A Letter to My Competitor…

[originally published in KCN, April 2001]

Ever wonder who my biggest competitor is?  No, it’s not the chiropractor across town or the ones in our neighboring cities.  And it’s not even the medical doctor next door or the physical therapist across the way.  No, my biggest competitor is you!  Well, not you personally, but the chiropractic “baggage,” if you will, that you have managed to stuff in your cranium.  We all have a lifetime of attitudes, perceptions, and opinions about our health and how we must take care of ourselves, and unless we have resided on some tropical island for most of our lives, we probably have a pretty attractive set of chiropractic “luggage” stored between our ears as well.  The question you need to ask yourself, is who helped you pack your bags?

Was it your medical doctor?  A television news program?  An article you read?  A web site you saw?  Your Aunt Mildred who knows a friend of a friend who once saw a chiropractor?  Or perhaps it’s hard to put a finger on it, because it was more subtle.

It certainly is difficult to appreciate a balanced approach to health when practically everywhere we turn we are reminded, either consciously or subconsciously, that there is a pill we can take for our health problems.  Like it or not, we are constantly bombarded by advertisements for drugs.  Flip on the tube and surf the channels, and you’re sure to come face to face with one.  Open up the latest issue of your favorite magazine, and see how many you can count.  Or take a drive along the I-5 corridor, and see how far you can drive before you encounter a billboard  paid for by a drug company.  And we all know that the advertising venues don’t stop there.  We see them on the Internet, on the sides of buses, at sporting events, etc, etc.  With so many possible advertising encounters it’s very difficult for us to dodge the domineering influence it has on us.  We are being subjected to a form of  brainwashing.  Am I overreacting?… “How do you spell relief?”

In fact, drug companies are so aware of the power of their advertising that they now appeal to you,  the patient, the consumer, about what prescription drugs you should be making a special visit to your medical doctor to request.  Apparently the “old school” of only educating the M.D.’s on their “drug du jour” is not as effective from a business standpoint.  Instead they’d rather sell to your emotions with people enjoying vibrant health, wearing cheerful colors, all while fine print is flashed on the screen and selected  side-effects are whispered.

Imagine how attitudes about health might be different if the chiropractic community had the deep advertising pockets of the pharmaceutical companies.  Ever see a chiropractic commercial?  I have.  And it was probably only because I knew when to tune in.  The fact is, they are few and far between, and consequently have little impact.  We did however have a chance to get the biggest bang for our buck when we cracked our piggy bank back in 1996.  We ran a 30-second commercial on all four major networks following the opening top stories of the national evening news programs.   The advertising effort was known by marketing gurus as a “commercial roadblock” and is frequently used by advertisers to to “ambush” an audience by making it hard to avoid missing their commercial.  Sounded good to us.   Our commercial ran in the coveted “1A” position— first break, first commercial.  Needless to say, we shared the bill for the evening news that night with many drug companies, who, judging from their angry phone calls to the three major networks, weren’t  too happy about our presence.  In fact, they demanded to know the next time the chiropractors planned to run a commercial.  So for a brief moment, with $200,000, we caught the attention of Mass America.  Unfortunately, on the station I was watching, our powerful commercial lost its impact when it was followed in rapid succession by two 15-second pharmaceutical spots.   Oh well.

“Commercials don’t affect me,” you say, “I can look beyond them.”  Maybe so, but you might not be aware of how else the pharmaceutical companies may be contributing to the packing of your bags:  media stories.  We have all come to rely on the media as a trustworthy source of objective information and have used them to help form our health opinions.  But you should know that the pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment spend millions of dollars every month to get positive news coverage.  The President of the World Chiropractic Alliance, Terry Rondberg, D.C.,  lays out the following in the forward of  the book, Chiropractic Works!: Adjusting to a Higher Quality of Life:

“According to the Wall Street Journal, television reporters rely almost solely on the more than 2,000 “video news releases” sent to them each year by drug makers and medical device makers.  Reporters don’t ask questions or even attempt to present a balanced report — they simply  show the video, which is often little more than a sales pitch for the current ‘miracle drug.’  The same is true for newspapers and magazines.  Their articles are usually based on, and often repeated verbatim, from press releases distributed by medical or pharmaceutical concerns.  A New York Times article revealed that, according to a survey of 2,500 editors and reporters around the country, 90% of all ideas for health articles had originated with a public relations person representing either a medical or pharmaceutical client!  In addition, the major medical trade organizations like the AMA spend huge amounts of money to ensure that coverage for any competing discipline is either non-existent or — better yet — negative.  All of which has left consumers in the dark about what chiropractic care is and what it can do for them.”

My aim in writing this “letter” is not to put down or offend, but to hopefully to make you stop and question how you know what you “know.”  Run all health stories and ideas through the same critical review that many of you have only reserved for professions like my own.  Go to the source of the information and glean your own conclusions rather than always relying on someone else’s opinion.  Stand up for your health!  After all, it’s your body, your responsibility.

So what’s in all this chiropractic luggage I’ve been referring to?  My feeling is that you already know.  The contents in your chiropractic luggage may vary a little from that of your neighbor, but chances are they probably match fairly well.  I debated as to whether or not to open luggage right here in this article, but I think doing so would only be repetitive and would cause you to think of a herd of pink elephants.  No, the best way to unpack your chiropractic baggage is to first realize that it’s time to “check” your  bags with a chiropractor.  I know, it’s a big step (and furthermore we really don’t resemble sky cabs).  That’s why the typical chiropractic new patient will wait months and months, and try on average of seven other things before picking up the phone and calling for an appointment.  It is only with a chiropractor, that your bags can be unpacked and the dirty laundry aired.  Your concerns will be addressed, respected, and offered information to balance them — allowing you to make an informed decision about your health.  Because, after all, isn’t that the way it should be?  And besides, after shedding all that baggage you’ve been lugging around, perhaps your back will finally stop hurting.


Sources used for this article:

Chiropractic commercial hits the mark on nat’l evening news. Dynamic Chiropractic. 15(15). 1996.

Chiropractic network evening news “roadblock” — June 16th.  Dynamic Chiropractic.  15(13).  1996.

Esteb, William.  A patient’s point of view:  observations of a chiropractic advocate.  Orion Associates.  Colorado Springs, CO.  1992.

Feuling Timothy.  Chiropractic works!  adjusting to a higher quality of life.  Wellness Solutions.  Carlsbad, CA  1999.

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