Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

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Research Is Winning the Game


December 31, 2007
By David J. Leprich DC

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Why not come out and join the team?
Teamwork. Critical mass. Impact. Excitement. These words accurately describe the current state of affairs in Canadian chiropractic research.

Teamwork. Critical mass. Impact. Excitement. These words accurately describe the current state of affairs in Canadian chiropractic research.

“Critical mass” refers to the scale at which a process becomes self-perpetuating. The number of dedicated and talented chiropractors who choose research as a career is approaching that critical mass in terms of the manpower available to design and conduct much-needed research. For more than 100 years, we relied on anecdotal reports and satisfied patients to spread the word about chiropractic. In light of the global move to evidence-based care, it is no longer sufficient to tell policy makers, and potential patients, what we have seen in our practices. Word-of-mouth promotion by satisfied patients helped build a strong foundation, but this alone cannot propel chiropractic into the future. We must back up our position with quality research. A well-developed research structure also helps point to new directions for chiropractic. We are very quickly developing the skills and facilities to do these things. The excitement generated by each announcement that another chiropractor has been established as a university-based research chair is huge. It means we are one step closer to turning on the switch to a self-sustaining supply of overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that chiropractic care does have a positive impact on the health of Canadians.

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Many times we have heard the phrase “chiropractic is guilty of hiding its light under a bushel.” Imagine the excitement we will all rightfully feel as the bushel is not only lifted, but smashed by the onslaught of new information that will be forthcoming from our burgeoning research program. Our light is about to burn very brightly for all to see. None of these things will happen without solid and continued teamwork.   

While evidence suggests that spinal manipulation was in use thousands of years ago, chiropractic, as we know it today, began with one very enigmatic and interesting gentleman. Dr. Daniel David Palmer is acknowledged as the first modern chiropractor. Dr. Palmer worked initially as a beekeeper, a grocery store owner and a magnetic healer before developing the Palmer School of Chiropractic which, by 1902, had graduated 15 chiropractors.

After gaining a foothold, chiropractic thrived. This was not due solely to the work of this one man, but through the efforts of many! As the number of chiropractors grew, they were able to help more and more people. The burgeoning profession, as a whole, became more involved in lobbying for wider acceptance and funding of chiropractic education and practice. Numerous local and national groups were founded to foster development of this still-new system of health care. Without the teamwork displayed by these early chiropractic politicians, pressure from government and competing interests would have suppressed further development of our profession. Even today, there are numerous examples of continued anti-chiropractic activity. One of the best ways to meet this challenge head-on is through research.

In a sense, all chiropractors are already members of the research team. Every time we examine and treat a new patient, we question that patient about their health and follow up with an examination. Based on the outcome of the consul-tation and examination, we form a hypothesis about the nature of the problem. We initiate treatment protocols based on this hypothesis and measure our outcomes, thereby validating the hypothesis or identifying the necessity for re-evaluation. This use of the scientific method provides valuable and accurate information and leads to a better clinical decision.

To advance the profession as a whole, however, we need a far more structured system for gathering information. To protect the integrity of the information, it is important to control the questions we ask. The test methods must be consistent and standardized. Evaluation of the outcomes must be meticulous. Our goal, as clinical  practitioners, is to improve the health and well-being of our patients. This differs from the goals of our researchers who are more interested in using the outcomes to design further studies. Or, to quote Dr. Jill Hayden, one of our chiropractic research chairs, “the goal of research is to come up with better questions.”

The most productive way for us, as practising chiropractors, to aid in the research effort is to become involved as members of the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation.

Unfortunately, stimulating interest in research among practicing chiropractors has not been easy, even with the changing profile of the chiropractic student body. Recent graduates, and current students, are far more science-minded than those of 30 years ago, but the vision of happy, healthy patients is what continues to inspire and motivate most practitioners. Given the huge positive impact chiropractic care can have on the lives of our patients, this is completely understandable. However, continuing to do what we have always done will not guarantee our place in the future of health care.

During my terms of office in various capacities on various chiropractic boards, I heard many doctors express dismay about the direction the profession was taking. The most oft-repeated recommendation was “Why not just tell the truth about chiropractic?” As attractive as this approach may seem to chiropractors who are seeing tremendous clinical results, and who are striving to build and maintain a practice, there has been scant evidence to support some of the claims being made.

 Many chiropractors decry the position that chiropractic is a treatment for back pain, saying this limits our potential. They provide anecdotal reports of success with many other conditions. They stress the importance of proper nervous system function and its impact on wellness. I am not suggesting that these chiropractors are right or wrong any more than are
those who eschew the notion of subluxation. However, I am most definitely taking the position that now, more than ever, we must be prepared to back up what we say. We must become far more proactive, seeking new directions for chiropractic as we move ahead. The very good news is that we are moving into a position to do just that. When reviewing the current research picture, it is amazing to see how far we have come.

Dating back to 1976, the CCRF recognized a need to create collaborative research efforts. As a result, the profession now has five research chairs at universities across Canada, including the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. An additional chair is being established at the University of Manitoba. Next on the horizon is the establishment of a research chair in Atlantic Canada. The value of these research positions cannot be overstated. With each chair, we have chiropractors actively designing and conducting research directly related to chiropractic. Not only does this enhance the credibility of the entire profession, it affords us the opportunity to look into the future of health care with chiropractic at the helm.

What make these developments even more remarkable, are the varied funding opportunities now available to our researchers. Private firms, the federal government, through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation – provincial governments and chiropractic associations, the CCRF and the universities, themselves, are now providing funding totalling many millions of dollars! In some cases, such as the chair at the University of Manitoba, a provincial government is telling the profession to create this position and is providing funding for it. If we truly want chiropractic to be of more benefit to more people, the role we must play, as practicing chiropractors, is to be involved as members of the CCRF.

Understanding the importance of research, and eager to be part of the team, every chiropractor in New Brunswick has become an active voting member of the CCRF. As a
result of direct involvement in the funding of their research chairs in Manitoba and British Columbia, all members there will become full members of the CCRF. At the recent AGM of the Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors, it was announced that every chiropractor in Nova Scotia will become an active voting member in the CCRF. Yet, far too many have still chosen to stand back.

Your management of your patients’ health gives you the opportunity to build long-term relationships through positive results and the trust you are able to establish. The same holds true for the profession as a whole. Government decision makers, insurers, leaders of industry and the general public all view the information provided by research as a solid endorsement of what we do. We now have an incredible opportunity to join together, as a team, and work to position chiropractic where it rightfully should be.  By actively joining the CCRF team, your membership fee will help to ensure that chiropractic care continues to enhance the health and well-being of Canadians well into the future.

For more information, please contact the CCRF at 1-800-668-2076.•


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