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Cover Story

7 DCs talk about their anti-aging practices
By John V. Wood

The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M, www.worldhealth.net) claims that 100 million Americans are currently being treated for one or more degenerative diseases at a healthcare cost of more than $700 billion per year.

A4M believes if medical professionals really want to make an impact on healthcare in this country and the world, they must focus on the degenerative diseases of aging. A4M goes on to say if this preventative approach can slow aging, even in the slightest, more than 50 percent of all diseases could possibly be eliminated overnight.

How can you, as a DC, help in this preemptive strike against Mother Nature? Chiropractic clinics are often the first place patients go with back or neck pain — in search of an adjustment that will stave off Father Time. These signs of age, if looked at in the proper way, could give DCs the blueprint necessary to help their patient's entire system.

Chiropractic Economics spoke with seven DCs across the country (see sidebar, "Meet the chiropractors") and explored why they chose the anti-aging market and how they created successful anti-aging practices.

WHAT IS ANTI-AGING MEDICINE?

Anti-aging medicine can be classified as a method of preventive healthcare, attempting to ensure a patient's wellness and longevity.

"[Anti-aging medicine] is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans," says James Stoxen, DC. "As such, anti-aging medicine is based on principles of sound and responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties."

Stoxen also believes the goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely maximize the total years of a patient's life, but to ensure that those years are productive and healthy.

"To me, [anti-aging medicine] is synonymous with the familiar chiropractic term 'preventive healthcare,'" says Christopher DiCarlo, DC. "I believe that it is much easier to prevent disease than to treat it; therefore, it is much easier to manage and slow the aging process than to reverse or stop it."

DO ANTI-AGING AND CHIROPRACTIC FIT TOGETHER?

Meet the chiropractors

The anti-aging doctors interviewed for this article included:

Image Gerald T. AndreoliGerald T. Andreoli, DC, DACBN, FICC; Arlington Chiropractic Clinic, Arlington, Ill.; 847-259-4493; http://arlington.chiroweb.com; drgta@aol.com;

Image Headshot Rebecca A. Birch-BlessingRebecca A. Birch-Blessing, DC, MS, CNMT; Integrated Health Concepts, Atlanta; 678-614-3438; r2_b2@bellsouth.net;

Image Headshot Christopher DiCarloChristopher DiCarlo, DC; Premier Wellness Center and Day Spa, Hallandale Beach, Fla.; 954-456-0250; drbone66@yahoo.com;

Image Headshot Stacie MacariStacie Macari, DC, CNS, DABAAHP; Carmel Clinic for Functional Medicine, Carmel, Ind.; 317-846-9355; drstaciemacari@yahoo.com;

Image Headshot Michael T. SchaeferMichael T. Schaefer, DC, OMD, MD; BioDerm Medical Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla.; 727-323-3258; drschaefer@biodermmedical.com;

Image Headshot Patterson StarkPatterson Stark, DC, DBAAHP, AACNEM; Stark Health Centre, Vail and Aspen, Colo. and St. Albans, Christchurch, N.Z.; 970-343-2926; www.starkhealth.com; pattersonstark@man.com; and

Image Headshot James StoxenJames Stoxen, DC; Team Doctors Chiropractic Treatment and Training Center, Chicago; 773-735-5200; www.teamdoctors.org; teamdoctors@aol.com.

"Chiropractic has always addressed and managed the entire person. DCs have been trained to counsel patients on healthy-aging concepts from their first year in chiropractic college," says Gerald Andreoli, DC, DACBN, FICC. "I believe that every day, virtually all chiropractors in practice offer advice to patients about a healthy lifestyle."

"I know of no evidence that supports the chiropractic manipulative adjustment unto itself as an anti-aging treatment. However, the support and function of the human frame and structure certainly is a factor in the maintenance of health," says Stacie Macari, DC, CNS, DABAAHP. "Suffice it to say, 'chiropractic' in and of itself is not a fit, but a chiropractic physician's training may serve as a solid foundation on which to build for the purpose of training, and eventually practicing, as an anti-aging physician. Thankfully, our scope of our practice licensure allows for the treatment of the entire human being, not just a limited body part such as the spine, teeth, or feet."

WHY SPECIALIZE IN ANTI-AGING?

Stoxen believes chiropractic has always had a more progressive stance on anti-aging and prevention than any other medical profession. "By analyzing the biomechanics of the body, chiropractors can effectively diagnose where the forces are that are causing stress and strain on joints, which cause very subtle wear and tear on the connective tissue of joints that lead to inflammation," Stoxen says.

"An astute chiropractor savvy to biomechanics can begin to reverse these conditions, which accelerate the aging process before the pain is even felt. This, by far, represents the earliest stage of the detection and treatment representing prevention or anti-aging approach possible," adds Stoxen.

Patterson Stark, DC, DBAAHP, AACNEM, feels chiropractic is the only profession capable of an accurate diagnosis of the aging process, with specialized tools to help naturally achieve a better quality of life.

"Anti-aging medicine is the only rational choice for chiropractors — if you truly want to help most of the reasons pain is seen in practice," says Stark.

"Since my first day of practice in 2000, I have been consistently cultivating a patient base with chronic disease and treating them through the use of diagnostic and evaluative laboratory testing, prescribed medical foods, customized nutrient compounds, dietary inter-vention, and nutraceuticals," Macari says. "[Although I am] a chiropractic physician, I do not adjust my patients. I limit my practice to strictly anti-aging/functional medicine. If I determine adjustment is necessary, I refer those patients to my chiropractic colleagues."

ARE MEDICINE AND CHIROPRACTIC COMPLEMENTARY?

A4M believes the science of anti-aging medicine is truly multidisciplinary. The fields of biochemistry, biology, and physiology are widely represented and are enhanced by contributions from mind-body medicine, sports medicine, molecular genetics, and emerging medical technologies.

"[DCs] need to partner with a plastic surgeon or dermatologist — someone who can offer services you do not. My partner is an orthopedic surgeon," says Michael Schaefer, DC, OMD, MD. "This way, you can become a more complete offering to someone interested in anti-aging medicine."

With holistic care on the forefront of anti-aging medicine, Schaefer's advice is crucial. In order to completely treat someone who would benefit from anti-aging medical care, an MD partner or referral source is the key to complete patient-wellness opportunities.

"As far as competing with MDs, I think that most people who are holistic and want natural substances would prefer and trust a DC's opinion over the MD's any day," DiCarlo says. "Personally, I talk the talk, but I also walk the walk."

Image of Older active peopleHOW TO BUILD A PRACTICE?

Macari has removed herself personally "100 percent from the marketing" of her practice. She feels that was not only the best decision for her to make, but was also a necessary one — considering the amount of time she was already devoting to patient visits and ongoing training.

"Certainly, I review all marketing materials and campaigns, but the lion's share of the effort, creativity, and implementation is charged to my in-house physician practice administrator," Macari says. "Fortunately for me, he has 20 years of experience and a proven track record in launching, developing, and sustaining independent clinics and practices. I cannot stress enough how his expertise has changed how I practice, as well as my practice satisfaction. He has helped me be the doctor I hoped I would be."

"I do not market myself," says Rebecca Birch-Blessing, DC, MS, CNMT. "The key for me is referrals, referrals, referrals — from patients, medical doctors, and other chiropractors. Networking is very important."

WHAT TO OFFER?

Most of the DCs we talked with offer holistic care — treating the whole body instead of just a simple problem. Andreoli, for example, evaluates the whole patient, regardless of the complaint that brought the patient in to see him.

Schaefer offers one of the newest trends in anti-aging medicine — light therapy. "Treatment of the body via light therapy has and will continue to replace several modalities, providing effective results with less downtime and risks for patients," Schaefer says. "Non-surgical procedures can be added to a doctor's office one at a time or several depending on the practitioner's comfort level. This allows for ease of entry into this flourishing discipline."

Schaefer says he uses light therapy to treat acne, pigmented lesions, spider veins, and a myriad of other dermatological conditions.

'TRICKS' OF THE TRADE

What do anti-aging practices offer?

Anti-aging practices may offer a variety of services including:

• Chiropractic,
• Weight-loss,
• Esthetics,
• Dermatology,
• Fitness,
• Nutritional diagnostics,
• Dietary intervention, and
• Dietary supplementation.

Always check your state's scope of practice before offering a new service.

The anti-aging DCs offered several "tricks" of their trade to those considering entering into this nascent chiropractic area.

• Stay within your scope. Macari describes the anti-aging market as a very treacherous one. "You will meet with resistance from patients, other doctors, and state licensing agencies. State boards are looking for any perceived abuse in marketing and advertising practices," Macari says. "Anti-aging chiropractic physicians must limit their marketing to the procedures and practices within their training and scope of practice and be mindful not to make claims they cannot uphold."

• Invest in conferences and education. "Go to the conferences, take in the lectures you might find interesting, and study the area you feel could help your patients. In my opinion, we have always practiced anti-aging medicine, but never talked about it that way. Patients love the word, so use it," Stoxen says. "Entering into the anti-aging way of practicing has definitely been an extremely rewarding experience for me."

• Consult the experts. "I would recommend a consultant to guide them in the right direction," DiCarlo says. But, he says, select a consultant carefully. Check credentials and references. "You need to know what works and what is quackery," he says.

• Build on the right foundation. "[Entering into the anti-aging market] is going to be a conversion. You will need to have a decent-looking practice to start with," Schaefer says. "If you concentrate on the baby-booming population, then it will be a more high-end modality. Focus your advertising accordingly."

Image headshot John V. WoodJohn V. Wood, an Emmy-award winning journalist and a frequent contributing writer to Chiropractic Economics, is a nationally published freelance writer. He lives in Willow Spring, N.C., and can be reached at 919-632-1827 or by e-mail at john@johnvwood.com.

   
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