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Three Amigos of Healthcare?

A recent article in the Toronto Star reports that the rise of “the three amigos” (Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, and Massage Therapy) is hurting health care.  The article, written on the basis of information from an insurance company’s financial report, is being shredded by forward thinkers, realists, and with whomever else I speak.  I’ve written about the role of health insurance companies in the past.  Today, I do so again as a rebuttal to this article.

Click here to link to the Toronto Star Article

First, let’s separate insurance companies’ motives from that of healthcare of our community. The bottom line for an insurance company is to make money. The bottom line for you, a human being, is to live happy and healthy. The two are in no way related. The benefits in your insurance benefits package are not strategically allocated to afford you the best health. If it was, everyone would have the same plan; And that plan would look wildly different than what plans actually look like.

The author of the article suggests that Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, and Massage Therapy are “soft benefits”, suggesting that they pale in importance to expensive prescriptive drugs, because it is the drugs that keep people healthy and get them back to work and being productive. And, of course, while in certain situations, prescriptive drugs are critical to the health and productivity of individuals dealing with certain illnesses, his point about the paramedical services failing to offer the same value is simply nonfactual and out of touch with the current day’s biggest health care costs and concern: Musculoskeletal complaints.

In fact, study after study reveals not only the significant impact the paramedical services have in returning workers to work in an efficient and effective way, but that the overall cost to doing so is substantially lower than using drugs. Please understand, while described as “soft benefits” because it seems like a “luxury” to have someone massage or manipulate you, or help you learn proper exercise, the reality is that the majority of people seek out these services because they are recovering from injuries, dealing with pain, and as a result unable to be productive both at home and at work. Statistically, these services help people recover, rehabilitate, and return to their typical daily lives, including being productive at work, far more effectively and much cheaper than resorting to drugs, surgery, and hospitalizations. Visiting a Chiropractor, Registered Massage Therapist, Physiotherapist, Osteopath, or Acupuncturist is as much about illness and recovery as visiting your medical doctor to get a prescription. It is not a “trip to the spa”, as Green Shield and Adam Mayers would have you believe. For those coming to the chiropractor et al, when they’re not in pain or injured, the visit is often to continue the rehabilitative process and to prevent future occurrences. Serious back and neck pains, repetitive strain injuries to the shoulders, elbows and wrists, arthritic changes to the spine are serious muscuoloskeletal “illnesses” that can be avoided with proper preventative treatment and exercise training.  We, the “Three Amigos” do not work at “spas”. While spas do exist, I do not work at one, nor do the majority of my colleagues. Sure, some Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) work at true “spas”. Chiropractors and physiotherapists do not. And, the majority of RMTs do not either. Our team of RMTs are exceptional clinicians that provide a necessary service to keep you well.

Are there clinicians in the paramedical services providing too much or unnecessary treatment? Yes. Some. Are there chiropractors suggesting they treat illness that we are, in fact, not able to treat? Yes. Some. The majority of us do not. Are there physiotherapists still performing out-dated, uninformed services that mostly help their bank account, rather than the patients’ health? Yup. Can the colleges that govern these professionals do a better job at ensuring we lower the numbers of us that are doing a poor job, and in turn giving our professions bad names? You bet. But, to paint us all with one brush, when the majority fill a hugely important need in the health care industry was such poor journalism, and a disservice to its readers. Is every MD a good doctor? No. Is every chiropractor dedicated to their patient’s well being like I am? No. Does every journalist consider the ramifications of spouting poor ideologies in their column? Clearly, no. There are good and there are bad. You be the judge. I’m going to continue to improve the quality of my patients’ lives, striving to keep as many of them as possible away from surgeries and medications and at work being productive citizens.

The cost of surgery and hospitalizations and medications is so astronomically higher than the cost to prevent these services that, in the name of smart healthcare, requires everyone to not only stop casting our professions as “soft services”, but to further the conversation, loudly, about how critical it is that more and more people understand the dramatic role we “Amigos” can have on your health and quality of life.

I welcome comments and encourage feedback to the Toronto Star.

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