Part 1 of a three-part series on body movement study and healthy patient movement
Every day, we each have the chance to show and tell the chiropractic story, and we get to choose which words to say, who to tell, when to adjust and what technique to use. We are so independent that by the time we are done, it’s usually the [insert your name] technique. This formula is one of the best parts of the profession as it allows so many individuals to thrive and reach just the right audience. One feature we all have in common is movement and body movement study, whether describing deficiencies found on examination or contemplating the correction.
The same string — movement — can be used to keep patients on track as they learn about the relationship of their spine to the rest of their body. However, just like our nuances as doctors, the patient experience can vary. They may hear us differently from what we intend and require multiple methods of learning to grasp subluxation concepts. It’s like the adjustment, which is hard to understand until you’ve experienced it.
One of the things we can do in the patient onboarding process is to make the education interactive, which gives patients a better chance to taste and digest this new perspective.
Elements of the patient conversation
These days, patients crave a conversation with someone who can connect seemingly random health dots and provide relevance to their situation.
This eagerness creates an opportunity to partner with them toward better compliance and results. When they arrive in your office, they have to learn a new lingo and dare to consider care of asymptomatic regions. The leaps they need to make can be intimidating and an immediate roadblock to care, unless the experience is grounded to a solid education.
Patients want information that’s specific to them, and you can provide perspectives they can’t get anywhere else. It sounds like the perfect match, but the key is how information is handled. Do you lean on fear and the cold reality of their health status, or can you trust patients to make good decisions in the absence of urgency? I’ve always believed we can do more when we empower patients with the right information versus leaving them feeling forced to decide between care and certain failure. This is why I go all-in on the report of findings and ask the patient from the start to be an active participant.
Being in the field of prevention (the health standard, not alternative) we may lack some urgency, technology, and overall seriousness that the traditional health care system has offered through their formal process and advanced diagnostics. As health care enthusiasts, we may appreciate it as well, but to not give someone a basic one-on-one understanding of their body and use that same technology to give them easy-to-follow health indicators and a personal health compass is a missed chance to prevent decline.
Building X-rays into the patient experience
Let’s start with X-ray review. I understand there is a debate about when and why to X-ray.
For the patient experience, I believe what can be learned about the body from reviewing X-rays with a chiropractor is an opportunity that’s too good to pass up. The images can provoke a dialogue and provide a reference point that a doctor can directly connect to the adjustment(s). Among the many clinical benefits, the chiropractor can share our unique perspective while satisfying the patient’s desire for more self-relevant information.
When a patient views their X-rays alone, it’s hard to see what’s wrong until we put them side by side with normal X-rays. Then, in an instant, all the line drawing in the world can’t compare to what a patient can see with their own eyes. In my office, this process of visual learning is even more interactive with colorized digital foot scans. Here, we build on the imaging model and literally walk patients through the biomechanical chain toward some basic conclusions about their alignment and whole-body posture.
One of the more critical steps in this area is discussing how over-pronated feet relate to posture, anterior head carriage, and other misalignment patterns that compromise movement and may have been hard to see on X-rays alone. With weight-bearing X-ray and foot scans, we can relate the spine to their body, from top to bottom.
With this combination of advanced imaging and education, it’s possible for patients to conclude that “the whole body is connected,” and “here is a domino effect that one area has on another.” They can see it and touch it — it’s an interactive experience, and it really helps synthesize the material.
So, in my office, when patients know I’ll be checking their feet for possible adjustment after I’ve checked their spine — when they’ve seen, felt and experienced their biology (their feet) in this way — they come in ready. Patients know to take their shoes off every visit; they expect that I’m going to check for compliance (are they wearing their custom orthotics?); and they know I may need to work on their feet to protect their spine and hold the adjustment better.
Body movement study and foot function
“Foot function” is one example of relating the spine to the whole body and body movement study. There is great potential (for patients) in understanding how we can use every inch of our structure to build quality movement on a foundation of neutral posture and good balance.
From here, we can connect to movement-related meta functions such as metabolism, breathing and blood flow. These highly accepted stalwarts of good health can aid in motivating patients to comply with chiropractic-guided rehab that pays special attention to protecting and strengthening the spine. Helping patients firm-up their commitment to spine-savvy exercise and regular use of custom orthotics that support all three arches of the foot to stabilize the body can lead to a lifetime of wellness.
When a patient comes to understand any of these spine-health indicators (alignment, ROM) it gives them a beacon to come back to, like having their own North Star. Just remember, conversations alone about body movement study and the spine can be a little flat, especially when sitting in a doctor’s office. Patients can thrive when we take a proactive approach to patient education based on interaction. The goal is for them to take ownership of the information, which sets the tone for a healthy attitude and behavior that matches. When they can speak the language, they are more likely to understand the value of the work and follow recommended lifestyle changes.
Stay tuned for Movement 2.0 next issue, where we expand on spine-related functions and how to create more win-wins in home care that support your budding partnership with patients.
ANISH BAJAJ, DC, is a 2000 graduate of Life University in Atlanta, Ga. He is the owner of Bajaj Chiropractic in New York City and serves on the executive board of the New York Chiropractic Council and is the chair of their Neuroscience and Research Committee. As a member of the Foot Levelers Speaker’s Bureau, he travels extensively, sharing his chiropractic knowledge and expertise with audiences around the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.