January of 1993 seemed like any other time in the world of health care. Pills were being dispensed, tongues depressed, arms squeezed and stethoscopes wielded. In total, 388 million visits were being made each year to primary care physicians. On January 28th, the medical community surprisingly learned that its patients were making visits to other health care professionals as well. Research, published by Harvard Medical School doctor David M. Eisenberg in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimates that 425 million visits to providers of unconventional therapy were being made each year. That is 37 million more visits than made to primary care physicians! With this revelation, we see that the “unconventional” forms of care, often referred to as holistic care, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy and nutritional counseling are no longer alternative.
Despite its popularity, true holistic care is often improperly viewed as meaning “natural” or “non-medical.” Although it is typically natural, more important is that it delves further than the sick body part and symptoms… it looks at the whole being, not just the individual pieces. The classic definition defines holism as the theory that living matter is made up of organic or unified wholes that are greater than the simple sum of their parts.
It may be “natural” to treat stomach problems with ginger root, but greater long-term success is found by encompassing the holistic approach of considering the function or dysfunction of the entire person, mind and body, and how his or her other parts may be affecting stomach health.
Many of the 425 million visits made were to doctors of chiropractic. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the chiropractic approach is that it is truly a holistic health care system. Many doctors of chiropractic work extensively with nutrition, exercise, stress management and supplementation. The central basis of chiropractic care is to focus on the entire person by examining how well the nervous system functions. As stated in the classic medical textbook, GRAY'S ANATOMY, every function of the human body is under the control of the nervous system. Its function is to coordinate all other organs and structures and to relate the individual to his environment.
Due to the vital role of the nervous system, its protection is essential for your optimum health and avoidance of sickness and disease. The stack of bones called the spinal column houses and protects a key component of the nervous system that extends down from the brain, known as the spinal cord. If a bone in your back or neck misaligns (vertebral subluxation), it will damage and alter the function of the nervous system. The organ, gland, muscle, etc. fed from the injured nerve will lose some or all function. To summarize, the spine is like a row of circuit breakers connecting the brain to the rest of the body. Chiropractors specialize in turning and keeping the circuits on.
To illustrate the holistic chiropractic approach, the care of the two common maladies will be discussed- headaches and acid reflux. Recurrent headaches and acid reflux are typically suppressed with medication. This approach may be necessary at times, but is limited if a corrective solution is desired. The holistic chiropractic approach, depending on the individual doctor’s method of treatment, may include the following:
1. Rule-out serious, life-threatening underlying illness with consultation, examination, diagnostic testing and/or referral when needed. If no emergency exists, proceed with corrective care.
2. Evaluate for the presence of vertebral subluxation, particularly in the neck.
3. Analyze for soft tissue involvement like muscle spasms and restricted fascia (band or sheath of connective tissue).
4. Determine if other factors are contributing and require correction such as stress, poor postural habits, dehydration, jaw problems, skull bone fixation or toxicity.
1. Again, rule-out serious illness requiring immediate emergency medical attention.
2. Analyze for vertebral subluxation causing interference to the areas of the nervous system which control the stomach and related components of the gastrointestinal tract.
3. Gently adjust the position of the stomach, if needed, to allow for proper function and closure of the sphincter.
4. Provide nutritional supplement support to help heal the irritated tissues and normalize digestive function.
5. Determine whether additional causative factors exist, such as excessive stress or harmful food choices.
By recognizing that you are more than just a skin bag filled with different hard and soft parts, solutions can finally eradicate plaguing health problems. Whether you are seeking care for whiplash or constipation, sciatica or ear infections or you want health optimization and prevention of disease, the truly HOLISTIC approach found in chiropractic may provide the comprehensive outlook that your health challenge or plan to maintain good health requires. Fill the holes, broaden your vision and recognize that you are so much MORE than just your individual parts!
To learn more about the importance of your nervous system and overall health, please visit RosenthalChiropractic.com and view the new online video “The Big Idea” and read past articles by choosing the “Articles By Dr. Rosenthal” selection under the Wellness Library tab.
Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, et al. Unconventional medicine in the United States. Prevalence, costs, and patterns of use. The New England Journal of Medicine 1993;328:246-52.