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Chiropractic is Not About Your Spine

It's really simply, helping your body adapt to the demands of your life. Demands are injuries, stress, gravity, sugar, caffeine, lack of sleep, travel, viruses, bacteria... I could go on.

Your brain and nervous system assess what's happening second by second and computes a response. That could be just enough muscle tone to keep you seated in your chair. Not completely flaccid so you fall out of the chair nor tonic spasm where you develop knots and hypoxia that hurts. But also, and simultaneously, blood sugar, blood pressure, temperature, digestion, repair of damaged cells... all while you go about your day chatting or reading the newspaper, nicely unaware of the wonders that are going on within.

Your nervous system is mostly inside of your spine and its alignment, or not, determines whether your nervous system can sense and respond to the environment correctly. THAT's why images of the spine are critical to determining how well a body can adapt (heal).

Here we have an image of a 20 year old young hair stylist who has complaints of bilateral shoulder pain, neck pain, upper back pain preventing her from doing most activities any other 20 year old can easily do without pain. For her, she woke up with pain, worked with pain and was living on painkillers.

The problems in this picture are alignment. This alignment damages the spinal cord and nerves so it can't communicate the correct messages. This is due to an injury and many people have this. The red measurements are what we use to mark progress. Note the 43 mm forward head posture. That should be 0 mm.

In this image we can see that the 43mm has been reduced to 28mm. This is a stress view right after her first adjustment with 1 lb of weight on her forehead to help strengthen the back of the neck. It is predictive of where her spine will be in about 30 days. It's much better as you can see her head is more over her shoulders instead of poking forward, but still not quite right. Unfortunately, this severe of a problem requires a couple of months of care to correct.

That's the rub. Having to tell someone their problems are severe and may require a few months to correct, sometimes doesn't sit well. These images are from 2017 and the reason I share it is because after showing her the initial image, what was wrong, the 2nd image and how to correct it, she said "OK. Good to know." and left. Almost as if I was talking about some abstract concept or someone else's spine that had nothing to do with her.

Here's an excerpt of her history form.:

I am still bothered by this strange interaction today. I'm not sure what this young woman thought we are capable of, but it's not miracles. It's basic science. Your nerves control your health and your experience in life. We help nerves work better. If you want to enjoy your life, and this form full of complaints looks like someone in their 70s wrote it, you can't enjoy it through Ibuprofen and Tylenol.

Healing takes more than 1 visit, particularly in this case, as she had been aware of the symptoms for 2 months. The real problem wasn't the pain, that's the effect. The real problems has been there for years already. It doesn't even make sense to expect it to be different tomorrow. Heck, if I could get everyone lined up and fixed in 1 visit, I could charge $1,000 and people would pay it just so they wouldn't have to come back to talk to me (more on this later). I don't have that skill and no one I know does. There are immutable truths to how your body heals. Time is one of them.

Healing takes time. Faster when you're young. Slower when you're old. Short time if the injry is new, and longer if it's been there for years. An injury that happened yesterday is generally easy to correct and takes a visit or two. Injuries like this, that are years old take months. If you're 60 years old and you've developed scar tissue and arthritis around this posture, it may take years. And may no longer be possible to fully correct. That's why we strongly urged her to take action now while it will have a good outcome. Unfortunately, she didn't take that advice. She decided we were pushy and the job was too expensive to believe it was even necessary.

I know she may think differently now. She hasn't been back since 2017. But, we were notified of her 1 star review on social media in 2023. You know why she waited until then? Because she was searching again for a solution to the same problem and ran across our website in the search process and decided her problems were our fault. We have a couple 1 star reviews. Pretty similar stories. People in for 1 or 2 visits, not enough to see results and can't believe it takes time and money to fix. Sorry, it's like Newton's Law. It just does. And, usually some out of pocket expense as not all covered by insurance. Nobody complains about our care, just the disagreement about who is paying for it. If it were all covered by insurance, no one would care about how many times they come here. But made aware that the problem extends beyond insurance benefits, our care recommendations get labeled as "pushy" or "long care plans".

It's true. You will not get "come back when that hurts" care here for recommendations. You'd fire your dentist if they said, "You don't need to come back until your teeth hurt.". Now, we have people who seek care like this and we don't judge. But, I can't make those recommendations myself knowing the devastation and disease that happens in peoples' lives when their spinal cord is being crushed by abnormal spinal alignment. So, I'm bound to tell the truth. Everyone gets to make up their own minds about the path they want to follow.

I was visiting with a friend in Phoenix, whose nephew is a chiropractor in southern Minnesota. Now this friend really needs a chiropractor because he has enormous health challenges and is 1 month older than I, but he doesn't see his nephew where he lives. In fact, he'd drive an hour to my office in the cities. I didn't ask why he doesn't see his nephew. But, the nephew doc's glowing 5 star reviews all tout, "He never makes you schedule another appointment." " He just treats where it hurts and lets you go until the next time it hurts. Such good care." Some people love that. Again, you'd fire your dentist for that.

In my opinion, this is malpractice. Honestly, we go to 8 years of school to assess the nervous system and spine, relay its condition and make recommendations about what course should be taken to best enjoy your life. If all I needed to do is ask you where it hurts and crunch on it, I didn't need to spend $100k and 8 years. You could just tell ME what do to. We could rub on you a bit, maybe get an ultrasound or muscle stim to fool your body into thinking it's working better for a couple hours. Talk about the football game. I'd be a great friend. Not your best doctor.

Now it's true that my communication style needs work. I've been around long enough and got enough feedback on that point. As one patient, Charles, a guy about 15 years my senior put it, "I've been to many chiropractors, you are REALLY GOOD at your job. But, you're kind of a pr---." A bit stunned, I said 'Why are you telling me this, Charles?' "Well, Dr. Barrett, I think if you could just do this and be like this... you could help so many MORE people....".

Who tells their doctor they're pr--- to help them? He was serious. He sincerely wanted to help me and I apparently really need help on this point. This was about 15 years ago. I was in my late 40s, old enough to know and behave better, and Charles was in his 60s, where I am now. He was right. So, I've been working on this aspect of my style. I've made a little progress. Those of you coming here for years and decades know exactly what he means.

I am grateful that you choose our office. I do my best to care for you all. Sometimes, not the best at communicating. I'll own that. But, Charles is correct. I am damn good at my job. I won't sugarcoat problems to make you feel good so you'll like me while you're getting sick and dying. I will give you the quickest path back to health possible. By the time you're 30, that's never a couple of days. By the time you're 60, that's never a couple weeks. Sorry. It's the truth. I'm on my own journey too. I appreciate your grace on this point. Hopefully, I get to help more people on their journey as well.


Dr. B.

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