When In Doubt Refer It Out

As a sports chiropractor, I am often expected to “fix it” right there on the spot. While that often does happen, the opposite may also hold true. In fact, some of the best treatment I give is none…Wait…What??? That’s right – NONE.

Chiropractic school is a 4-year post college degree – plus more if you want to specialize. You graduate with a doctorate and become board certified. As a primary health care doctor, you have to be watching out for “red flag” situations that require you to refer the patient on to another facility or provider for their expertise. Sometimes that ache or pain is not what you think.

Here are some real examples that we see at Southern Oregon Sports & Spine on a regular basis.

A patient walks in with pain in her forearm after a fall on the ice on an outstretched hand. She had been treating with another provider (name withheld) for one month with no improvement.

I take one look at her deformed forearm and ask if x-rays were done. She tells me no.

I explain that I think her forearm is broken. Sure enough x-rays confirm this. She was referred to an orthopedist who casted her broken arm.

Many patients walk into our office with pain in their calf. Sometimes the calf is warm, swollen and tender to the touch. Those patients are immediately referred out to screen for a blood clot in their leg.

Another patient recently started to complain of blurry vision. I referred her to an optometrist who referred her to an ophthalmologist who referred her to a retina specialist.

The diagnosis is degeneration of her optic nerve due to cancer drugs she took years prior.

Sadly, there does not seem to be a cure for this.

Recently, Dr. Marc was treating a woman that was limping. Although she stated that her hip pain was reduced, Dr. Marc noticed that she continued to limp. He ordered an x-ray of her hip that showed a bone lesion in the femur. She had surgery almost immediately, which averted a potential medical emergency.

Other problems that can mimic musculoskeletal symptoms: Shoulder pain that is a gall bladder problem, body aches that are a thyroid issue, pain in the abdomen and low back that is a dissecting aortic aneurysm (life threatening), pain in the low back with a fever that is a kidney infection, “thunderclap” headache that is a brain aneurysm (life threatening).

The point is, there are a myriad of medical problems that can masquerade as something else, so if a problem is not getting better in a reasonable amount of time it may be time to get a second opinion or change providers.

At Southern Oregon Sports & Spine we take the oath of “Do No Harm” very seriously and strive to get you the right treatment – even if it is not in our office.

Matt Terreri, DC, CCSP is a chiropractor at Southern Oregon Sports & Spine, official chiropractor for the SOU Raiders and a volunteer sports provider for the U.S. Olympics.