A family-oriented chiropractic practice differs from other practices with targeted clientele in that it attracts and cares for generations of individuals and families for crisis, acute, and lifestyle care.
There are two types of families—the traditional nuclear to extended family (i.e., children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, et al.), and the inner-circle family, which could be composed of a church family, sports team, group of employees, musical group, and so forth, says Eric Plasker, DC, who works in family practice.
Promoting chiropractic care for infants to seniors isn’t rocket science: “There is enough justification to show that children’s problems can begin at birth,” says Mark D. Lagerkvist, DC, who directs a wellness center.
“And there are enough low-force techniques available for adjusting that even the most ardent opponents of childhood adjustments will forgo their position of only adjusting due to pain or after a child is done growing,” Lagerkvist says. As he points out, life is fraught with unavoidable physical, chemical, and emotional stressors, so it makes sense that a well-functioning nervous system supports well- functioning immune, hormone, and digestive systems.
Gregory Loman, DC, who founded a wellness chiropractic network, says the first subluxation can occur during the birthing process. “Trauma from a lengthy delivery that entails pulling and twisting an infant’s head or a Caesarian section that requires using a suction device or forceps will cause subluxation,” he says. “I’ve visited many birth centers and hospitals to check newborns for subluxation just days after delivery. As children learn to walk, they hit their heads, slide down stairs, run into things, and so forth.”
In Loman’s view, these kinds of external forces can cause spinal damage or subluxations. In a child, however, subluxations can be asymptomatic until they turn into a more chronic problem with the passage of time.
Amber Brooks, DC, operates a pediatric practice, and she says the benefits of chiropractic care for children are innumerable. “I always tell new parents to bring in their child as soon as they are ready to leave the house,” she says. “I have seen chiropractic help with so many conditions children face, such as ear infections, plagiocephaly, torticollis, reflux, constipation, and birth injuries. What is less spoken about are the benefits to children with attention deficit disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, autism, pervasive developmental disorder, and developmental delays, which is my passion. I have always said that chiropractors are trained to care for the whole body, therefore they are the most qualified to take care of children.”
Plasker concurs: “Children can start seeing a chiropractor immediately after birth,” he says. “It benefits children by making sure they grow up with a healthy spine and nervous system.
Adjustments can provide tremendous relief from common infant and childhood problems, as well as ensure that children grow healthy and strong.”
Different stages, different benefits
Any chiropractor would agree that chiropractic care is essential at every phase of life. “When parents bring in a child in early infancy, they can expect great outcomes because they avoid making common mistakes—which can and do lead to larger problems—such as developmental delays,” Brooks says. “When I educate parents on formula options or help with breastfeeding, this helps their baby’s immune system.
Then, moving onto first foods in a healthy way is imperative—because this is critical in building a strong gut. In turn, this helps to build a healthy immune system, which will help them to avoid common diagnoses such as autism, attention deficit disorder, and food allergies. Parents get one shot to provide first foods in a healthy manner, so helping them with this is essential for lifelong health.”
Beyond the first few years of life, children encounter new situations that can result in subluxations, such as playing sports, and strains and stresses from using smartphones in unhealthy positions.
“Every stage of life presents its own unique challenges,” Plasker says. “Many seniors who have neglected the health of their spine and nervous system develop chronic health problems that limit their life and can contribute to pain syndromes, sickness, and other serious health problems. By addressing the structural, neurological, and functional components of these problems, chiropractic care can help them optimize their healing capability as well as regain youthful energy. Many become much more active and healthy.”
Loman adds the earlier a person starts chiropractic care, the better it is at preventing health problems that develop with age. “It is a lot more difficult to manage significant spinal damage or degeneration the older a person is.”
But however old a person might be, it is never too late to start chiropractic care. Senior citizens can benefit greatly from seeing a chiropractor because adjustments can prevent further damage and degeneration, increase mobility, and provide significant pain relief.
In an effort to show the benefits of lifetime chiropractic care, Plasker’s team joined forces with Life University in Marietta, Georgia, to perform a preliminary study involving 118 people who had long-term chiropractic care. The results showed dramatic improvement within the first two years, and then no decline with age over the next 20.
“This is an exciting preliminary result, and one that we know of clinically in so many of our practices where we see lifetime patients,” Plasker says. “Our patients reported that they got sick less often and had more energy, that their posture stayed straight and healthy, that their athletic performance improved, and that they felt younger even though chronologically they were aging.” The findings were included in a poster presentation at the Association of Chiropractic Colleges Research Agenda Conference.1 A second phase of the study has been scheduled.
“Sharing this information with patients can inspire them to engage more in their care,” Plasker says. “Nearly every patient we see in our practices feels better and younger within 30 days after they start care, even though they are 30 days older. This trend usually continues as they continue on with their chiropractic care.”
Caring for the family
Plasker finds it beneficial to work with members of the same family. “While family members may share the same genes, they can have different lifestyle habits or conditions that can affect their progress while under care— whether it’s related to diet, fitness, stress levels, or underlying injuries or deterioration—which you may need to address,” he says.
Loman concurs, adding health problems are often lifestyle-based. “Many times, families have similar lifestyles and over time develop the same health problems,” he says. “If I can identify the cause in one family member, I often find that it is causing the same problems for other members.”
Brooks has also found great benefits in caring for multiple family members. “It can be tough for one child to make changes, as they may feel frustrated and isolated,” she says. “For example, having to change their diet can be very difficult; food is emotional for children aged six and older.
But when other siblings are also under care, it makes implementing changes easier and helps to avoid frustration. Compliance tends to be higher as parents have a system in place for the entire family and not just one member.”
One challenge Plasker has found with treating families with multiple members is that they can all arrive at the same time for adjustments. “You may have to streamline your practice’s flow in order to ensure efficient processing of patients,” he adds. But as patients move from “crisis care” to “lifestyle care,” as Plasker calls it, visits automatically become streamlined because it takes less time to take care of lifestyle-care patients.
Marketing family healthcare
There are lots of different ways to promote a family-oriented practice. For Lagerkvist, focusing his marketing efforts on people of all ages, rather than just children, works best.
“When we say that our vision is that every human being discovers their full potential through chiropractic care, we mean it,” he says. “While we know that not everyone will take us up on our offer, we feel privileged to share what we believe is crucial to maximizing that potential.”
But patients must warm up to the idea of chiropractic care. They need to hear the message of “chiropractic care for life beginning at birth,” and then over and over again. “Anyone who wishes to disagree with all children being checked regularly only needs to see the difference care has made to the children born with torticollis, brachial tailor it to the venue’s needs on topics ranging from ergonomics to nutrition.
His practice is also actively involved in social media. For example, they send out a “Be Well” blog post each business day. “These are printed out and used in offices as educational reading material, as well as conversation starters with patients when asking ‘Who do you know who suffers from this symptom that could benefit from chiropractic care?’ ” he says.
About 25 percent of Lagerkvist’s wellness center patients come from internal referrals. Each of its 41 offices runs a weekly in-house internal referral campaign. For example, it hosts workshop promotions centered website, social media, and community relations. Make sure your system contains the three Cs: content, congruency, and consistency.
That is, be consistent in giving people information that supports generational and lifetime chiropractic care in a way that speaks to people’s core values and interests rather than just scientific evidence and research. The public won’t read a research journal. But they will read information that may have a research quote in it, if it’s in a meaningful format.”
When looking to market a pediatric practice specifically, as is the case with Brooks, she says you have to figure out what demographic you want to attract to your practice. Is it children who play sports competitively, kids with scoliosis or other bone abnormalities, or seemingly healthy youngsters that parents want you to treat rather than syndrome, or digestive or allergy issues,” Lagerkvist says.
Lagerkvist says his core demographic of women aged 25 to 55 are proactive about their bodies and therefore more likely to get their children and husbands to come in for exams. “This demo- graphic also tends to keep the family engaged and accountable for making their appointments,” he says. “Family members tend to share more about the stressors another may be encountering, which leads to better outcomes for everyone.”
While any chiropractor would love patients to stay for life, few truly do so. “Everyone is either moving toward or away from their buy-in to you and your product,” Lagerkvist says. “Therefore, you must continue to share the message repeatedly; that is, what chiropractic is, what it can help, how it helps, and who can benefit.”
Lagerkvist also finds that old-school techniques continue to work. His practice has a grassroots marketing team that reaches out to potential patients at events and stores. He will speak at any event for any reason and on a topic under discussion. It also hosts lunch or dinner with the doctor, and patients are asked to invite a friend or family member. Further, it holds patient appreciation days.
At one point, 50 percent of Loman’s practice was composed of pediatric patients. He spent a lot of time providing education about chiropractic care in schools, the community, and on his radio show in an effort to target the child as the first family member to get under his care. “However, that is the more difficult approach,” he says. “It’s easier to get parents under care first, and then educate them on why it’s important to get a child’s spine checked before it develops problems.” Regarding his marketing efforts,
Plasker advises branding yourself as treating families and generations for lifetime care. “Although the initial patient may be an infant, the goal is to attract two to three generations above him or her,” he says. “Having a lifetime patient system that includes an educational and inviting in-office environment along with a content marketing system can be beneficial—which includes your going to a primary care physician for antibiotics? “Figure out what kind of specialty practice you want to have, so you do exactly what you want to do,” she says.
Plasker concludes by saying, “Marketing to families becomes a great vehicle for a practice because the possibilities for referrals become limitless. When the word gets out, hang on to your hat. Because people will value your care and pay for it out of their pocket with a smile.”
Karen Appold, an editorial consultant in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, is dedicated to regular chiropractic care. She has been the president of Write Now Services, which offers writing, editing, and proofreading since 2003. Her experience includes chiropractic marketing. She can be contacted at 610-812-3040, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through writenowservices.com.
1 Hosek R, Owens E, Plasker E, Sullivan S. A practice-based pilot study of patient’s attitudes about long-term care and longevity. The Journal of Chiropractic Education. 2016;30(1):69-81.