One of the biggest components of a chiropractor’s day is fielding concerns and complaints regarding how your patients are feeling.
One of the biggest components of a chiropractor’s day is fielding concerns and complaints regarding how your patients are feeling. This can lead to confusion and disappointment if the patient is looking for a quick fix and it doesn’t happen immediately. Would it not be of value, therefore, to communicate and demonstrate a person’s function as it relates to their spine, as opposed to focusing only on how they are feeling? How do we get the point across that there is more to a person’s health than how they feel? I propose that better communication, combined with demonstrating the spinal problem and its effect on the body, is a sure-fire way to get the focus on the patient’s lifestyle and off the pain conversation.
How we speak to patients, and the verbiage we use, can have a profound effect on their expectations during their care. Proper communication should start from the initial consultation. Are you asking about a person’s function on their first visit? Good. But, once we have dealt with the main complaint, we should be including questions about their lifestyle and whether or not the spinal problem has affected it. Examples of this would be if the subluxation has affected their digestive system, concentration, focus, schoolwork, workout routine, or if there are any activities that they may have given up because of the problem. This is really important as it gives us something to focus on besides pain and that we can follow up on each adjustment visit or progress exam. When a patient mentions they are still in pain, we can move on to other questions to see if they are improving in other areas of their life. If their digestive system is now functioning better and they are able to work more productively, we can relate it to chiropractic and this may inspire them to follow through with their care and stay on their program.
Another way we can communicate function versus feeling to our patients is to use examples from other professions.
One powerful question you can ask is: “Do you wait for your teeth to hurt to brush them or get a cleaning? If not, why do you brush them?” Consider also: “Why do you check your blood pressure? Is it because your arm or body hurts?” The answers are obvious and show the patients that how they feel should not determine what they do or think about their state of health.
Demonstrating loss of function should occur at a new patient’s first exam. The best exam that I have seen conducted is performed by Dr. James Carter in which the focus is on showing the loss of function due to subluxation (I will be touching on this in a future article). This is accomplished through using muscle testing, range of motion testing, and regular orthopedic tests to really make it clear to the patient how the spinal problem has affected their function and health without you having to tell them. We can continue to demonstrate loss of function during daily adjustment visits using one or two muscle tests (looking for improvements), a range of motion test before and after a set of adjustments, and even balance tests. If we want to take it a step further and get off the pain dialogue we can begin to discuss and demonstrate the function of the brain and nervous system as it relates to their chiropractic care. We can perform a test such as Rhomberg’s and re-visit the test at a progress exam to show the effect chiropractic has on the brain and balance.
What do you think the value of this will be to the patient and where the focus will be once they experience that type of improvement?
Once we effectively communicate and demonstrate functional changes, versus focusing solely on pain relief, we motivate the patient to follow through with their program of care. This is because they have been inspired and educated that their chiropractic care does more than just relieve their pain.
Be prepared! Effective communication and education will increase energy and create a buzz – referrals will flood your office!
Remember – when it comes to your practice, work from the inside out.
Key to Shifting your Patients’ focus
Communication and demonstration are the keys to rerouting your patient’s focus from how they feel (lingering pain) to how they function (improvements in lifestyle)
- ACTION STEP 1: Communicate loss of function by asking lifestyle questions related to their spinal problems.
- ACTION STEP 2: Demonstrate loss of function by using muscle and neurological tests to show the effect spinal problems have on their health.
- ACTION STEP 3: Follow up with both communication and demonstration on how function is improving at each visit or at progress exams.
Dr. Angelo Santin is a 2006 graduate of the CMCC. He operates a busy subluxation-based family practice in Thunder Bay, Ont., and is currently serving his second year as president of the Thunder Bay Chiropractic Society. Dr. Santin is one of a small number of international proficiency-rated chiropractic coaches, and draws on his success, along with the experience of the most renowned experts in this field, to provide time-tested, effective and patient-centred ideas for every chiropractor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-344-4606.
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