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Dynamic Chiropractic – November 1, 1999, Vol. 17, Issue 23

Chiropractic's Image: It's Up to Us

By Bradley Osgood
On September 2nd, 1999, I tuned in to a popular San Francisco Bay area radio station, seeking the latest on the current issues of the day. The particular program that day featured a celebrated morning show with three hosts. One of them was complaining about neck and arm pain and mentioned that he was thinking about seeing a chiropractor, since medicine had failed to provide the desired relief. One of the other hosts then began a dialogue about chiropractic. As you can imagine, several chiropractors called in.

The next morning, on the same station and the same show, one of the hosts announced that a local chiropractor would be "doing his thing" on the same host who was complaining the previous day. All this would occur after the commercial break, so I stayed tuned.

What happened next was a real testament to the sensibility of maintaining a sharp, professional public image in chiropractic - a problem we have suffered with one generation after another.

The chiropractor was introduced, and the host with the neck and arm pain was put on a portable table in the studio. There were many wisecracks made about how the chiropractor was causing pain and discomfort during a palpatory check of the spine. The hosts played canned noises simulating ripping and cracking sounds. There were recorded screams, and the host could be heard groaning as the chiropractor palpated certain tender areas. A listener called in and made comical comments insinuating a sexual situation between the chiropractor and his "patient." The whole thing sounded like a twisted torture chamber.

An adjustment was given. The host mentioned that if the chiropractic care rendered did not relieve the pain, he was going to try acupuncture next.

This talk show is listened to by thousands of people in Northern California. What message does this send to the public? Certainly, over the next few days, listeners would be hearing all about the effectiveness of chiropractic based on one adjustment. It also sent the distinct message that it is not necessary to take a good history, perform a proper exam and do diagnostic films - you know, all the things doctors of chiropractic are supposed to do.

Is it any wonder we feel like we are not taken seriously as a profession? Is it any surprise that the vertebral subluxation is still not widely recognized as a viable, important cause of ill health?

What was going through this chiropractor's mind? I don't know the answer to that, but I'll guess it has something to do with a free advertising spot and personal exposure. This chiropractor had a prime opportunity to educate a large audience about the role chiropractic plays in our health. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

My fellow colleagues, we cannot afford to sacrifice the incredible benefits of chiropractic for all on the alter of personal gain. Chiropractic is not a joke.

We complain about receiving an unfair shake from the medical profession. We bellyache about the inequality of managed care, but then we tarnish our image to the prospective patients we think we are attracting.

I incorporate the philosophy of chiropractic into every aspect of my practice. Most of my patients pay cash. I have no envy of the medical profession. And yet, one must admit that even in the face of procedures which do more harm than good, medicine maintains a superb public image. People will still go to the medic for "health" care, even when it may do little good.

Medical doctors, their teaching institutions and their professional associations, began over 70 years ago to ensure that the public would respect and value allopathic knowledge. That is why they still have the lion's share of the health care business today.

There is much good happening right now in our profession to elevate chiropractic to the status it should enjoy. Many chiropractors are educating their patients and promoting the adjustment through the media in effective but professional ways. Even so, more must be done. Simply keeping away from this type of high-profile bungle will certainly help.

Interestingly enough, this same radio station runs ads for an eye specialist promoting radio keratotomy. That doctor did his procedure on one of the hosts of this same morning talk show. Now she does a testimonial for that doctor and sings his praises.

These ads are very successful. The doctor didn't bring his equipment to the studio and perform his procedure on the air. He had more sense. In this situation, it is too late for chiropractic. The silliness has already occurred.

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