This former US Air Force flight instructor turned chiropractic physician relates how he sees the fields of chiropractic and the military combining and creating an exponential economic impact on the profession.
As a former US Air Force flight instructor turned chiropractic physician, I will relate how I see these two fields combining. Like any fine military briefing, this article has three main points.
- Military job-related need for chiropractic care.
- Chiropractic economics in the military.
- Where chiropractic in the military stands in the future.
Congressional budget cuts in 1992 dictated the reduction in military force, involuntarily releasing thousands of military officersmyself included. Professionally speaking from both careers, I foresee military chiropractic service as essential.
Flying in T-37’s and B-52’s for seven years, I quickly learned to take care of my spine or I did not continue. Excessive gravitational forces during aerobatics maneuvers, hard landings, turbulent flights and carrying 100 pounds of flight gear are some examples of the physical stress I would encounter in a typical flight day.
During one particularly harrowing B-52 training mission four hundred feet off the ground in the Utah mountains and loaded with bombs, we had an engine catch on fire. Preparing to eject from this burning bomber is one example of the emotional stress I endured. These factors combined with long and unusual hours added to my bony misalignments and muscle tension. I knew no chiropractic care was available to me on the military base and I was on my own to deal with these health problems.
In any military flying arena, one individual most feared by the pilot is the flight surgeon because his primary mission is to ground you when sickness or lack of health occurs. Flight surgeon services include all medical-related items free of charge to any active duty military personnel and their families. “Do not self-medicate” was the military’s constant command. Permanent and complete logging of all medications was needed by the military body. While all military medical-related service was generally top-notch and free, chiropractic economics was in complete reverse.
When I mentioned to the flight surgeon that my mid-back dull bony ache was best treated by chiropractic care, not medicine, his military ears clamped shut. Drawing on what he believed was a lack of medical education, he viewed chiropractors as inferior. If any care was needed, he believed it should be medical. If any care was needed post-chiropractic adjustment, litigation could occur. As he saw it, with time and pills my back pain would go away. Trying to convince this medical doctor of the need for conservative chiropractic treatment was impossible. If I chose to go to a chiropractor, I was on my own medically and economically. I chose to go.
Located in this small town was an excellent chiropractor. With every treatment, my pain was relieved, range of motion restored, restrictions with breathing removed and the indescribable feeling of stress relief would sequentially occur. Although the cost to me was $14 per visit, I knew the chiropractic treatment kept me flying. Personal economics at this price was not a factor. To this day, I thank him for the treatment of my spine.
Economically keeping all military personnel healthy and working is the focus of the military medical model. The most difficult aspect for me to communicate was that conservative chiropractic care cost pennies compared to the dollars the military spends in spinal medications, surgery and rehabilitation. Clearly, the steps I took to see a chiropractic physician for my spinal pain risked my career. I knew as long as the military eyes wore blinders to chiropractic, this was the risk I must take.
ow the military is conducting a five-year study on chiropractic at several base locations around the country. From this experiment, Veterans Affairs has published their first paper relating successful chiropractic treatment of military low back pain. As I see it, the military is starting to realize spinal misalignments can occur in all spines, regardless of career field. According to the founder of chiropractic, Dr. D.D. Palmer, stress contributes to spinal misalignment. The more stressful the position, the more difficult on the mind and body. Military job stress can exceed civilian job stress during times of war and preparations for it. I can only imagine the stress passengers on Delta airlines would feel if they were flying wing-tip to wing-tip with a US Air plane. Mention a bomb being on board any civilian aircraft and imagine the sheer terror passengers would feel. Flying with munitions occurs daily in the military.
My personal view is that the fields of chiropractic and the military must come together. Veterans Affairs agrees chiropractic has helped military low back pain. I trust the conclusion of this study will be prompt and result in the initiation of chiropractic care in the military at all bases. The chiropractic economics of this thought could require an entire graduating class just to supply the military’s need for chiropractors in the United States. Just a few of the many benefits the military medical doctor experiences include operating with just one state license, no malpractice insurance premiums and officer rank. These privileges should also be granted to the chiropractic physician.
In my opinion, the busiest part of the base hospital would be the chiropractic clinic. The patient load in the rest of the hospital would be inversely proportional, thus saving the taxpayers’ money.
Like any fine military briefing, this article has a short summary. My physical and emotional stress while flying in the B-52 was reduced by chiropractic care. Military experiments with chiropractic care have been ongoing and successful. When allowed to “take-off,” chiropractic service in the military would be beneficial to all active duty members and their families. Military chiropractic economics are so vast it would require another survey to fully understand the impact. I trust military chiropractic physicians holding officer rank will be initiated soon for the benefit of our armed forces personnel.