Joe Janse and the Non-Surgical Spine Specialist


I am in the process of reading Reed Phillips’ biography on Joseph Janse (Joseph Janse the Apostle of Chiropractic Education ) that Dr. Phillips was kind enough to autograph and present to me over lunch in Montreal.  The book is a very detailed, loving tribute to a great chiropractor, educator and champion of quality in the profession.  I am particularly struck by an excerpt from an article Janse wrote in the ACA Journal of Chiropractic (“Let’s Stop Fighting Windmills”).  The importance of this article is not overshadowed by the fact that it was written in May 1966 (43 years ago):

It is my considered conviction that the “role and scope” of chiropractic practice has been rather completely defined by circumstance, events and the assignments of public need.  Certainly, there is no need for a third medical profession.  The traditional practitioners of medicine and surgery and the now aspiring osteopathic physicians of medicine and surgery commendably fit the bill.  Hence, any attempt in that direction would be an untoward intrusion and a compromise.  However, in the field of specific manipulative therapeutics, especially as it relates to the spine and pelvis – therein resides definite need.

This need is not being fulfilled in either the medical or osteopathic professions and never will be, because they are over involved in the responsibilities of internal medicine and surgery.  This need defines itself eventually in the daily lives of most people, and hence cannot be ignored.  The most common ailments that beset man are the spinosomatic and the spinovisceral syndromes, and because of them, extended discomforts, reduced daily efficacy, and frequent  partial disabilities are incurred.

This, then, is the area in which this profession must function – efficiently and with full prerogative.  It represents a broad field and certainly constitutes a scope of need and practice that defines our profession well; that provides it with containment and direction; that assigns it responsibility and line of demarcation.

Dr. Janse, some 43 years ago, was stating a very similar mission as the West Hartford Group states now.  That chiropractic, in order to thrive and promote a responsible character as well as achieving social, professional, and cultural authority,  should focus its attention on the spine.  The model common to both WHG and Janse is of the chiropractic physician as the spinal health care expert within the health care system — as society’s non-surgical spine specialist.

Reading this comes at a week when I have heard no less than five patients tell me they were being sent for a consultation with the “spine specialist”.  I am a spine specialist, I tell them.  Can you be more specific? Who are you seeing?  An anesthesiologist?  Orthopedist?  Neurosurgeon?  Who is this spine specialist that trumps all others?

As chiropractors, we need not limit ourselves to treating only the spine, but rather need to promote and shift attention to the area where we can have the greatest impact and best manage our resources both financially and in terms of research energy and personnel.  Do what you will that is reasonable and responsible, but for the betterment of the profession and your patients, put your resources toward the promotion of non-surgical spine care.


Brett L. Kinsler, DC is a non-surgical spine specialist in Rochester, NY and a proud member of the West Hartford Group, a chiropractic think tank.

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