Probably not the first thing you might compare chiropractic to, but let me explain…..
Chiropractors work to get the nervous system working optimally, that is by improving the communication between the brain and the body and the brain, by working on the spine.
Cardiologists look to improve blood flow around the heart so that the heart muscle gets the oxygen it needs to work properly. A triple bypass involved 3 blood vessels that have become clogged up.
Positive Side Effects
One of the commonest side effects of chiropractic is pain reduces and function improved. People are able to do more and generally feel better.
It’s the same with heart bypass surgery. Once the arteries are open more oxygen flows and pain reduces in the heart muscle. Symptoms of angina are gone. The heart muscle has an oxygen supply again and people feel much better.
This is where both professions share a lot of common ground. Because of the nature of heart surgery randomized controlled trials are not how they have proved if it works or not. We get it don’t we – artery blocked affecting the heart – who would want to be in a trial where they ran the risk of not having their artery opened up?
And chiropractic is similar. Chiropractors are trained to reduce the pressure on nerves affecting the vital communication between the brain and body. Although there are a few small randomized trials, it is almost impossible to do a sham adjustment to someone. The moment you have laid your hands on someone’s spine, and interaction has occurred. With the advent of more and more low force techniques (like NSA that we practice ) we know that an exquisitely gentle touch to the spine can have a massive effect in the body, like knocking the first domino over in a row as opposed to hitting it so hard it bounces out. The research for Network Chiropractic is a combination of Retrospective Analysis, Case Studies and Scientific investigation of phenomena. It’s been carried out in 7 American Universities currently, and much like the research into Heart Surgery it’s about outcomes and common scientific sense.
But if there are no Randomized Controlled Trials it doesn’t work right?
I’ve heard this a lot over the years and my answer is – do you know of anyone who is alive today because of heart bypass surgery? Why are they prepared to do that, but not an approach that has been around for over 100 years and helped literally millions of people? And the profession survives because of the number of people who want it.
Most people think that once you’ve had your heart arteries unblocked then that’s it. They’re ok and you’ll be ok. Actually, for many if they don’t change their lifestyle and maybe exercise more and eat differently, quite often the arteries clog back up.
The same occurs for chiropractic. Chiropractors are great at helping people heal. But the state of your spine is a reflection of what is happening in your life and how well your body is able to handle it. So many people find that after initial improvements their symptoms slowly come back or put another way – their body recreates them. This tends to happen most in the group who opted for short term care or were only focussed on symptomatic relief. Sometimes it happens purely because their spine wasn’t as good as they thought it was, because they only considered pain not the bigger picture. This leaves people with 2 choices.
1. Change your habits, change your outlook, put a lot of effort into improving your health. For some people this is just not possible due to time and financial constraints, but it is one way of optimizing your health. This works best when your nervous system is already working well (when your spine is clear of restrictions and already optimized, otherwise you are trying to optimize a system that is not at full potential).
2. Or get your spine to the best possible state and then get regular chiropractic care to support you in the best life possible and then use good habits and healthy lifestyle to support these changes.
Most people who are focussed on their health use a combination of 1 and 2, opting to adopt more and more healthy habits and using their chiropractor as a tool to support their health and wellbeing.
Both Chiropractors and Heart Surgeons save lives
Heart Surgery saves lives when people are nearly dead. Without it many would die.
Chiropractic saves lives when people have lots of living left to do – we intervene a lot earlier generally than a cardiovascular surgeon, but can have a huge impact on quality of life. If you’re living with chronic pain or poor health, it can feel like your life is over. Chiropractors help people get their lives back, often when there is so much living to do.
We all know there are risks with surgery. Because many of the people with advanced heart disease are very ill, that adds to the fact that a proportion won’t make it. So to quote statistics would be an unfair comparison.
However the risks of chiropractic are incredibly low and this is reflected in their liability insurance premiums. A low force chiropractor will pay as little as £250/year for their insurance, a chiropractor who uses spinal manipulation about £800 and a medical doctor (this was a quote from a GP friend of mine) about £7000 per annum. Chiropractic has an incredible safety record, and whilst you may know someone who had a horror story, every profession has a few bad eggs and my advice is don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
So next time you get asked what chiropractic has in common with heart surgery, now you know.