“Ends in ‘-ubluxation'” and other chiro-vocab adventures

I despise the word “subluxation”.

And this time, I’m not even ducking.

Throw all the stones you want – it still has to be said: we shouldn’t use “subluxation” to describe Chiro-Enemy No. 1 (the ol’ “bone out of place”).

In fact, we really can’t use it and remain legitimate.

Why not?

Simple – it’s already taken.  Yes, it already means something else.  It means “partial dislocation”.  We are not resolving or treating a true partial dislocation; we’re describing a separate and distinct concept, which requires a separate and distinct word.

What we’re describing is more accurately termed “joint/segmental dysfunction”, and we should probably stick with that, in order to remain both clearly understandable and acceptable.  I know that some of us aren’t going to lose sleep if we’re not “accepted”, and indeed to each their own, but we didn’t make the rules; the rules were here first, long before we came on scene, and we have to work with what’s here.  Clear and effective communication relies, for the most part, on a single word for a single meaning.  Sure, there are counterexamples all over the place in everyday modern English, but “subluxation” just isn’t one of them.

Come on, guys, let’s not lose any sleep over the idea of striking “subluxation” from our vocabulary (yes, even the report of findings and chiropractic or practice promotional materials).  It’s not our identity.  It’s not like our new patients will say, “gosh I’m so glad I Googled ‘subluxation’ – I found YOU!”  Sure, they say they’re glad they found us; they just didn’t do it by Googling for a subluxation-reducing doctor.

Why?  Because they don’t know.  Wanna know what else?

They don’t care.

And truth be told, it is not our job to “indoctrinate” them, either.  They shouldn’t start suspecting they should make chiropractic vocabulary flashcards during their first few visits, nervous that they’ll be quizzed later.  When we focus that much on semantics and a new word set, we take the focus OFF of what’s really important: the patient, their treatment, and their healing.  Seriously – it’s more important to get them better than to convert them to a certain way of thinking or set of vocabulary.

The second point I need to get off my chest piggybacks on the first: this whole “Vertebral Subluxation Complex” thing is cheesy, outdated, and inaccurate.  Thus, it has to go.  Yes, I know it can be an easy way to explain the connection between spinal adjusting and the improvement of other symptoms beyond the musculoskeletal realm.  But it’s not even correct; more and more DCs are becoming aware of a more up-to-date and scientifically-supported explanation (of which I’ll no doubt devote an entire post at some point), which means that the DCs who keep using the same ol’ same ol’ bone-on-nerve/VSC will find themselves increasingly scoffed at.

The third and last point (for now) is my issue with the term “chiropractor”.  I’m sure most DCs don’t have a problem with this word, but they should.  It’s not because of any fear, shame, uncertainty, lack of purpose, lack of motivation, self-doubt, self-hatred, or any other presuppositional phrases I’ve heard reflexively thrown around at those who don’t fit neatly inside the 1895 mold.

No, it has to do with the fact that by calling ourselves “chiropractors”, we’re throwing away the other half of our title.  It just so happens to be the half we fought harder for – something about the early chiropractic pioneers ending up in jail and fighting for licensing and acceptance and yes, the right to be called “Doctor”.

Since we now have that right, why do we throw it away by saying we’re just “chiropractors”?  By doing this, we train our patients (and society at large) to think of us as “chiropractors” instead of “doctors” and we set ourselves up for that frustrating concept patients throw around – “I went to my doctor and he said I shouldn’t see chiropractors”.  Or, alternatively, any other passing conversational phrase that delineates a separation between “doctors” and “chiropractors”.

Why does this infuriate me so?  Because last time I checked, we’re doctors, too, dammit.  We endured a doctor’s prerequisites along the same pre-med undergrad college track, we went through the same basic science education, we paid similar tuition, we took similar National Boards and state jurisprudence tests, we earned a doctor title, and we pay similar hefty license renewal fees, attend similar continuing education classes, and our own malpractice insurance year after friggin’ year.  Like MDs, we attract similar risk of lawsuits for pure gold-digging purposes and we’re lumped in with Medicare and all that jazz.

So when we ignore that incredibly crucial and prestigious part of our title, I have to ask, NOW who is the self-loathing, uncertain, doubting side?  I ask this because I’m sure I catch my share of flack from those who mistakenly think that somehow I’m ashamed and caught in the middle of a chiro-identity crises when I insist that the word “Doctor” be used alongside the word “Chiropractic”.  I’m simply advocating the idea of using our whole legal title.  In fact, I noticed something a long time ago: in our official title–DC–the word “Doctor” actually comes BEFORE the word “Chiropractic”.  I personally don’t believe it ended up that way by accident.  I actually take it quite literally; I consider us Doctors first and “of Chiropractic” second.  A close second, sure – but still second.  Nothing comes before “Doctor”, and that’s the way it should be.

In case you’re wondering, yes – we gently but absolutely correct our patients.

Because we’re “their doctors”, too.

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