Communicating Chiropractic Through Research

On the day we first sent the Spinal Research blog live, we ran a piece on “Communicating Beyond Pain” with Brandi MacDonald. It was no accident this article ran first. Communication is integral to the success of chiropractic and it’s a challenge every chiropractor, chiropractic assistant and person in our practice plays a part in.  

We’ve got a long way to go before the world truly understands the power of the chiropractic adjustment, and fully grasps the concept that it isn’t an analgesic for pain but something far greater. It’s a task that we simply must tackle. 

“We’re really good at fixing pain or being an analgesic for pain, but what we haven’t told the patient is that we haven’t treated their pain at all,” said Brandi MacDonald in that first interview. “What we’ve done was restored normal physiology to the body by removing interference to the master computer that runs the human body – the brain and central nervous system. Because we did that, then their symptoms went away.“

As simple as that statement might be, it’s one that couldn’t be made with confidence without the tireless work of the chiropractic researchers who have backed the profession for decades now. You could argue that we are now in the information age, with social media and the internet making it more possible for consumers to interact with information.

This can be good. This can also be bad. That’s why chiropractic research paired with strong communication skills matter now more than ever. 

Dr Heidi Haavik has dedicated the last fifteen years of her life to a crucial cause: understanding the underlying mechanisms of chiropractic so that we can confidently say why and how it works.

“My vision is, if I can use my strengths effectively to communicate the science of chiropractic, and if I can teach people how to do that, it will become more of an option for the public,” said Heidi Haavik in a recent interview with Spinal Research. “This is why a major focus of my current work is educating people on how to interpret and communicate research. It’s about knowing what you can claim and what you can’t.”

One drive behind this focus is the issue of under-claiming and over-claiming, an issue that has had the potential to create a certain polarisation within the profession.

“In the past one of two things has happened. Either we’ve gone down the science end, conducted clinical trials without taking into account how chiropractic works; and these have often become under-claimers. Or we’ve gone down the philosophy end, without wanting to do research; and these have become over-claimers. These polar ends of the profession have fought bitterly. I am still hopeful that the basic science research will bridge this gap, because the basic science really can explain these different perspectives, if we invest in it enough.”

We know that research doesn’t come cheap. The billions of dollars that go in pharmaceutical research remains a far-off dream for the world of chiropractors, but Haavik is undeterred. In addition to the valuable support from the New Zealand College of Chiropractic, the Centre for Chiropractic Research runs on donations from the profession and “invaluable support from operational grants such as the Australian Spinal Research Foundation.”

In addition to the many hours spent in the nitty-gritty of research work, writing the findings up for publications and treading the stage at conferences and seminars the world over, Heidi has had another project burning away. ‘Haavik Research’ is a company specifically set up to generate yet more research opportunities. Haavik Research takes into account the groundbreaking studies and collaborations that the Centre for Chiropractic Research churns out, and focuses on translating this scientific information into a language the chiropractic community and the lay public will understand.

“Haavik Research focuses on the communication and dissemination of the research findings – from social media downloads, to simple videos showing how to interpret various work. The Haavik Research company’s mission is to ‘enlighten the world about the science of chiropractic’ and through this raise more dollars for research.”

They’ve achieved so much already, with Heidi Haavik frequenting the international speaking circuit and communicating to both sides of the political divide. But there is a world of work ahead, and it’s something that requires the support of those whose work this research backs up so vocally.

“I heard an example in the USA that blew my mind. If 20,000 chiropractors gave $20, can you imagine how much money we’d have? We calculated our average study costs and its about $200,000. We can get away with less if we design the study with the equipment, software and expertise that we already have.  We can’t always do this but we try. In some cases, we could get away with maybe $60,000 per study. But other studies, for example some of the ones in the States have budgets of up for $3 or 4 million. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what we could do with that kind of money?”

Heidi Haavik believes in the power of the adjustment, and she recognises that our challenge lies in communicating this in a way the world understands, and in a way that is congruent with the current scientific understanding about how the body works.

It’s about presenting chiropractic in a way that breaks down the barriers that have surrounded the profession for so long. It’s an important cause, not just for chiropractors but also for the many, many people who may benefit from all that chiropractic has to offer.

Spinal Research has a long history of collaborating with Dr. Heidi Haavik to enable valuable research to take place. Studies that have been enabled by the Spinal Research-Heidi Haavik partnership include: