read the article. I could not imagine an M.D. actually recommending D.C.s as family doctors. This is a huge reversal of attitude. In 1987, the American Medical Association was successfully sued by a group of D.C.s for trying to “contain and eliminate” the chiropractic profession, which they labeled an “unscientific cult.”

The lawsuit exposed secret actions the American Medical Association took, including trying to destroy chiropractic education, preventing chiropractic coverage in insurance plans and using literature describing D.C.s as “rabid dogs and killers.” Any M.D. who cooperated with a D.C. could lose his license, and hospitals were threatened with loss of accreditation if they even took X-rays for D.C.s.

Dr. Edelberg states that chiropractic training was actually superior to his in musculoskeletal (joint and muscle) problems, as well as related neurological conditions. He then goes on to say that between the ages of 18 and 60, the majority of your health problems will originate from the joints and muscles, so a working knowledge of this system is a big advantage for chiropractic physicians.

He lists additional reasons why doctors of chiropractic make good family doctors:

— There is a shortage of family doctors, due to a combination of low pay, high stress, insurance pressures and most medical graduates going into other specialties. M.D.s who do family medicine tend to be very unhappy with their work; nine out of 10 of them would not recommend a career in medicine.

In contrast, D.C.s have high degrees of job satisfaction and feelings of contribution to society.

— D.C.s are well trained about cases that should be referred out. We are taught to take a thorough history and exam, and to look for any “red flags” the patient might present with. (During our training, many of my classmates complained that it seemed we were being taught to refer most of our patients out.)

— Prescription medications, a leading medical treatment, are estimated to be the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. D.C.s treat patients using only natural means, without the risks associated with drugs. Even better, many patients are able to discontinue some of the most dangerous medications, including painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, after starting chiropractic care.

— Many health problems can be traced back to poor diet. Yet medical training in this area is very limited. An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition described current medical training in nutrition as “inadequate.” This may explain why we have received so much bad nutrition advice from the medical profession over the years, ranging from recommending hydrogenated fats as “heart healthy” — now known to cause 30,000 to 100,000 deaths a year from heart disease — to artificial sweeteners for weight loss now shown to actually cause weight gain. In chiropractic school, I was advised to avoid these “foods” because they are highly unnatural.

— Doctors of chiropractic get very high patient satisfaction ratings. One nationwide study showed 83 percent of patients were satisfied with their chiropractic care. In a survey of thousands of Medicare patients, 87 percent gave their doctor of chiropractic a level of eight or higher on a 10-point scale. What’s more, 56 percent of those patients rated their chiropractor with a 10, the highest possible score.

Patient satisfaction ratings have long been associated with good clinical outcomes. In other words, the more satisfied you are with your doctor’s care, the better your response to their care will likely be.

Of course, many D.C.s are already working as family docs, at least in part. Besides the musculoskeletal care we provide, many of us work with our patients to improve lifestyle, including diet, exercise and stress control.

My profession has made great strides in the last several decades, despite aggressive attempts by the American Medical Association to destroy it. And while I am sure the association does not share Dr. Edelberg’s view on chiropractic care and training, I can imagine a day when our professions work together for the benefit of patients, and it will no longer be a shock to read an M.D. endorse chiropractic physicians as family doctors.

The idea of using D.C.s as family doctors is not new. Next week, I’ll discuss some research on the effectiveness of this approach.

Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, chiropractic acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town. He can be reached at noonanchiropractic@gmail.com.

 

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