What We Learned About COVID Early On
I was just like you when it became clear in March that this pandemic thing was clearly for real. Nobody really knew what it meant. We didn’t know how deadly COVID-19 was or wasn’t. We didn’t know because nobody really knew. It was scary to see people be scared. It was scary to see the economy slow to almost a halt and people lose their jobs indefinitely. It was strange that there were people who didn’t even know if they were allowed to stay in business even if they wanted to.
I certainly weighed what Body of Health should do very carefully. While we knew that we were helping people we also didn’t want to contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in any way. I read and researched as much as I could. I watched Executive Orders and evaluated our position. I also interacted with hundreds of chiropractic colleagues about their plans. Some people thought the best thing to do would be to shut down for a while. Others thought it best to stay open.
Why We Stayed Open
Even now, I’m getting calls from patients who had no idea that we never closed down. They say, "I just couldn’t wait anymore so I thought I’d take a chance and call to see if you were open!" A lot of them slapped their foreheads when they found out that we were always available to help them.
Does chiropractic care play a vital role in our society’s health care?
My reason for keeping our doors open came down to a simple question: Does chiropractic care play a vital role in our society’s health care? If my answer to this question was "No" then the decision would be easy. The most responsible thing to do would to be to shut our doors and do the best we could to support our employees. But my answer was "Yes" and I want to let you know why.
When we first went into lockdown, the goal was to flatten the curve. We wanted to reserve capacity of hospitals so that they didn’t become overwhelmed the way we saw in Italy and later in New York. Hospitals started to refuse elective procedures and send home people who were not in imminent danger. When I considered this situation my role was very clear. By keeping my practice open and taking precautions to protect my staff and my patients, I could help keep people who needed care for their quality of life away from hospitals who were preparing to save people’s lives.
In some states this question was called to task by governors and health organizations. Are chiropractors essential? I only know of one state that didn’t answer this question the same way I did. That didn’t last long and that one state quickly joined the rest of the country. Even the Department of Homeland Security affirmed that chiropractic care is considered essential health care.
What About Now?
I don’t think that my role or responsibility in treating patients has changed since then. Now there are new issues at play. In the past 8 months I have treated hundreds of patients including doctors, teachers, student, engineers, business men and women and every other kind of profession you can think of who are struggling with the ergonomic challenges of working from home. They don’t have access to the $1,000 chair at the office or now they are being asked to sit at a computer for endless Zoom and Google meetings. There has never been a time in my career when my training in ergonomics has been so important to my patients.
Now, we know a little bit more about the pandemic and a lot of my responsibility is to encourage people to keep up the good work we have been doing, especially in the Corvallis area, to keep each other safe. I’ve had to become an advocate for social distancing and face coverings. I’ve had to have a lot of uncomfortable conversations with people who have differing opinions about what should be done. I’ve had to dispel rumors and debunk myths that people find and believe from Internet memes or social media misinformation.
I’m starting to see some of my first post-COVID patients who are dealing with some of the aftermath of the virus.
What Will the Future Hold?
Honestly, sometimes I feel like this will never end. Logically, I know that things will get better. There are aspects of this Pandemic that will forever change our society though since that has been the case with every pandemic in the past. One thing that we know, based on research of COVID-19 and similar SARS infections is that a common long term effect after the infection is muscle and joint pain. About 27% of patients who survive an acute COVID-19 infection will experience this. A typical medical approach, such as steroids, for these problems have the potential to only make matters worse.
In the future, my role will probably be to offer a safe and effective treatment for these problems. I’m not going to call it an "Alternative" because I believe that for problems of the muscles and joints, that chiropractic care is primary care. Drugs and surgery are the alternative. Active care approaches such as rehabilitation and exercise have been found to be effective in treating these problems. Also, we know that adjustments of joints can help with joint and muscle pain as well and decreasing inflammation. Not a lot is currently known about specifically how chiropractic can help patients after a COVID-19 infection. However, in the post-COVID patients I have treated, the use of massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments have helped to get patients closer to normal (whatever that means these days).
Aches and pains are common after any viral infection, especially when there has been a hospital stay or significant periods of bed rest. Some COVID patients certainly fall into this category. Before you turn to alternative care like drugs and surgeries, it would be wise to engage in primary chiropractic care and rehabilitation first.