May 23, 2018, will mark my 23rd year as a chiropractor. I have been honoured to help thousands of people along their journey to better health and well-being. Throughout the years, my experience being a chiropractor has taught me so much—not just about the practice itself, but also about how it impacts patient themselves and even my own professional and personal development.
“We never know how far reaching something we may think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.” B. J. Palmer Quote
I wanted to share some of these valuable lessons with you today.
Here are the 10 Lessons I’ve Learned Being a Natural Health Practitioner
- The Importance of Communication: As human beings, we are at the root, creatures that deal intensely with pain and pleasure; if we don’t necessarily experience pain or discomfort, we won’t seek out improvement. This carries over into how we deal with our health. We often don’t seek out care until something goes wrong, unless optimal wellness is on the top of our priority list. With this in mind over the years, I have learned to tailor my mode of communication with each and every individual. I have learned to take people where they’re at and to be very creative in my approach of explaining things so that my patients can relate to the information I’m giving them and fully understand the benefit of the care I’m encouraging them to pursue. This has developed my skill in digging into what people value, and establishing a connection between what they want and what solutions I can offer them.
- My Hands, My Ears—Their Bodies: When I think back to all the reasons that lead me to become a chiropractor, I don’t think I ever fully realized the full power and potential of a chiropractic adjustment. As chiropractors, we don’t have many fancy tools and technologies at our disposal like other that can help us, such as those available to family doctors and specialists. We have our ears to listen to all the concerns and take note of the signs and symptoms, and we have our hands to touch, palpate, and find where the body’s interference for healing is. Furthermore, many people come to a chiropractor for he or she to “fix” them. Healing the body is often times not that simple. One has to remember that a chiropractor isn’t the one doing the healing but the person’s own bodies healing itself when there is no interference for innate (our body’s inborn intelligence) to do its thing. At the end of the day, I am only a tool, the body is truly what heals itself.
- The Body Keeps me Humble: With every passing day, I am more and more amazed at the wonders of the human body. Our anatomy is complex and fascinating. Each person’s case is unique. Patients will often ask me how long it might take them to see results or to feel a change, and without any qualms, I can say that I don’t know. Every single person’s body is different and has a very different way of handling stresses, triggers and even chiropractic care itself. We must keep in mind that our bodies are the sum of our health history and our surrounding environment, and it is our unique physical and mental experiences that have shaped us into who we are today. With that being said, no one’s journey to optimal well-being is ever linear; many times it is much more of an upward zig zag! This occurs because the patient may experience retracing, where they may encounter similar symptoms as they have had in the past after getting an adjustment because their body is finally getting the chance to properly heal those past issues. The key is to not get discouraged and know that regular care will pay off in the long run.
- It’s Never One Thing: I think the most frustrating part about being in my position is hearing people claim to have a multitude of symptoms and consequences all resulting from a singular diagnosis. This is one of the dangers of “labelling” a patient with a diagnosis. As mentioned in the third point, the body is not a one-dimensional mechanism. Of course, a diagnosis of a condition needs to be taken into consideration when giving a patient care, but this is a very narrow way of approaching it. The body as a whole is more than the sum of its parts—there are so many factors that lead to a certain health issue, that it is very important to take a holistic perspective. There is so much more to understand and reflect on when we are approaching our health and well-being. Usually, there are a multitude of reasons why we might be experiencing something like, for example, loss of sleep or a pain in our knee. We must take the time to look at all the reasons and avenues that have led us to the moment in which we are experiencing the pain and/or discomfort.
- Educate, Educate, Educate: It’s not always easy to approach a situation when I know that someone might be experiencing certain symptoms because of different reasons than the ones they’ve listed to me. As healthcare practitioners, we never want to come across as condescending or insensitive; sometimes people have come to their own conclusions or have heard some piece of information that related to them and have stuck with it, and feel that they understand everything they need to understand about their condition. It’s up to me to help them find the flaws in their own logic so that they come to conclusions with better reasoning. One of the aspects of being a chiropractor that I enjoy most is educating, reassuring, and educating the patient once again, and helping he or she learn about themselves and learn to use critical thinking when it comes to their health and the choices they will be making about their well-being in the long run.
- Give Choices: The recommendations I give for care are based on the findings and the person’s health goals, but I deeply believe in giving my patients options that are best suited for their needs but most importantly for their current health goals. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and I understand that patients come from different social and financial backgrounds. Once again, I have to tailor my approach to what I think is the best fit for that unique individual, understand where they are currently at, and where they want to be. In my office we have what I call the Three Types of Care (symptomatic, corrective, wellness); for each patient, I explain what these mean and how to get to these three types of care but, at the end of the day it is the person’s choice to decide what they want, and what they are willing to commit to achieving the results they desire.
- I Can’t Want it More Than They Do: My job is to educate and empower patients, and include some important pieces of information so that they understand the impact that x-y-z has on their health. At the end of the day, as the saying goes; you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t force it to drink. People who come to me seeking relief and care have to come in wanting to better themselves. I have the tools necessary to help them, but they are the ones responsible for following through with the care plans we recommend to help them get optimal results. I can’t want it more than they do—I can’t make decisions for them, and I can’t force someone to get better. Whether that means being consistent with their adjustment, continuing on a wellness care program or even changing some no so health-promoting lifestyle habits. I lead them to the door, it is up to them to open it.
- Find Their WHY: It’s always important for me to find out what’s the motivation behind why people are seeking care. This carries over in so many different aspects of their health and lifestyle; why do people decide to start exercising? Why do they want to lose weightt? Why do they want to eat healthy? Why do they decide to see a chiropractor? Is it to simply get out of pain, or does this person value long-term vitality? If their why—their reason for acting—is strong enough, I know that they will be committed. It helps me better approach all aspects of their care because I can walk the journey with them to make sure I am giving them the right information, encouragement, and care.
- Ask Permission: People will come into my clinic and have their sights set on the final results of their goal; for example, get out of pain. However, I think it’s always important to ask permission to help guide them with other health-related information that they might not have sought to ask about. Given my long-standing position in the healthcare field, I have a wider point of view in what might help them to achieve what they desire. I make sure to explain the connection between what I’m suggesting and what they might be seeking treatment for, and letting them know it is their decision whether to take it or not. Being in a “telling mode” won’t do any good if the person does not want the information.
- You Can’t Assume Where People are Coming From: Over the years I’ve learned to be more understanding with the people I have encountered through my practice. Someone might be sitting in one of my adjustment rooms, in the worst mood ever, and yet I can’t take that personally; I don’t know what lead them to be in the state they are in when I walk into the room. People have bad days, and some people have worse days than that. We don’t know if they’ve lost their spouse, or failed an important test, or even are frustrated with themselves; it’s always important to approach every person genuinely and understand that life situations vary, and I have to be OK with that. I cannot judge, or take offence to, a person’s behaviour at that given moment. I have interestingly noticed that the more you treat people with respect, the more respectful they also become.
As a chiropractor in today’s world, where people are plentifully “social” on social media; I feel fortunate to be able to spend my days with sincere face-to-face interactions with people. I get to offer them genuine contact, whereas so many people don’t get the opportunity to share a warm encounter during their days. I know that I’m spending my days encouraging healthy physical contact and by doing so, I’m helping their bodies heal in the process. I get to meet people from all walks of life and hear them share their stories. I get to see the history their body carries and the great change over the course of their care.
At the end of my days, I reflect on all the people I’ve been able to help but also, how grateful I am for all the laughter I’ve shared. I have to say that my “one liners” and my “Nathalism” from speaking 2 languages all day, can be quite funny and entertaining at times! One of the most rewarding things for me is being able to hear my staff laughing outside my rooms because I know the human connection in my clinic is thriving and I’m so proud of that.
In sum, always remember that your body is an incredible being! It will work its best to make sure that you get the most out of every day; it’s forgiving when we don’t always treat it right and will do everything in its power to keep you alive and well. However, we do have to do our best to nurture it as much as it nurtures us. I’m grateful and proud to say that as a wellness chiropractor I have learned how to be a tool to help many people enhance the quality of their lives! It is nice to hear a patient say: “You might consider yourself a tool to my body healing Doc but let me tell you, you’re a great tool for us to have!”