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October, 2012

Why You Should Become the Go-To Expert on Ergonomics

By Jerry Porter, DC

A great way to cement your relationship with your patients and to become well known in your community is to be the authority on the ergonomics of everyday living. As few doctors have studied this vital aspect in-depth, your becoming an expert in it will earn you esteem with your patients as well as more business in your community. Being an authority means that people care enough about your opinions to listen and act upon them. You don't need me to tell you the value of this for a successful practice - happy patients, referrals and sales.

"Ergonomics" is a popular buzz-word nowadays, as well as an academic field of study. Who better to teach your patients the right and wrong things about shoes, chairs, mattresses and pillows than YOU? As a structural doctor, your unique viewpoint on how bodies work entitles you to give recommendations in ergonomics. You only need a simple, easily applied approach, which is consistent patient-to-patient so that you can apply the ergonomics of everyday living routinely, with all of your patients.

A New Patient With Back Pain

While taking his history, he told me about his brand new orthotics that he had just spent $500 on. Proudly, he explained to me how they are so great because they had been molded to fit only his feet. They were supposed to take the stress off of his lower back. He had just gotten them the day before so I asked him, "How are they working for you?" He told me, "no change." His back still hurt.

As I normally do, I had him remove his shoes so that he was barefoot, stand and face a full length mirror, and then told him to let his body slump. We both could see where it was bent and leaning forward. He was also unsteady in a wobbly sort of way, which I made sure that he noticed. I had him take in a full breath and had him feel how shallow it was and how much effort it took to breathe. As with most patients, this took several repetitions until he could really feel it. I went on to review other indicators with him until we were both sure of what state his body was in prior to adjusting him.

I proceeded with the adjustment and then, when finished, stood him before the mirror once again. First, and most important to him, his back pain was gone. What I was looking for were changes in his slumping, breathing and the other things that we had checked together initially. These all showed improvement to my satisfaction but, the important thing here was to get him to notice these changes. He realized that he wasn't slumping anymore and his face had better color and looked less stressed. He couldn't really tell the difference in his breathing, even though it was obvious to me. We were both happy with the results, so he put on his shoes to leave. Then he stood up. He was hunched over a bit and his back hurt again!

I had him go back to the mirror with his shoes on this time. He could hardly believe the changes that happened to his body just that fast - and just from putting his shoes back on. He looked nearly as bad as he had when he walked into my office; and he knew it because of all the time I had spent reviewing observations with him in the beginning. The obvious next step was to take out the orthotics, which clearly were not properly measured for him.

He did this and then put his shoes back on and stood in front of the mirror. All of his previous indicators improved on the spot and his back pain disappeared! He realized instantly that these poorly designed orthotics were going to make his body worse, not better.

As he got ready to leave and picked up his orthotics, I asked him what he was going to do with them. He said he didn't know, but they had cost him a whole heck of a lot of money so he didn't want to just throw them away! I told him that I had a use for them that would be better than throwing them away, and so he gave them to me. I now use them as a visual aid to help spur conversations with patients about orthotics and how to tell if they were helping or harming the rest of their body.

Just from this patient's first visit, he knew that I was the authority on what to put in his shoes and, that he was in the right place to get his body fixed.

Thus, I became his ergonomic expert, instantly, simply because of what I had shown him. He has been a patient of mine for more than 12 years now and has referred many people to me for care.

I have made many recommendations to him over the years regarding shoes, chairs, seat cushions, beds and pillows; all of which he has followed to the letter. As usual, I felt much satisfaction from helping this man get out of pain; getting his referrals and the income from product sales were icing on the cake – I like my cake frosted.

I have seen lots of "useful" products offered by professionals and I never tell anyone that something is bad for them. I find it much more effective to show them how to test these things so they can tell for themselves. They almost always "see it" or "feel it" and make the right decisions and choices.

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