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Dynamic Chiropractic >> Weight Loss / Diet

Survey: Chiropractic and Weight Loss

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

Most Americans are overweight or obese. The latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that as of 2008, "34.2% of U.S. adults aged 20 years and over are overweight (BMI between 25 and 30), 33.8% are obese (BMI greater then 30), and 5.7% are extremely obese (BMI greater then 40)."1

For very good reasons, it is probably not surprising then that a recent survey by Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeInsights has revealed that 97% of doctors of chiropractic agreed, or somewhat agreed, that DCs should take a leadership role in educating patients regarding physical activity, proper nutrition and maintaining the proper weight.

That said, nearly half of survey respondents haven't made weight loss a practice focus.2

Dr. Todd Singleton of Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of those who have made it a focus and believes that taking action to help a patient lose excess weight is as a core part of his chiropractic practice. "As a chiropractor, I am better able to serve my patients with back pain by also focusing on their weight challenges. I address the weight challenges through proper nutrition and I've helped thousands of patients overcome illness and pain managing this way."

Keith Snead, D.C. of Nashville, Tenn., agrees and notes that, "if the patient has a lot of belly fat, they more than likely to have metabolic syndrome, which will predispose them to all kinds of inflammatory conditions: heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, adrenal fatigue, arthritis etc." Ann Goldeen of Astoria, Ore., adds, "we have the trust of patients to give them concrete steps to take to improve their health including their weight."

According to the survey, 71% of DCs believe that at least half of their patients are overweight. Sadly, 19% of doctors surveyed believe that at least half of their patients are obese. According to this survey, the preferred form of measurement is body mass index (BMI).

Brandon Cooper, D.C. of New York, New York, sees this challenge as our responsibility. "As practitioners focusing on the whole body, weight challenges fall into our scope because they are so intimately involved in total body health. They also speak volumes about the patient's commitment to their health." Dr. Brinkman of Westminster, Colo., notes that, "90% of chronic health problems, including musculoskeletal issues, are related to weight problems, inability/unwillingness to exercise and/or improper food consumption."

According to the DCs surveyed, 96% believe that being overweight can exacerbate a most musculoskeletal disorders:

Which of the following musculoskeletal disorders do you believe are exacerbated by being overweight?

  • 94% Chronic back pain
  • 93% Degenerative disc disease
  • 89% Degenerative joint disease
  • 89% Lower extremity chronic pain/dysfunction
  • 82% Facet syndrome
  • 81% Herniated discs
  • 71% Sciatica
  • 56% Spinal stenosis
  • 53% Chronic neck pain
  • 9% Other

Source: MPA Media Chiropractic and Obesity Survey. August 2011

"Because there are so many chiropractic conditions related to overall health and weight," notes Mary Rutherford, DC of St. Paul, Minn., "we are unique because we have the combination of education in the weight-related problems, plus nutrition and biochemistry."

The Strategies You Use

There are a number of weight-loss strategies currently being utilized by doctors of chiropractic in their clinics. This list shows the percentage of doctors who utilize them:

What do you offer or recommend patients to help them lose weight?

  • 83% Diet & nutritional counseling
  • 78% Appropriate exercises
  • 34% Enrollment in weight-loss program
  • 18% Exercise equipment
  • 18% Other, please specify*
  • 10% Weight-loss herbs

* Those who entered "other" generally provided more specific information that could have been included in the weight-loss strategies.

Source: MPA Media Chiropractic and Obesity Survey. August 2011

Marcia A. Krueger, DC, of Eden Prairie, Minn., has made weight loss a part of her practice. "Because obesity is a complex disease, chiropractors can facilitate patients' decision to become healthier by adjusting them as their center of gravity changes. We can communicate about the body in terms of nutrition, physiology, chemistry, biology, etc., with a focus on permanent health changes, not quick fixes. Listening to the patient is key. The psychological piece of the puzzle is the biggest hurdle. I find myself being a cheerleader to my patients. I focus on one change per visit, review the outcomes and adapt as needed. It is about empowering my patients."

But not every doctor agrees. Even in our current obesity epidemic, only 45% of DCs are currently focused on weight loss for their patients, with another 19% considering adding a weight loss focus to their practice. Uma Mulnick, DC, DABCI, FIAMA of McCall, Idaho, believes all DCs should be involved in weight loss. "We are physicians for HEALTH! Health will not be achieved in the overweight. We must distinguish what the goals of the patient are, educate them appropriately and offer that which will help them achieve their goals."

George Simmons DC, APC of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a similar viewpoint. "DCs are the primary health interface for many patients and a patient seeing a DC will likely see the patient more than any other doctor. This offers the opportunity to coach the patient in weight loss. DCs have the best training in diet and nutrition intervention and may best reinforce healthy eating habits, exercise, address nutrition deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and other behaviors leading to success."

Chris Grier, DC of Kalona, Iowa, sums it up this way, "DCs should be the health leader in their communities. The weight problem is an epidemic and if we truly want our practice members to be healthier, we need to help them solve their weight challenges."


  1. Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, Trends 1960–1962 Through 2007–2008.
  2. Chiropractic and Obesity Survey. August 2011.

Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.


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