2005-07-08 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Adapt To Stress With Chiropractic Care
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. Nancy gahlesDR. Nancy gahles A recent study published in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research “suggests that wellness care provided by doctors of chiropractic may improve health behaviors, enhance patient perceived quality of life and reduce health care costs”. (Today’s Chiropractic, May/June 2005).

“A joint study by chiropractors and researchers at the University of Lund found that chiropractic care could influence basic physiologic processes that affected oxidative stress and DNA repair. The study’s landmark results offer a scientific explanation for the positive health benefits reported by chiropractic patients”, reports Today’s Chiropractic magazine.

Doctors of Chiropractic utilize techniques that deliver spinal adjustments to correct disturbances of nerve function. This improves the ability of the body to adapt to stress. This study measured levels of serum thiol, a primary antioxidant that serves as an estimate of DNA repair enzyme activity, which has been linked to aging. Long term chiropractic care of two or more years was shown to re-establish a normal physiologic state independent of age, sex or nutritional supplements.

“Scientific” explanations make us thrill at the legitimacy of certain procedures in health care. Certainly, not all that heals is able to be “scientifically” explained. Take the power of prayer or meditation for example. When applying a health care modality that impacts the nervous system, it is rarely able to be quantified. That is why this study is particularly significant. Quality of life issues, aging and wellness are the topics that are de riguer at present, at least in my circles. People are not interested in battling the latest health care crisis. They want, and deserve, quality of life. This means wellness on a daily, ongoing basis. We can accept peaks and valleys in function and, these are manageable for the most part with minimal intervention.

The pathway to achieve wellness, however, is fraught with roadblocks. The first obstacle is education. Our current system is built on crisis management. We are trained to go to the doctor when we are sick. Usually very sick because we wait until we cannot handle it any longer and it is out of control. There is no emphasis on prevention or alternative methods of self care that can shorten the duration of illness. The philosophy of “watch it and if it gets bigger then call me” begets chronic disease and creates spiraling health costs. Educating patients on simple lifestyle changes including diet, exercise and stress reduction would open the “wellness waterways” and give people more control over their lives, their health and their well being. Advising patients of complementary and alternative therapies such as chiropractic, homeopathy and acupuncture as ways of increasing the quality of their life should be incumbent upon every primary care practitioner. This would result in decreased health care costs as well as patient satisfaction.

At present, the health care system that dominates presents an obstacle to achieving wellness as it supports crisis intervention treatments only. In the chiropractic profession, where spinal adjustments have been proven to influence wellness, treatments are discouraged by insurers. In fact, under most policies, prevention or wellness care is explicitly not covered. A doctor can only provide treatment for crisis situations, is allowed a minimal number of visits to “fix” it and then you must discharge the patient. A doctor is not “allowed’ to provide care that will prevent recurrence or the care that will afford wellness as indicated in this study. “With insurers in charge of health care decisions, patients-as well as the doctors of chiropractic who cared for them-lost out thanks to treatment and reimbursement delays and denials”, reports ACA NEWS,June 2005.

The shift is now to consumer driven health care. “Health care is self-care” was an expression bandied about at a recent CAM Conference. Consumer driven health care is the wave of the future. The model is evolving. One increasingly popular model has several layers. Employers put a fixed amount of money into an employee’s personal health savings account every year, approximately $2,000. Employees use that money for any health related expense including chiropractic, homeopathy, massage, etc.

The second layer is that the employee can also contribute to a health savings account (HAS) another $2,000. to cover the deductible and other expenses. This HAS is able to roll over year to year so that if one year is a good health year you have more money accumulated for a bad health year. The third layer, the catastrophic insurance will kick in after employer contributed funds and the employee contributed funds are used up. Some overflow costs will be likely, a percentage picked up by the PPO.

While it seems a bit complicated at first blush, what it does do is provide a mechanism to put health care back in the hands of the patient and their chosen health care provider. It provides a way for wellness and quality of life to be the norm. It provides a way to reduce health care costs for unnecessary testing and over prescribed medications.

The bottom line is that it is time for a new paradigm. When research concludes that spinal adjustments can affect DNA repair, it is time to sit up and listen. Abundant research over the years has concluded that chiropractic treatments put people back on the job faster after injuries with decreased lost man hours and decreased cost and yet the insurers have turned a deaf ear. Will they care about the positive health benefits reported in yet another study? My educated guess is that they are not of that ilk.

Time for a change. Time to put health care into the hands of each unique individual. Time to address their needs specifically. And you need time to do that. You need to sit in consultation with that person and listen..with your heart. You need to hear the patient’s condition. Where and how they are suffering. And you need to be able to formulate a treatment plan that encompasses the whole of that person… body, mind, emotion, spirit. And your time and expertise is compensable. We, both the doctor and the patient, have to come to an understanding. When you ask for this type of service, one that puts you into a wellness mode; one that enhances your quality of life; one that prevents chronic disease; one that affects DNA repair, the mechanism that fixes the damage caused by environmental impact; one that raises serum thiol levels, an indicator of normal wellness values..when you ask for this level of care, one should be prepared to pay for it, happily and with gratitude that it is available to you.

May the floodgates of healing in all it’s possibilities be open to us all.

May Peace prevail and prejudice recede. May The Blessings Be!

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