Sometimes I kind of feel bad about always pointing out the shortfalls of my medical colleagues, as I noted a couple of posts ago. But then I get yet another reminder or two of why I just can't get the warm fuzzies about them. My most recent bout of slap-me-Emma-I-must-be-sleeping medical foolishness began late last week, when a patient told me that her MD did not mind her seeing me, so long as I was not trying to treat disorders like diabetes and asthma.
Screeech! Back that up a second and replay it. Don't treat diabetes? Or asthma?
I'm sorry, but the most common form of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, is the quintessential lifestyle disease. It is caused by a combination of couch potatoism and a lousy diet, usually leading to obesity. Any doctor, medical, chiropractic or otherwise, should know that fact, since just about everybody else in America does.
And, frankly, I'm the quintessential lifestyle doctor. To say that my knowledge, skills or tools are inadequate for the treatment of diabetes is like saying that a Porsche is an inadequate car for the Autobahn. OK, even to me that sounded a little cocky. But you know what I mean.
I don't think I even need to point to the research here, except to remind my readers that time after time, the research has demonstrated that lifestyle intervention should be the first line of therapy for diabetes. Ergo, the first stop for someone with this disorder ought to be a doctor board-certified in, nutrition, perhaps?
I'll grant you, however, that alternative treatment of asthma might be a little obscure for the average MD to have picked up on. But the research is there.
For example, in October, 2002, Ray Hayek, PhD, released the results of his 420-patient study at the International Conference on Spinal Manipulation. Dr. Hayek found that patients treated with spinal manipulation for asthma improved not only symptomatically, but demonstrated positive immunologic and hormonal changes in laboratory testing. (For you citation mavens, the abstract may be found here.)
Another study, albeit of small size, found that children combining chiropractic treatment with medical management of asthma experienced a substantial decrease in symptoms with an increase in their quality of life. (Look here for details.)
Which brings me back to one of my earliest experiences as a chiropractic physician. A little over a year after opening my first practice, a patient came busting through the door of my office, clearly in distress.
She was having an asthma attack, and communicated to me that she had left her inhaler at home. I had my assistant call for an ambulance, but I also knew that the arrival of a volunteer squad in my rural town might not be quite timely enough. Having heard the stories as a student doctor of chiropractic physicians treating asthma, I did that which I was best trained to do.
I had the patient lay face down on the treatment table, while I palpated the thoracic vertebrae for restrictions, and adjusted them with a quick thrust.
As quickly as it began, it was over. The patient sat up, already exhibiting patent relief, and within a minute was breathing normally.
I lectured her on the foolishness of being asthmatic and wandering about without her inhaler. When the ambulance arrived, she refused the ride and went home to obtain the missing pharmaceuticals.
So can chiropractic physicians treat asthma? Yes, and apparently quite well, thank you very much.
That said, it is clear that asthma is one of those disorders that lies at the intersection of conservative and pharmaceutical care, and patients with asthma would probably benefit best by appropriate employment of both forms of care.
It's just a crying shame that medical doctors, unaware of the research and informed only by longstanding bigotry, would advise our common patients to avoid the treatments which may help them most.