Chiropractors as Primary Contact Practitioners

Are you one of the many people trying to find a family doctor? During the St. Thomas Home and Garden Show I was surprised by the number of people coming up to our booth that commented about not being able to find a family doctor. A quick inquiry to the webpage for the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons reveals the statement that it can be hard to find a new family doctor especially if there is a shortage of physicians in your area. The college makes suggestions such as checking with the Ministry of Health, your local hospital or community healthcare centre or scanning your local newspaper for new physicians. These are all good suggestions but those that are looking for a family doctor know that it can be a frustrating and long process.

This being the case, what are your options? Well, although not a complete solution, perhaps considering consulting with an alternative health practitioner might be an option in some cases. Chiropractors for example are considered primary contact practitioners. This means that you don’t require a referral from a medical doctor to see a chiropractor, you can make an appointment directly. Now your local chiropractor may not be able to completely replace your family doctor but, there are conditions and situations where a chiropractor can certainly help you.

The scope of practice of chiropractic includes what is generally referred to as the neuro-musculoskeletal system. This means that chiropractors are educated and trained to assess and treat many conditions and symptoms such as headaches, numbness and tingling, back and neck pain, shoulder injuries, arthritic conditions as well as a myriad of other conditions of this nature. Many of these conditions are the cause of visits to family doctors. For example, back pain is generally considered the second leading reason that someone might request an appointment with their family doctor after the common cold. Ironically, many family doctors may have a limited capacity to help those with mechanical back pain.

Considering the above, if you are having ongoing symptoms of a neuro-musculoskeletal origin and have been frustrated because you have not been able to secure a family doctor with whom to consult, perhaps you should consider seeking the help of a chiropractor. Chiropractors are one of the few professions in the province of Ontario that are granted the right and responsibility to be able to relay a diagnosis to a patient. This is the case as the Ministry of Health recognizes that the level of education and training that chiropractors receive within their scope of practice is comparable to a medical doctor’s, dentist’s or psychologist’s for example.

There are many examples around the world of countries that take advantage of the chiropractor’s expertise in the neuro-musculoskeletal area to lighten the burden on the medical profession. In many Latin American countries including Chile and Brazil chiropractors are totally integrated into multi-disciplinary spine care clinics. In Denmark chiropractors are integrated into the hospital system and their services are considered part of the mainstream. In Ontario a research study actually showed how integrating chiropractors into the mainstream system to help deal with musculoskeletal conditions could improve the overall functioning of the system as well as potentially save millions of valuable dollars. Unfortunately, the findings of this study called the Magna report were never acted upon.

The knowledge and expertise of chiropractors to assess, diagnose and treat conditions within their scope of practice is well documented and accepted by those that are aware of the body of evidence in the area. Chiropractors are well suited to assist those with conditions or concerns for which they would normally seek the advice of a family doctor. If you are one of those individuals that is frustrated by not having a family doctor to help you with a problem as outlined above, consider consulting with a chiropractor to see if they can help.