Posts Tagged ‘Literature Research’

Every Case a Case Study

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Some time ago I set myself a goal to write up case studies based on the positive results that have I seen in my practice. Like every Chiropractor I get excited when I hear of life changing turnarounds in a wide range of health complaints. And not always because that person first consulted me with “Condition X” – they may come to me with the garden variety neck and back ailments. But then weeks later the person shares their story of healing and improved quality of life since starting to see me.

Well you might say I have opened a can of worms because the reality of “writing up” has been daunting: A clear history, examination findings and having some sort of outcome measure in place so that after those weeks of adjustments you can say for real that signs and symptoms have diminished – the objective before and after as opposed to the testimonial. And then there is the challenge of writing up an introduction and discussion of the condition in question – requires literature research and time.

So retrospectively I began to dig out files of my fondest case memories and quickly discovered that I did not have much more to go on than a testimonial. Child was a bed wetter – now they aren’t, teenager had reduced asthma medications and number and severity of attacks but no actual numbers to go along with those subjective observations, person who attended for low back pain and was then able to become pregnant after being adjusted (why didn’t they tell me they were infertile when they presented?), a parent stating that their child’s ADHD had significantly improved but now I have the challenge of finding out of their academic and social performance has improved – where to start?

I had been haunted by the words of an “old-timer” chiropractor at a Dynamic Growth Congress years before. He asserted that you “never ask your patients how they are – you tell them!” How do you do that? Now I know that we get to know our practice member’s bodies and that we can to a degree sense where they are at – but that intuition wasn’t quite enough for me – I wanted tools to measure where someone was in their functional journey. I’ve never been a dedicated user of Xrays and biomechanical lines and would always prefer non-invasive technologies so I began searching. The first purchase I made somewhere in the mid-nineties was software to analyse posture (www.torquerelease.com.au/Posture-Pro-Software.htm) and to come up with some objective calculations – cool tool and patients love the before and after pictures – a win-win. Back then this type of software cost thousands. This was in the days when computers were like old-age pensioners – took half the morning to warm up, and then didn’t do much after lunch. And we had to buy excessively expensive cameras that had a removable floppy disc – remember what those were? I envy today’s chiropractors who can pick up the latest version of this software for less than a grand, and download and install it on their high-speed notebook, and already have the camera that connects wirelessly.

Next I took out a five-year lease to get my hands on an Insight Subluxation Station (www.subluxation.net.au) and discovered that surface EMG, thermography and inclinometry were awesome tools for me to see if I was making the physiological changes that I hoped my adjustments produced. Boy was this confronting as I was forced along a pathway of finding better ways to deliver better adjustments and advice. I think we Chiropractors have had it too easy for too long because the only quality assurance that we have had to answer to is customer satisfaction. I remember one of my associate Chiropractors who was notorious for bypassing initial and progress exams, who when confronted stated that he didn’t see the point in using the measurements when they didn’t change! I guess my conclusion had been different as my revelation was that maybe I had to find the best ways for making positive changes – After all if a spine isn’t better aligned, more flexible and surrounded by less muscle tension after a series of adjustments, then what has been the actual benefit of those adjustments?

My next revelation was that I needed better outcome measures in my practice for a range of health concerns: If someone consults me and they suffer with migraines then I need to be able to demonstrate that the improvements in the sEMG, posture, thermography and range of motion are matched by measurable improvements in the regularity and severity of the signs and symptoms of migraine – sounds simple – just visit outcomemeasures.? to download the free tools I hoped? Not! My fantasy was a file of severity questionnaires that could be accessed depending on the name of the presenting dis-ease. So I contacted the academics and was told that such standardized and validated tools did exist. Next step was to find them… Still looking! Here’s the problem – they all have different completion and rating systems, most aren’t free or at least accessible, and regardless of whether they are scientifically validated few have been designed by chiropractors, for chiropractic – what is the point of a headache questionnaire that lacks a question about neck pain or dysfunction, or a low back questionnaire that fails to note any associated gastrointestinal or genitourinary signs? Since this time I have been gradually authoring my own range of health questionnaires – as I encountered a different health syndrome in practice, I would spend hours researching and then listing the “top twenty” associated signs and symptoms which would then be pasted into my template – each having exactly the same rating and format (www.torquerelease.com.au/Health-Questionnaires.htm) . Now these aren’t validated research tools but I love them for the power that they offer in terms of being able to take a subjective snapshot in time.

Nowadays I am in a newer practice and while designing my new systems I spent numerous hours (internet) searching for the best outcome tools out there: They had to be affordable, simple to use, and easy for the practice member to comprehend. After much shopping I combined Posture Pro, with digital photographic range of motion analysis software, Heart Rate Variability (www.torquerelease.com.au/emWave.htm) , along with the Torque Release Technique Indicators of Subluxation Scoring System that I had developed, and my Health Outcomes Questionnaires. Now I present my practice members with what I call their Spinal Functional Age (SFA) and Self-Perceived Health Age (SPHA).

The next barrier was in getting humans to follow the plan. I realised that my chances of producing legitimate case studies retrospectively were small. I needed to have a prospective plan: When Master Bedwetter, or Miss Asthma, or Mr Parkinsons or Mrs Multiple Sclerosis arrives at my rooms then I need the procedures in place so that I have sufficient pre-examination findings. Next challenge is to achieve sufficient compliance with care that will result in the types of positive changes we aspire to. And step three is to conduct a progress examination that supplies the “evidence” that I crave which is going to look good in ink.

What I am trying to say here is that my initial urge to write up a simple case study that is of some value to the evidence-base has actually sent me on a path of research and development that I like to think is making me a better Chiropractor.

Have you ever watched an episode of Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypothetical? This famous legal shark draws together a diverse cross section of “experts” and then forces them through a hypothetical case scenario that pushes the ethical, moral and human boundaries. Entertaining and usually enlightening viewing. To a point I believe it is valuable to apply this principle in our practice development pathway.

So, how does MY hypothetical influence YOUR life in practice? Ask yourself these questions:

1) Is your initial intake process thorough and objective enough that you could present clear evidence of what it is you are setting out to change for that person?

2) Do you have objective measurement tools to demonstrate how much this person’s functional status needs to change and whether you will have been able to initiate a change in their health concern?

3) Do you conduct a progress or review exam to measure whether you are achieving your shared goals?

4) Have you had the guts to put your technique to the objective litmus test across your entire practice population and not just your favourite miracle cases?

5) Do you have enough evidence to contribute a Case Study for the advancement of the Chiropractic Evidence Base?

When I present the stats from my own practice I show the average functional changes that occur and share the journey I have had to follow to ensure that I consistently generate significant objective improvements. At one seminar a Chiropractor pulled me aside during a refreshment break, and with a concerned look on his face stated that the changes I had documented were not very BIG. “Oh really” I said “how big are the changes that you are seeing?” “Well I don’t know” he said “but I know that they would be better than yours”. I almost envy his delusions of grandeur, but the reality is if you don’t know for sure, then you don’t know! My own research based on the functional tools that I currently prefer, suggest that one adjustment reduces someone’s functional age by one year. I personally think that is very significant – name any other healing method that can make someone one year younger in one visit?

To find out more about the next Torque Release Technique Seminar visit: www.torquerelease.com.au/Torque-Release-Discount.htm