I had a call a few weeks ago from a patient I treated in my Idaho practice for over 15 years. I saw her through 2 pregnancies, 3 car accidents, 2 marriages, 4 children and several career changes. I knew her physical injuries, her physical body, her stresses, her moods, and many of her values and beliefs.  Over time I understood how to treat her and her overall health was better because I treated her in relationship to her whole life.

When she called, she asked if I would call her “new” chiropractor. It has been 5 years since I last saw her. She has tried several chiropractors, but not with the same results we had together. Could I discuss her case and perhaps give the new doctor some tips? “Of course, I will call,” I told her. And, then we caught up on the kids, and career and the details not visible to either of us as Facebook friends.

I called her new doctor. She told me about the “new” x-rays that were taken and we discussed techniques and philosophies. I found myself realizing that the “new” doctor was not especially open to what I had to say. It wasn’t personal. She had the basic information she needed and an approach in mind that she wanted to try. I had no reason to argue her thinking or approach. Her care and their interaction would either be a match or not, despite my input. They are in the early part of treatment and their own, unique doctor-patient relationship. 

When searching for a chiropractor, consider these 3 things.

1. Be a good “match” with your physician. A doctor with good technical skill may not be a good fit for your personality. How I adjust someone is first a technical thing, but then it becomes art, finesse. Joints “feel” a certain way, tissues feel a certain way and patients emit particular receptivity and ultimately the combination of doctor and patient is where the treatment is allowed to happen. Success together is about how your doctor treats you specifically and how your needs and expectations as a patient are met. If it’s not a good fit, move on. Ask for referrals. Your insurance directory is not always your best guide for good care. 

2. For the best results be honest with your physician about everything. Nothing confuses a physician more than a story that doesn’t fit. Granted, we are trained to ask good questions, but it all goes smoother if you just fess up that you made a mistake, are stressed about fighting with your spouse or have embarrassing bowel symptoms. Find a physician who will listen to you on a medical level and the level below your medical complaints or restricted spinal segments.

Beyond history, I have to feel the tissues around the spine, shoulder, ankles or pelvis to know how to help anyone with an injury or mechanical problem. Where you hold tension in your body sometimes tells me more about your condition than anything, but the story helps me put the pieces together. 

I will admit – how I feel about you as a patient has a direct effect on your care too. The more open and honest and free flowing our dialogue is, the more chances we have at meeting your needs. Nothing is harder than working with patients who limit their history to a few quick details and want me to figure it out, or patients who want a quick fix (time or money) or who won’t do prescribed adjunct therapy at home.

3. If something doesn’t work immediately, don’t be quick to label it a fail. Not all bodies respond to the same things. Some conditions are harder to dial in than others. Speak into what works and what doesn’t until together you can find what works best for you. If your doctor is willing to change things up and you are willing to do your part at home it should eventually work into a successful outcome.

Sometimes treatment goes easily, but not all things are fast to fix. Most require a treatment plan of some kind. No different than understanding that we don’t take one antibiotic for infections, we take them for a week. Often, 6 weeks of physical therapy is needed after a surgery and it takes 6-8 weeks to heal a bone. Moreover, how many people are on daily heart mediation, blood sugar medication or anti-depressants? Some things don’t go away with medication or treatment, and a long term prescription is what you need. For physical and spinal conditions, sometimes that prescription is regular chiropractic care, massage, exercise or other physical modalities.

In almost all conditions there are recommended things to do beyond medication like exercise, maintaining a particular diet, avoiding certain things. Following all parts of a treatment plan will give your physician the best feedback to then decide about when to include additional x-rays, tests, referrals to other practitioners or a change in our treatment plan in some way. 

I truly loved this patient and so many of them over the years. As this patient reached out to me I was aware of how much of her history and care is still in me. 

This woman trusted me with her pain, to help her, fix her, keep her going, assist her healing process. And, she did a lot of work on her own behalf. She made and showed up for her appointments. She asked good questions and took recommendations. She exercised and stretched. Her mental attitude was positive and she found reasons to get well which included her boys, her hobbies, and her full life. She responded to her body sooner than later.

Our patient-physician relationship worked because WE worked together. Bodies, emotions, life circumstances, health challenges and treatments are a big combination of things that must line up in order for things to go right.

I miss her, patients like her. I hope her “new” doc gets to know her as well as I did, because it was an honor to be her trusted health care provider and friend. She was one of my BEST EVER patients!

The Bend
Dr. Erika Putnam

Dr. Erika Putnam, chiropractic physician, is the owner of The Bend in Whitefish, Montana. She uses a broad and holistic approach to treat spinal and extremity conditions and other health problems with a variety of chiropractic techniques, rehabilitation, nutrition, lifestyle and functional medicine. She has over 20 years of experience in the chiropractic field and holds a 500 hour yoga instructor certification. The Bend has a private yoga studio where Dr. Putnam helps chiropractic patients recover by engaging them in yoga or exercise instruction to prevent injuries from reoccurring and to improve overall strength and flexibility. She advocates for healing in a pro-active environment that includes physical, emotional and energetic wellbeing. www.thebendatwhitefish.com


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