Fired by Her Chiropractor (Follow-Up)

by Mara Karpel

Dear Dr. Karpel:

I wanted to update you about a situation that I wrote to you about last year.  At that time the chiropractor that I went to in my winter home told me that I was a hopeless case and sent me on my way, telling me I should see an acupuncturist instead.  I’m about to turn 79 and I do have some problems with my back, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, but whatever adjustments he did brought me relief from my aches and pains.  Not only that, but the chiropractor that I see the rest of the year, in my home-town, seems to have no problem treating me and helps me a great deal.  I took your advice and, when I returned this winter, I asked him for a reason that he could not treat me.  He agreed to contact my other chiropractor to find out what she does and her analysis of my problems.

She told him that I benefit from gentle, manual adjustments, not using any equipment.  He then turned around and told me that he’s not the right chiropractor for me and handed me my files.  A day later, I met an elderly man who told me about his chiropractor.  I’m going to try this other chiropractor out next week.

Ms. K

Dear Ms. K:

I think your ex-chiropractor is right.  That is, he is not the right one for you.  In your last letter, you mentioned that he was young.  He sounds like he is also very inexperienced.  Maybe he is protecting you from himself, as based on his lack of experience and your special needs, he might do you more harm than good.  Finding another chiropractor sounds like a good idea.  And finding a chiropractor (or any type of doctor) who has been recommended by other patients is often a great idea, although, of course, everyone has their own unique experience with a doctor.  It does sound like you benefit from the right chiropractic treatment for you.  Certainly, if it helps to bring relief from your aches and pains, then it’s beneficial in that you can avoid taking pain medications that have all sorts of side-effects.

Ms. K., your story reminded me of an article I read on yahoo.com last week about doctors and their reluctance to treat older adults.  This article, “Medical Schools Prepare For ‘Silver Tsunami,’” by Richard C. Lewis, highlights how working with older adults has never been a specialty of choice for young doctors.  This, he states, is because doctors who work with the elderly tend to be paid less than doctors working with younger populations.  In addition, treatment of older adults is more complicated due to the multiple medical issues often present and the multiple medications often taken by an older individual.  Adding to that, medical schools have not, until very recently, taught future doctors about the important differences involved in treating an older adult.  According to Lewis, out of 800,000 doctors practicing in the U.S., only about 7,000 work specifically with older adults.  This is, thankfully, beginning to change, as medical schools are integrating training in geriatrics into their coursework.  This is very important, given that the U.S. Census Bureau predicts the number of older Americans will double to 71 million by the year 2030.

This issue is similar for all types of practitioners, not just medical doctors.  This would include chiropractors, dentists, and even psychologists.  Therefore, maybe this young chiropractor did you a favor by not continuing to treat you.  Perhaps he does not have the training to treat older adults, like yourself, who may have some special needs.  It would be wise to find someone who has that sort of training and experience.  I remember that in your last letter you stated that you were feeling rejected.  I hope you have been able to see this as an issue that is not personal to you, but in fact may just be that this

young chiropractor has some awareness of his lack of expertise to treat you.  It is most ethical for him not to practice outside the limits of expertise.    Thanks for following up and letting me know what happened.  I hope you find the right chiropractor to help you.

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