Here’s a confession. As a chiropractor there’s a combination of words that patients use that can drive me crazy in a matter of seconds. What does it sound like? It sounds something like this:
“Can’t you just fix me, Doc, so I can feel better?”
Behind this phrase are three mistaken ideas that patients have about healing. At first they seem reasonable, but they aren’t a real reflection of how healing actually takes place. Until these mistaken ideas are addressed, the patient is probably always going to be a little disappointed with any doctor they see. And in fact, they may never understand what they have to do to really heal.
Mistaken chiropractic patient idea #1.
“Feeling better is the same thing as healing better.”
There are lots of ways to feel better–like Motrin, a glass of wine, or a heating pad. But as good as it may feel (temporarily) to run away from pain and illness, sometimes all that running actually gets in the way of healing.
Here’s a case in point: tossing back a few over-the-counter painkillers so that you can jog that extra mile at the gym instead of suffer from knee pain. Or dropping a couple of aspirin so that you can work through a massive headache at the end of the day.
In each case your body is giving you a message loud and clear: something isn’t right in my knee, or something isn’t right in my head or neck.
And if you’re always shutting down the pain signals, then you aren’t listening. In fact, you many just be wrecking your knee faster. Or making your headaches worse over time. (Did you know, one of the side-effects of taking headache medicine is actually more headaches?)
Know that if you’re interested in feeling better, that’s not the same thing as healing better. At least not at first. For true healing to take place, it often has to feel worse before it feels better.
Mistaken chiropractic patient idea #2:
“My doctor is going to fix me up.”
There are procedures that involve fixing patients, and usually those patients are animals, and their doctors are veterinarians. If you truly understand what chiropractic care is for, then “fix” will be a four-letter word around your chiropractor. That’s because no doctor can truly fix what’s wrong inside your body. He or she can only do two things. Either:
- remove the interference to a self-healing process, or
- treat the symptoms that are bothering you, and hope that the interference goes away on its own.
Tumors can be removed but they will return if their seeds cells are still being fed. Broken bones can be cast, but they will not mend unless the bone reweaves itself. Artificial limbs and even hearts can be installed, but they will not run without a local power supply.
So, if your chiropractor can’t fix you, what can he or she do?
Remove one of the prime sources of interference to the body’s inborn ability to self-regulate and heal—the vertebral subluxation. You can’t demand that your chiropractor fix your problem and make it go away. But you should demand that your chiropractor actually deal with the health and alignment of your spine, so that your problem is more likely to go away on its own.
Mistaken chiropractic patient idea #3:
“This should be gone by now.”
There is nothing wrong with expecting miracles. As Thomas Edison has said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” Miracles do happen, but often in a different way than we expect.
For example, our concept of a miracle is often one that happens in an instant—in the blink of an eye. But what about the miracle of birth? Truly it’s a miracle for one human cell to become living, breathing human being, simply through the inborn intelligence found within that one cell. However, over the 240 days that the child develops, there’s also a lot of work being done. Just ask a mom.
Walking into your chiropractor’s office with a lot of hope that someone will finally listen to you—that someone will finally help you is a good thing. Just so long as you understand that, like building a baby, chiropractic and self-healing are a process. It’s a miracle that takes work, and pretending that your health is going to shift overnight, without some major changes from you, will definitely drive you and your chiropractor crazy.
In most cases, “This should be gone by now” is a mistaken idea of someone who wants to get fixed, not someone who understands that being healthier actually requires work. And the first work of the patient is to have patience with the healing process.
Muscles can take six weeks to heal. Ligaments can take six months or more. And truly damaged nerves can take even longer.
There’s some good research out there that shows a twisted ankle is still not 100% a year after the injury. So walking into a chiropractor’s office with fifty plus years of spinal damage, including lots of arthritis and disc generation, doesn’t make that structural damage go away in a few weeks. You may feel better in some areas quite quickly. But the remodeling of that structure, what your body will do if it truly is healing, will not always be quick or comfortable.
So, what’s the phrase that patients can say that makes me happy?
“I’m ready to increase my potential to heal. Just tell me what needs to be done.” The patient who says that, can truly expect a miracle.