Finding an Alternative

July 19, 2010 by
Filed under: Spinewave Bulletin 

by Alexis Fletcher, Midwife, Spinewave client.

I’ve always said that what’s “alternative” depends on your own priority list. With everything I’ve come to understand about health, function and what different health services provide, medical is definitely the “alternative” because I have yet to meet a client who puts their hand up for drugs and surgery as a first choice when looking to resolve a problem.

This is a great article by Alexis Fletcher, a Spinewave client, on finding an alternative…


During my last clinical block I have attended more antenatal (before birth) appointments than my fingers and toes can account for. Recently, I have been struck by the number of women newly arriving on my midwife’s doorstep having not found the right midwife for them. I pondered for a while what finding the right professional means in terms of the profession itself. For these women they could have disregarded midwifery care altogether. But because midwifery care in New Zealand straddles the fence between medicalisation and alternative, the socially accepted medical model enables women to seek another when the first did not work out. Much like finding a new G.P if your previous experience was unfavourable. Why don’t others do the same when seeking physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, or any other “alternative” health care provider?

Firstly, alternative is defined as pertaining to unconventional choices and conventional is conforming with accepted standards; therefore alternative is pertaining to something not considered socially acceptable. Secondly, one must understand why other health care providers are considered an unconventional choice and what/who decided that the medical model was the accepted standard in the first place? Whilst I would love to say “x” day was when society deemed medicine as the forefront of health care/promotion, societal changes and influences are not so definitively clear cut. What I can say is that society’s medicalisation justification has seen a shift in the way people rationalise their own health and how professions are categorised. The medical model has such an influential hold over health care that finding someone medical didn’t work the first time was not because medicine doesn’t work, it’s because the professional wasn’t right for the person involved. Yet on the other side of that equation, people accredit one session or program from an alternative provider not working… to that profession not working. And this is purely down to the mindset people receive from day one.

The end of midwifery care, around six weeks postpartum (post birth), gives women three options for continued health care of their infant; a Wellchild Provider (usually Plunket), their G.P, or no further health care. We facilitate the transition from a medical-alternative balanced profession into a purely medical one. Why are these the only two health providers offered? Simply, because society still views ANYTHING outside of the medical model as an “alternative”. If midwifery was not taught in the manner it is and was not backed by the government as facilitators of physiological birth then we would be considered an entirely “alternative” profession. Given that we have the fence covered we should be able to facilitate societal change. I can safely say my next statement has come after profound awakening to the study, art, craft and science of Chiropractic – an alternative profession that should be as socially accepted as a medical-alternative balanced profession and therefore another option for primary health care.

Initially, I understood Chiropractic/chiropractors to be a specialized profession in bone manipulation and cracking, realigning spines after injury. How naïve and misinformed was I? A lack of knowledge meant these initial thoughts and perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst I have come to understand that some focus largely on musculoskeletal issues, others have an unprecedented grasp on physiological full body functioning through correct nervous system operation which branches into health and wellness promotion. This is not to say one is incorrect, it’s more to say both are branches of the chiropractic umbrella, in the same way obstetrics is a branch of medicine.

Chiropractors with a sound understanding of physiological full body functioning through correct nervous system operation have an appreciation that the body knows how to be, that an imbalance in one of life’s various components affects the body in a multitude of ways. They understand that correct nervous system functioning from the start has a profound effect on growth and development. By allowing the nervous system to function at 100% the body will know how to deal with any stresses. But in order to adjust to this thinking people need to be armed with correct knowledge – the body cannot be in a state of protection and growth at the same time (Lipton, 2001). Whilst pharmaceuticals will fix the immediate symptoms, adjusting the nervous system back into ultimate functioning will allow balanced physiological healing. Plus (yes, there’s a plus), it prevents further chemical imbalances by the addition of pharmaceuticals. If the system is already upset, expressed through an ailment, adding a volatile chemical mix to the party is likely to exacerbate the problem in otherwise healthy individuals.

Should these and other practitioners (such as nutritionists) not be offered as health care options to new mothers leaving midwifery care? I believe they should. Primary health care providers are those who promote health and wellness through prevention. Whilst G.P’s are primary health care providers their philosophy promotes treating documented findings usually with the addition of drugs. What the profession fails to see is how the addition of one drug resolves the initial problem but creates a second, usually solved with the addition of a second drug. If the body is primed to function at correct full capacity and people are armed with balanced wellness knowledge then is this not more beneficial to wellness promotion than treating after a functional collapse.

When society understands that ‘alternative’ professions should have an equally acceptable social standing as the medical profession, change will happen, because finding the right professional begins with acceptance of alternative professions as conventional. After all, midwifery prides itself on the promotion of physiological processes and we are seen equally as accepted as the medical profession, so why can’t other professions?

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