A Christian Chiropractor?
by William M. Thomas, D.C., "Dr. T."
I am a chiropractor who is a Christian. Many people have preconceived ideas about chiropractors, and some of these ideas and stereotypes have merit. There are many chiropractors who are quite frankly, "quacks and weirdos" who use pseudoscience and vitalistic/new age world views to explain how their treatment is working. The reality is that many well-meaning chiropractors mistakenly believe that just because their treatment is effective, that it validates the mechanism of how their treatment works. It is very easy to find what I am speaking of if you were to look on the internet about chiropractic, it's roots, history, etc. What you will be reading in this article is likely very different from what you may expect.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
I consider myself more complementary medicine than alternative medicine, as I believe that medicine has it's place. I'm not opposed to traditional medicine, although I believe that a drugless/non-surgical approach is preferred when it is possible (which is why most people seek out chiropractors). I will typically
consult with a patient and determine whether or not I think I can help, and if I think I cannot, I will inform them about what other options they have, whether they be medical or surgical. I think it would be unethical to do anything else.
Chiropractic, in the way I practice it, is effective for what traditional medicine isn't. I am alternative only in terms of philosophy and approach to
disease and symptom relief in SOME circumstances. Chiropractors in general typically approach the cause of disease (symptoms, injuries, etc.) differently, as opposed to traditional medicine, which usually approaches symptoms with this philosophy: "You have symptoms, x, y, and z, that is treated with medication a, b, and c". Chiropractors typically approach disease and symptoms with: "You have symptom, x, y, and z, let's figure out why you have that, remove those causes and the symptoms will go away." Chiropractors are sometimes misguided in their thinking of what the "cause" is with old-school, default thinking of "nerve flow" reduction, restriction, and subluxations causing disease. That is not to say that their treatment won't work. It usually will, however, it is not because of the removal of "nerve interference", but biomechanical stress and strain on those particular parts of the body, which may now be able to "do what they were designed to do" with less interference any kind, biomechanical, structural, vitalistic, etc. This is not entirely inconsistent with traditional chiropractic theory, but just another way of looking at it.
My definition of chiropractic's vitalistic mechanism is consistent with common sense, and has nothing to do with new age or alternative thinking, unless you may be an atheist and consider the idea of a Creator to be ridiculous
(1 Cor 2:13-15). God designed our bodies with the ability to heal itself, if the body cannot do what it is designed to do, sometimes it needs some help, whether it be physical medicine (chiropractic, physical therapy, personal training), medication, etc. As a chiropractor, I am merely a facilitator in that process. The only thing vitalistic about that is that I believe God designed our bodies and that design includes the God-given mechanism to heal itself
Psalm 139:14-16. Vitalism, in the definition I have used it here, simply means that we didn't come from a cosmic soup and a spark. Life as we know it did not just happen, it is supernatural, and God intentionally created life with a purpose and our bodies with the ability to adapt to change, heal and recover from injury. This definition is typically different from other vitalistic or new age thinking, particularly in how God is defined; however I refer to God, as the God of the Bible and not merely a "life force". Traditional chiropractic theory can be interpreted to say that "life force" or "god" is being restricted by
subluxation, and therefore the cause of disease, which is not what I'm suggesting at all, nor do I believe that, or condone that way of thinking, as I believe it is opposed to my Biblical worldview.
Anyone who has ever been adjusted knows the potential for instant relief that comes when you get adjusted. That is why I became a chiropractor myself. It wasn't until I became involved in the world of chiropractic that I realized that there were many methods, world views, theories,
techniques and levels of skill amongst chiropractors. I cannot stress highly enough that NOT ALL CHIROPRACTORS ARE THE SAME!
The mechanism of how chiropractic is effective is important, as I believe that all truth is God's truth. The truth is that chiropractic care, when utilized properly is effective, but many people believe that they must "buy in" to chiropractic philosophy, nerve flow causing disease,
subluxation (which my definition of it is more structural and biomechanical), to go to a chiropractor. It is not necessary to accept that mechanism for it to be effective. Treatment will likely work regardless of what you believe. I have had patients who have been to other chiropractors and "tolerate" the "education", "propaganda" and "indoctrination" by their chiropractor because the treatment works and helps them, regardless if they believe what their chiropractor is telling them about HOW it works. Again, I believe many if not most chiropractors are incorrect regarding the mechanism, which is purely common sense, helping the body get to do what it is designed to do by facilitating it's normal movement, range of motion and removal of the physical stress and strain being placed upon it so it is more able to deal with the physical stresses and biomechanics being placed on our bodies.
I believe that most chiropractors are mistaken about the mechanism of how chiropractic works (especially old school chiropractors), but their methods of treatment are usually similar, with some
techniques working better for some patients than others. But, if one uses a faulty premise, one may end up with an outcome that is favorable, but not necessarily correct in how you got from "point A to point B". That is not to say that a chiropractor who believes in nerve flow,
subluxations causing disease, etc. would not help you. Going to most chiropractors would likely help a patient achieve what they are trying to do, depending on the problem that one is trying to correct.
As a Christian, however, one must be careful not to accept a purely vitalistic/new age world view just because they get better, which is likely. Many chiropractors don't fully have a grasp of what they are trying to do and many feel that they MUST cling to old school thinking about how chiropractic works because they didn't realize that there could be a different explanation for the effectiveness of it. Many people discount and eliminate chiropractic care because of chiropractic's adamant stance on nerve interference being the cause of disease.
There are may types of chiropractors and your experience with chiropractors would likely be reflected by the chiropractor you choose. I'll be writing more about what type of chiropractor would likely be suitable for your needs, especially if you are unable to come to my office in La Mirada.
I will continue to edit this, as I am trying differentiate types of chiropractors, in my attempt to explain why not all chiropractors are the same. This page is a work in progress. Last update 07/11/10. For a
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Frequently Asked Questions
Should a Christian go to a Chiropractor/Seek Chiropractic Treatment - gotquestions.org
A balanced view of chiropractors in general, but based on my Biblical worldview, does not apply to my method of treatment - letusreason.org
Chiropractic Medicine - Science or Fiction - the Watchman Expositor - Explains old school
chiropractic, but differentiates modern Chiropractic care (reformed chiropractic), which is how I practice.