There is no doubt that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been growing at an exponential rate.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), in 2007, approximately 38 percent of American adults reported using some sort of CAM treatment in the previous year. Furthermore, 83 million American adults spent almost $34 billion out of pocket on CAM treatments (11.2 percent of all out of pocket health care costs for 2007). This translates into 354 million visits to CAM practitioners per year—and chiropractic care was the most popular CAM treatment, with 18.7 million people spending $151 million.1
Given these figures, it should not be surprising that DCs are seeing more and more patients who are actively seeking out other alternative healthcare treatments. Such patients are also far more likely to have done their initial research before coming to see a DC, so they may have a variety of questions. With this type of established patient base, it makes good sense for DCs to add CAM services, such as acupuncture and massage, to their existing practice.
Acupuncture is based on a specific series of points on the body (both front and back) that, if stimulated, can manipulate the body’s natural energy, or qi (pronounced chee), to heal itself. The basis of acupuncture lies in finding the proper balance between the yin and yang. If the qi is out of balance (too much or too little yin or yang), the body will be ill.
In most cases, acupuncture is performed with very fine needles that penetrate just a small way into the skin at the specific acupuncture point locations. Depending upon the method of acupuncture, the needles may be gently rotated to further stimulate the qi. Other types of treatment may involve stimulating the acupuncture points with lasers or direct pressure without penetrating the skin. Treatment may also include the use of herbs to further improve ailments or promote healing.
Although some chiropractic techniques do involve the soft tissue (such as the Graston technique), the main difference between chiropractic and massage therapy is that the latter focuses on the soft tissue and muscles, while the former focuses on the entire musculoskeletal system, including joints, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
While some massage therapy techniques can involving working on muscles and soft tissues with the elbows or feet, most massage therapists use their hands. In comparison, chiropractic can use not only the hands, but adjusting instruments, TENS electrical stimulation, or lasers to treat patients.
Working hand in hand
Since all three therapies overlap to some degree or another, DCs may wonder if it is worth adding acupuncture or massage therapy to their existing chiropractic practice. The answer is a most emphatic “yes!”
A DC with a booming patient base will be able to add even further to their income by offering services other than just chiropractic. Patients who are happy with their DC will recommend them to friends and family. If that DC also offers massage therapy and acupuncture services, odds are good that their chiropractic patients will also recommend those services to friends and family. Of course, those patients who initially come in to see the acupuncturist or massage therapist will also be more likely to then use and recommend the chiropractic services. If all three work hand in hand, everyone from patients to practitioners will benefit.
1 National Health Interview Survey, NCCIH Clearinghouse. “The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States: Cost Data.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/news/camstats/costs/costdatafs.htm. Published July 2009. Accessed February 2015.