Alt-Health: Step on a Crack …

Summer is here and Dr. Michael Zola is expecting company. With warm weather comes overexertion and sports injuries; this is the time most of us think of going to a chiropractor. But in a recent interview, I learned there is a lot more to this branch of healing than “cracking” bones.

Dr. Zola has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. He began his education with a degree in biology and went on to earn his doctorate in chiropractic medicine at the National University of Health Sciences. His decision to specialize in chiropractic care came down to a fundamental belief that “if the body is given the right resources, the body heals itself.”

One of the problems with our current health system is that it concentrates largely on the symptoms of illness. “We have disease insurance, not health insurance,” Zola says. He addresses the whole person, not just the obvious aches. “All of the body’s systems are interrelated. It’s important to educate people to give them a better understanding of how their own health works. There’s a lot that they can do on their own.” Mike holds a monthly nutrition workshop for patients and their families and prescribes “blueprint” exercises tailored to each patient’s needs.

I wondered if he undermined his own profit potential by making clients more self-sufficient. “Not at all — as long as there is gravity, humans will have muscle and skeletal problems.” Besides, most of Dr. Zola’s patients are there by choice, not because they have been routed by their insurance company. They have a sincere desire to achieve optimum health. I asked: Are those expectations the real catalyst in your patients’ recovery? Could results be due partly to wishful thinking? “A positive attitude and personal effort are important factors in any recovery,” Zola said. ”But I adjusted an infant who wasn’t sleeping and had trouble with bowel movements. After treatment, the baby fell back into a natural cycle. I doubt that was from a placebo effect.”

Unfortunately, insurance coverage for chiropractic care is exclusively for pain. Policies often won’t pay for the diagnosis and evaluation, which are so crucial to proper treatment; many times visits aren’t covered at all. Subscribers’ choice of treatments are controlled to a large part by medical lobbyists.

Those lobbyists are the bane of holistic healers. Mike knows the attitude that many traditional doctors take. “The pharmaceutical industry finances western medicine and you can see the influence they have on the curriculum in medical schools.” As a result, many doctors don’t really understand what chiropractors do. If asked, they will say that there is no scientific proof that the whole subluxation theory of chiropractic care has any validity. Some have even issued dire warnings that adjusting the neck might cause stroke. But the question arises as to how safe and effective their approved western treatments are for similar ailments. A medical doctor pays tens of thousands for malpractice insurance. A chiropractic physician’s malpractice insurance runs less than $1,000 a year. A possible reason? Medical errors, not chiropractic adjustments, are the third leading cause of death in this country.

A new patient chiropractic visit begins like that at any doctor’s office — with a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. If a patient does need critical medical attention, they are referred to the appropriate medical specialist. But a western doctor’s initial role would end there; the pharmacy, specialist or surgical procedure is the next stop. A chiropractic visit goes one step further. Patients get immediate hands-on treatment for a problem, which is often the beginning of real relief. However, no holistic procedure can be reduced to a single treatment or single outcome. Chiropractors have an impressive array of options at hand when necessary; they use many of the same specialized tools and massage techniques employed by physical therapists. A chiropractor can effectively treat problems ranging from migraines to chest pains; women turn to them for care through pregnancy and childbirth.

There is sound common sense behind bringing the structure of the body back in line. Consider a car that is out of alignment. It just ain’t gonna run right ‘til you get it back on track. With our bodies, this is especially important because the spine carries the nerves that supply energy to the whole body. When spine function suffers, anything can go wrong.

Right now, there are 434,840 primary care physicians and 473,668 specialists practicing in the United States. In contrast, there are only 80,000 chiropractic physicians. For every day of in-hospital coverage, a patient could get month’s worth of chiropractic care, and they’d come away with an education in self care that could keep them out of the hospital for good.

I believe this is an alternative that should become a standard, and insured, option for all of us.

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