From time to time I come across interesting articles or I am asked questions about specific things that I feel are noteworthy. I hope that everyone will enjoy and benefit from them. Happy reading!!
Why are Chiropractors referred to as Back Doctors?
It seems that wherever I go, when someone finds out that I’m a chiropractor, a joke about back popping or bone cracking comes about. These repeated scenarios have inspired me to tell you a little bit about the word, profession, and purpose of chiropractic. Let’s get right to it…
The word, broken down to its roots, literally means to do by hand. It was derived from two Greek words: chiro (hand) and praxis (to do). When the term was derived to give a name to the new healing art, it was implied that chiropractic meant “healing by hand.” Most people assume that chiro means “back.”
So how did we get from “healing by hand” in the early 1900’s to “back doctor” a century later? Well, there’s two ways to look at it. One is from the perspective of the chiropractor. The other is from the perspective of the people/public/patients. Let’s take a look at that point of view…
My grandparents’ generation largely rejected the notion that a person could be “healed by hand,” thus denouncing chiropractic. My grandmother once told me that my grandpa thought chiropractic was complete quackery, largely based on what his medical doctor told him. MDs and DCs have a long, storied history of their own and perhaps we can visit that some other day, suffice to say that one of the most respected people in any given society is the medical doctor.
So, getting back to the notion that one could be “healed by hand” is quite contrary to modern medicine, which is all about either putting something in your body or taking something out of your body. Despite the fact that doctors of chiropractic were having great success with conditions typically reserved for medical doctors, I can’t really say it was surprising that the majority of people were rejecting it. It was, after all, a new concept to our increasingly modern society.
So, then we move forward to my parents’ generation, when chiropractic was gaining some acceptance, but not as the philosophy, art, and science of “healing by hand.” Rather, it was viewed as what has become the modern definition of chiropractic.
This part of the history requires a bit of a back story. Doctors of chiropractic were growing in number and the message of what chiropractic was all about was becoming more and more diluted. There were less doctors who wanted to change the way that medical doctors and the public looked at chiropractic and more doctors who just wanted to gain some sort of acceptance. Acceptance, in this case, meant just finding a niche. It’s easier to just find a way to fit in than to stand up, be yourself, and let people accept you for what you are.
Well, holding the keys to chiropractic’s acceptance was the medical community. And our profession, despite the urgent calls against it by some of the more passionate doctors who really believed in chiropractic’s potential, took what they gave us… musculoskeletal issues, the most common of which is low back pain. It’s our own fault. We made ourselves into a niche instead of a new paradigm…which might have been thriving by now had we all been on the same page.
What chiropractic was (and at its core, still is) is a different approach to healing. Rather than put something foreign into the body or surgically removing something from the body, chiropractic is about allowing the body to heal itself. Believe it or not, doctors of each healing art being discussed take the same amount of classes to earn their doctoral degrees. Yet, the one that emphasizes medicine instead of your body’s own ability to heal is so vastly more respected. I find that to be tragically amusing more and more each year.
Even though both kinds of doctors learn about the human body from the same textbooks…even though we learn how complex and downright miraculous life is…and how all the things that happen in the body occur because of the nervous system, which by the way is more than just the nerves but also the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord…
SOMEHOW the paradigm that says “none of that matters, take this” has all of the credibility and acceptance in the world and the paradigm that says “the body is pretty smart, so let’s make sure it’s working properly” has almost no credibility nor acceptance.
A fever, in the medical model, is a condition that needs treatment. A fever, in the chiropractic model, is the body raising its temperature for a reason (usually to kill an infection).
A sinus infection, in the medical model, is a condition that requires anti-biotics. A sinus infection, in the chiropractic model, means your immune system is weak and not working properly.
I’ll state this very clearly: CHIROPRACTIC HAS ALMOST NOTHING TO DO WITH LOW BACK PAIN. Yet, that’s our niche. It’s tough to escape those three words: low back pain.
Chiropractic is the philosophy, science, and art of manipulating that part of the musculoskeletal system that misaligns to the point that it interferes with the function of the nervous system. It isn’t about bones! It’s about what those bones developed in your body to protect: the brainstem and spinal cord!
When the nervous system isn’t functioning properly, you may experience all kinds of symptoms. Fevers because your immune system is weaker to the point that you’re more prone to infections, diabetes because your endocrine or immune systems are weak, or musculoskeletal pain – which is really nothing more than the body sending out an alarm signal that “something ain’t right!”
So, those of you that are patients under chiropractic care…remember that you didn’t truly know that you needed chiropractic care until you learned about what chiropractic was all about, at which point you should’ve realized that maybe you needed it for a long time.
Remember that everyone deserves to know what their options are. Don’t fail to tell your friends and family about the true purpose of chiropractic. Don’t diminish what chiropractic is and has done for you by justifying not sharing your story by thinking “I’ll tell people who need it,” as if it was something far less than what it is.
And for those of you that aren’t patients under chiropractic care, remember that chiropractic care is much more than you likely ever thought it was and can potentially do for you things that you never thought it could. It’s not magic. It’s chiropractic!