Based on philosophy and scope-of-treatment, chiropractors have historically characterized themselves as either “straights” (alternatively, “straight chiropractors”) or “mixers”. This distinction is related to how strictly and exclusively a practitioner follows the teachings of chiropractic’s founders, D. D. Palmer and his son B. J. Palmer.
A straight chiropractor believes in Palmer’s philosophy that vertebral subluxations are at the root of all illness. Palmer took a vitalistic and metaphysical approach to treatment, believing that subluxations interfere with the body’s “innate intelligence”, which makes us vulnerable to illness. He promoted a hands-only approach to correcting subluxations and did not diagnose or treat disease. Palmer rejected the systematic diagnosis of disease that uses the deductive reasoning of the scientific method. Straight chiropractors consider the medical diagnosis of disease to be unnecessary because they view these conditions as secondary effects of vertebral subluxations. In essence, they believe that disease symptoms will disappear once the underlying subluxations have been corrected properly. Most straight chiropractors do not wish to have any association with mainstream health care. The number of straight chiropractors is estimated at only about 15 percent of doctors of chiropractic.
A chiropractic mixer takes a broader approach to chiropractic and may incorporate other therapies into his or her practice, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, physical therapy, nutritional supplements, ice packs, biofeedback and herbal remedies. As the name implies, mixers will often combine a variety of diagnostic and treatment methods to care for their patients. It would not be unusual, for instance, for a mixer to use x-rays to get an accurate view of your vertebrae, perform a traditional adjustment, treat you with K-laser therapy, then suggest herbal supplements you can take and prescribe specific exercises for you to do at home to help speed healing.
Mixers are also generally more comfortable with using modern diagnostics and with the concepts of evidence-based medicine. This means, in part, that they use imaging, tests and the patient’s description of their symptoms to help decide on a course of treatment. A straight chiropractor, on the other hand, takes the approach that just finding and correcting all spinal subluxations will correct any imbalances and return the patient to health.
In addition to the differences mentioned above, mixers are more likely than straights to use specially-designed machines in their practice, such mechanical adjustment tools and lasers to more precisely treat problem areas. They typically view their discipline as a type of “complementary and alternative medicine” and see themselves as an established part of the modern health care landscape. Most chiropractors today consider themselves mixers.
Straight chiropractors and mixers also share some key characteristics:
- The correction of spinal misalignment is at the heart of their practice.
- They value prevention and healthy lifestyle habits.
- They strongly prefer natural therapies over drugs and surgery.
It’s important to remember that each chiropractor—whether straight or mixer—will have his or her own unique approach to working with patients based on philosophy, education and experience. If you are looking for a chiropractor for yourself or for your family, it’s a good idea to visit clinics’ websites and to interview a few chiropractors about their approaches to treatment as well as the specific therapies they incorporate into their practices. Choosing a chiropractor is a very personal decision, and doing some research will help you to understand the range of options you have and to learn more about which ones might be right for you and your family.