You Should Focus on
Medicine's Shortcomings

December 23, 1998

Dr. Barrett, I was so happy to see your new site.

I was just thinking to myself, "You know, there just isn't enough negative stuff floating around out there about chiropractic."

I wanted to respond but I know you have a space limit. So, some of my response may seem a bit disjointed.

I find it refreshing to see sixty year old rubbish used to counter a health care modality which has just celebrated its 100th anniversary. I was heartened to see that this was part of your "full historical perspective" analysis of chiropractic. I'm hesitant to think of what my "medicine believer" patients might do if I began educating them via the "full historical perspective" of medicine. I could paint a picture of what they might see at their doctor's office by dropping innuendo about the "good ol' days" of medicine when doctor's leached their patients and subjected them to even less civilized practices. That seems fair.

I particularly enjoyed your FAQ observation that while there are plenty of periodicals extolling the virtues of chiropractic there just don't seem to be enough alternative viewpoint provisions. It seemed to me that the same could be said for medicine, dentistry, arts and crafts and beanie baby collecting.

Did you ever notice that at parties people are not talking about the negative stuff in life as much as the positive. There does always seem to be that one guest though, that nobody remembers inviting, who is loud and obnoxious and manages to offend almost everyone in the room. Maybe you never noticed. Perhaps you should carry a mirror.

Quietly, at night, when I have finished with a day of dialog as outlined in The Basis Of Chiropractic By Fishbein (1932) in the confines of my "Referral Center" as described in the ACA document Practice Building Advice , I think to myself... I wonder if there is a way to disprove all of the common theories of medicine that are accepted but, as of yet, unproved? My thoughts always magically return to the widely held notion of modern day doctors that AIDS is the result of an HIV infection. Well, this is one you should focus on. If you really feel compelled to save patients who have suffered at the hands of doctors utilizing improper procedures, then look into the world of AZT and other AIDS medications which are killing patients at a breakneck speed. Familiarize yourself with the virtuous pursuit of "health" by doctors and medical researchers who have duped the entire population into believing that a simple retrovirus causes the most baffling, communicable, disease we have ever stumbled upon. But that isn't fair. I am dwelling upon something that you never seem to want to address.... "Medicine's shortcomings do not justify chiropractic quackery." Having stated that, you bring up a good point. You seem to indicate by your lack of outward concern, that "medical shortcomings" are some how less important than what you refer to as "quackery". If this is not so, then I apologize for my insinuation, but it would appear that you have become so myopic in your quest to deter anyone from making (in your opinion) the wrong health care choice that you've been blinded to more pressing concerns.

We are a society who is struggling with resistant bacteria, cancer, diabetes, mental illness, AIDS and other heinous human afflictions. However, you choose to focus your extensive, medical background, training, self appointed expert-quackery-debunker status and, apparently loads of free time, on directing people away from alternative therapies which, with some scientific discovery, may be found to have a base of truth and efficacy. That seems like such a noble pursuit and sensible application of one's efforts. When you could be doing research to help the human population achieve greater health, you instead choose to follow the low road and sling mud at a profession which treats a relatively small percentage of the population and whose care primarily focuses on the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Disorders which typically do not pose a threat to life and which, here to fore, have been abandoned by the very profession you call yourself a part of. The lion's share of patients that we see are patients who have tried the medical route and failed or who have tried to talk with their physicians and haven't even been listened to. They hear things like your pain is most likely transient so you shouldn't do anything about it... it will just go away on its own. That advice usually comes after a very thorough exam which includes such advanced examining techniques as having the patient bend to touch their toes. The information from that test is put into the magic ball of musculoskeletal misunderstanding that most physicians use to evaluate back and neck pain and the astonishing ticker tape response that comes out is... "it's nothing". Well try to tell someone who can't get out of bed in the morning that "its nothing". Have you ever suffered from back pain? Have you ever been told it was probably just a pulled muscle? Did you do anything to pull a muscle. Do you know how hard that is to do? Were you checked by x-ray to rule out underlying pathology? Did your doctor ever show you your x-rays? Did you doctor ever check your chemical status to determine if you had an imbalance that might be causing spasms? Did your doctor even seem remotely concerned about the cause of your pain or did he just treat your symptoms? If you went to a medical doctor, chances are that is exactly what was done. He or she was face to face for about two minutes, heard your symptoms and determined "exactly" what your problem was... something he doesn't handle very well. So, he did what he does for other pain cases he can't do anything active for... Gave you pain meds, muscle relaxants, and an anti-inflamatory med. Highest degree of understanding? Sad really, don't you think?

Chiropractic patients see us for exactly the opposite treatment. They want to know what is wrong with them and, they want help in getting better. The other thing that they want is for the condition not to return. That's why they come back in for maintenance visits. Do you think that we go to their houses and drag them into the office to be adjusted? No, they willingly return so they can continue feeling well. Instead of waiting until their problem returns, they opt to be proactive and head their condition off at the pass. We commonly use the aspirin analogy to explain the phenomenon. If a patient takes aspirin to solve their problem and it works then would you think it logical that the patient would try that again in the future should a similar set of circumstances arise? I would. Patients do. Detractors don't. They say that we are not helping that person. Rather, we are somehow faking the results we see time and time again. What is more, you would have that patient believe that he or she is at grave risk for being injured during the course of our treatment. I'm not sure where you get your statistics to support that concept but I have yet to see one of my patients or heard of a colleagues patient who was injured during an adjustment. It just isn't very common. It does seem true that manipulation performed by MDs and other allied health professionals has a significantly higher injury rate associated with it. That probably stems from their relative lack of training in and understanding of manipulative medicine and spinal biomechanics. All the research I have seen seems to support the theory that manipulation, performed by someone who is properly trained, is incredibly safe.

You should try to help humanity in a way that doesn't attempt to destroy a viable way of life for so many. But that is just my opinion.

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Dr Barrett was heard to say. But who was listening? Not too many people. That's who.

Michael J. Dalan, D.C.
Practicing Chiropractor
The Chiropractic Wellness Center
Naperville, Illinois

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