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From "Ouch" to Lesson Learned

I wear many hats, so to speak, as your chiropractor. From a nuts and bolts perspective, I am a musculoskeletal diagnostician and treatment provider. Thanks to excellent training at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC), ongoing continuing education, and mounting experience, I find the nuts and bolts of my profession rather routine these days. Occasionally a patient will present with something I haven’t seen before, but, largely, my job is about helping my patients navigate the ongoing nature of physical health.

With the abundance of scientific research in physical health today, we know so much more about navigating physical health. Diagnostics and provision of excellent treatment remain as critical components to being a good chiropractor. But, adhering to the evolving science of physical health care, adapting to the changing models of care are just as important. ‘Evidence-informed’ and ‘patient-centred” models of care are the new standard of care. Antiquated models of chiropractic care, such as high frequency of visits, treatments that only consist of spinal manipulation, diagnostics that incorporate unnecessary x-ray exposure are no longer considered safe or standard. A ‘patient-centred’ model of care puts you, the patient, at the forefront of the experience. Your unique, individual situation is paramount to your positive, healing experience. As a result, the ‘nuts and bolts’ of my job is to prioritize your experience preferences, understand, sympathize or empathize with your situation. In the end, my job is to help you navigate your physical health. My job is not to simply manipulate your spinal joints or “crack your back” as some still like to say. My job is to get to know you, teach you about your body – how it moves, gets strong, mobile, resilient. My job is to teach you how to heal, rehabilitate, and thrive physically as a human being. This is ‘patient-centred’ healthcare, from your chiropractor’s perspective. ‘Evidence-Informed’ means I’m adapting to the changing science. For example, how many visits of spinal manipulation should be provided before we expect results? What is the best strategy for rehabilitating a muscle tear or strained muscle tendon? What is the best evidence for needing surgery versus sticking to a rehabilitation program?

If you’ve been my patient long enough, you know how excited I am at a Monday morning appointment after taking a continuing education course on the weekend! Being at the forefront of my profession is important to me, should be important to you, and brings me joy! With this in mind, I’d like to highlight two distinct experiences that will make me a better chiropractor: One experience will occur throughout April when I will be participating in a Canadian Chiropractic Association continuing education course regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. This course aims to educate chiropractors about the science of bias, the foundation of diversity, equity and inclusion, with the purpose of creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for patients and our communities. I very much look forward to this series of courses to educate myself and enhance my patients’ unique, individualized experience in my office.

The second experience that should make me a better chiropractor is happening right now. I’m typing this blog while at home, not at work, due to an injury sustained yesterday while at work. First, the ‘nuts and bolts': One of my rib joints (where the rib articulates with my spine) is restricted in its movement, and has triggered the surrounding muscles to spasm. This is common, but not for me. Yesterday’s muscle spasms in my mid-back were so painful that they took my breath away. I’ll often ask my patients to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is worst pain they can imagine. Yesterday’s muscles spasms were 10 out of 10. I needed to cancel the remainder of my schedule, and I’ve taken today off. When my colleague Katharine (osteopath) was finished with her patient, I simply called out her name to come take care of me. In that state, there is not a big role for treatment. When the muscles are in spasm, self-care is the priority, and treatment will follow very soon. But, Katharine was able to palpate my injury, help confirm the rib joint irritation diagnosis, and agreed that self-care at home was the first priority. So, here I am, 24 hours later, writing a blog about my experience. After a very painful day yesterday, the spasms seem to have stopped, leaving me with some tight muscles, a stiff mid back, and an experience that makes me a better chiropractor. Even Katharine commiserated with me yesterday that these physical injury experiences help us be better therapists because it reminds us what it feels like to be in pain or have an injury.

Going beyond the ‘nuts and bolts’ of yesterday’s muscle spasms brings me a lesson to share: In the past two weeks, I’ve had a slight muscle strain in my mid back from over-exerting during an exercise. This happens to us all. But, I don’t think I managed this strain properly, perhaps let it fester too long, and now I’m paying the price. Don’t let your aches and pains fester too long! If you’re in pain, discomfort, nursing an injury, don’t hesitate to book an appointment. A bit of advice and treatment go a long way to keeping us physically well.

So, I do wear many hats as your chiropractor, from diagnostics to treatment, but also fitness coach, motivator, educator, and good ‘ole fashioned human being. Today, I’m infused with sympathy for your aches and pains. You and I will get through them together.

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