Research provides spine measurement tools for tracking patient progress
The word chiropractic originates from ancient Greek words that roughly translate to “done by hand”. This concept is practiced and engrained at all accredited chiropractic schools around the globe. It is true that the doctor’s hands are their most valuable tool to gauge tension, alignment and pain amongst their patients. But how does a chiropractor translate what they feel with their hands to an explanation that the patient can understand? Building on that, how can the doctor demonstrate a change in condition from treatment to treatment, especially if pain is still present? These may be cases where it is beneficial to measure the spine’s function.
The majority of patients show up on my doorstep because of one reason – pain. If the pain does not subside after a few treatments, patients are likely to question, “is this really working for me?” And so they should! It is important to understand that not all health care options will work for every one person, though it is also helpful to realize that pain shouldn’t be the exclusive variable to determine how well a treatment is working. Other things to consider could be – frequency of pain, range of motion and localization of pain. Through measurement of the spine, can we find an easier way to convey progress to patients?
We hear it all the time in business. People want hard numbers and data that show trends and progress. This is tangible evidence that shows us we are moving the needle (or not moving it at all). The same can be done in the healthcare setting in regard to patient progress. Dr. Greg Kawchuk is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta who is developing instruments that can help us better understand how good or how bad of shape our spine is in. Dr. Kawchuk and his team are working with one specific tool that assigns a number based on a sliding scale that determines your spinal function. It’s a very simple instrument really that acts like a finger to “feel” the muscle and bone at a specific point in the spine and then translates the result to a computer that outputs a number. The idea is that every chiropractor could have this instrument in their office and use it to measure you each and every visit. With a measurement that can be tracked, it is even easier for the patient and chiropractor to understand the benefits of treatment.
A measurement can also help in other ways, such as determining a different course of treatment. If the patient does not respond to the initial few treatments, one can safely assume a change in direction is needed. This could simply mean a different treatment technique or a different health modality all together. It is easy to justify a change and communicate that to you, the patient, because of the measurement.
Hands on treatment will always remain the gold standard of therapy for chiropractors who have been using this technique with much success (just follow the research) for over a hundred years. That said, with technology evolving at an incredible rate, doctors may begin to introduce tools that help to augment existing resources and assist in educating patients about their specific conditions. It is simply a matter of time before you notice new technologies implemented in your family chiropractor’s office.