Family doctors are adding chiropractors to the practice
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” A recent report from the UK, shows that British family medicine doctors are learning the benefits of chiropractic manipulation skills and adding chiropractors to their general practices to help patients with back and muscle pain. That’s fantastic! The big winners will be the patients. They will be able to have better access to the best possible treatment options.
Here are some of the study highlights. The National Institute for Health and Clinic Excellence (NICE) has long recommended spinal manipulation (chiropractic care) for musculoskeletal injury (like back pain, neck pain, and whiplash). But in the UK, many people are more accustomed to seeing their family doctor (called a GP) for treatment. A study and pilot program placed chiropractors in the offices of the GP and let the chiropractors take care of the muscle and skeletal pain.
The results? The patients got better faster, and they were reducing their medication use. The patients also had improved quality of life measures. Sounds like a great program. The British are looking out for their population.
Why isn’t that sort of program happening here? Well, actually there is better integration now than there was 10 years ago. And 10 years ago was better than 20 years ago. The major problem is educating the medical community. Most of the new doctors coming out of medical school are taught about the benefits of integrated care and sending skeletal pain out to a chiropractor.
The major problem comes down to cultural bias and ‘bad apples.’ Back in the 70’s and 80’s there was an organized medical boycott to ‘contain and eliminate’ the chiropractic profession. Most of those old timers are retired and a fresh crop of open-minded doctors are in the field, but the institutions that employ the new doctors have long memories and as a corporate culture, they tend to not send back pain to a chiropractor. Thankfully, the medical doctors in St George are really open minded. I get patients all the time telling me that their medical doctor told them to continue treating with me. At our office, we practice a team-approach. We have the patient follow-up with their family doctors for medication management, and we send reports back to their family doctor. Those medical doctors appreciate being included in the loop. As a result, we get referrals from the medical doctors.
The other problem are the ‘bad-apples’ in the chiropractic profession. Just as in every other profession, there are some elements that are on the fringe and doing odd things. Of course, the bad-apples get all the media attention and they end up serving as de-facto ambassadors of the profession. As an example, I remember reading recently about a mid-west chiropractor who was treating a child for ear infections. That is not so odd, but the chiropractor had not been successful in containing the infection and it had spread to other parts of the head and the child was gravely ill. The issue was the chiropractor failed to refer the child out when it became a more serious condition. The media just loves to make an example of such a thing. Every medical doctor who saw the news that night learned that “local chiropractor endangers life of child by treating ear infections.” Sadly, those medical doctors were taught the wrong lesson about chiropractic.
In contrast to the ear-infection chiropractor, here is a story about a ring of 4 medical doctors, 1 psychologist, and 12 pharmacists who defrauded the tax payers for over $51 million just a couple of weeks ago. Did anyone else hear about this? Anyone? Bueller? I didn’t think so. The media doesn’t care about that sort of thing.
The vast majority of the St George’s chiropractors are good apples. But certainly, do not judge chiropractic by the actions of a single chiropractor.