To take care of others, DCs must first care for themselves.
More often than not, chiropractic is viewed as the “treatment of last resort” after other, more traditional treatments failed. Chiropractors don’t like to turn away these types of patients, so they treat them, one right after the other, in a given day.
Understandably, this can lead to wear and tear on the chiropractor, making self-care highly important for career longevity. The chiropractor often may also be the patient, struggling with low back, shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain. In short, to quote the famous Biblical proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.”
If we assume a chiropractor works a standard 40 hour work week, with each patient visit lasting about half an hour, that equates to 16 chiropractic adjustments per day. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many chiropractors work more than 40 hours per week. They may work evenings and weekends, in order to accommodate those patients who do work the standard 40 hours per week. This means that chiropractors very often are performing more than an average of either 16 adjustments per day or 80 adjustments in a given week at minimum.*
How exactly can performing all these spinal adjustments affect the DC? If the DC is performing a manual adjustment, the loads placed on the fingers, hands, wrists, and arms in order to deliver the appropriate amount of thrust can be quite considerable. If done over and over again, it can lead to repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or trigger finger.
If patients are being adjusted while lying on a table, the DC must bend over the patient to perform the adjustment. Again, if the DC is repeatedly bending over patients to perform adjustments, this position can lend itself to lower back, knee, and foot pain.
Preventing repetitive-stress injuries
Perhaps the easiest way for DCs to prevent repetitive-stress injuries to the upper extremities is by performing instrument-assisted adjusting, rather than manual adjusting. As discussed previously in Chiropractic Economics, using instruments for performing spinal adjustments means that the same amount of thrust and force can be delivered with much less effort on the DC’s upper extremities.
In addition, using instrument-assisted adjusting can also help prevent injury to the chiropractor’s lower extremities because an adjusting instrument makes it easier to access locations for adjustments that previously may have required the DC to bend in an awkward position over the patient.
When chiropractors are properly protected against such injuries to the upper arms, as well as to the back and lower extremities, they are better equipped to see more patients without fear of injury. Of course, being able to see more patients in a given day increases the DC’s bottom line for their practice.
Correction: This article was updated on Aug. 7, 2015 to more accurately reflect industry standards for the number of chiropractic adjustments performed per day and week.