By Janet Jay
While the core tenets of chiropractic treatment involve belief in the efficacy of spinal manipulation, the frequently interdisciplinary aspect of chiropractors’ care may be one of the main reasons people seek them out.
An interdisciplinary care team and strong communication between specialists is important for anyone with complex medical needs—but for individuals living with chronic pain, including pain that started out as acute, it can be crucial.
“I don’t just practice straight chiropractic and say, ‘I’m going to keep adjusting your spine and you’ll be out of chronic pain,’” explains Niele Maimone, DC, owner of Align Healing Center Inc. in Danville, California. Instead, she might suggest nutrients or amino acids, recommend laser treatments, address the emotional component of pain, or propose other treatments she thinks will help. And before all that, she takes the time to talk through each person’s history and ensure they feel heard.
She urges individuals living with chronic pain to seek out a chiropractor who specializes in functional medicine.
Regarding the holistic or “whole person” nature of chiropractic treatment, Maimone explains, “We’re always looking at what is blocked in the body and what can be done to assist the patient out of the chronic cycle, how we can help it heal itself.”
The importance of a team approach to medical care
Trying to sort out symptoms and side effects can be a complicated process, even for doctors. Since medical specialists often focus solely on their area of expertise, many patients end up bouncing from doctor to doctor without any overarching communication about their case or the multiple factors that may be in play.
Despite the challenges of bringing together a team to coordinate care for someone living with chronic pain, encouraging this kind of communication between doctors is vitally important. American health care is often structured around the idea that each patient will have a general practitioner who oversees that person’s care. But many people with chronic pain find themselves seeking care from multiple providers and needing to step into the coordinator role themselves.
This is one of the major benefits of an integrated pain medicine program or center, which may bring together pain medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health, and other related treatments under one umbrella. The resounding success of these programs show how important communication between practitioners is.
But the effect can be reproduced even outside of these programs if specialists approach the care of an individual living with chronic pain as a whole, rather than providing piecemeal treatment.
“Chiropractic can be one portion, because motion has to be restored,” Maimone says. “But a collaborative environment where a lot of different practitioners with different skill sets come together is really important.”