Bridging the Gap Between Medical and Chiropractic Care

In the healthcare landscape of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, the late 1980s presented a stark division between medical physicians and chiropractors. This divide was emblematic of broader national sentiments, where collaboration between these two fields was virtually non-existent. The medical community often viewed chiropractic care with skepticism, and chiropractors struggled to gain legitimacy within the medical establishment. Fast forward to the present day, and the landscape has dramatically shifted, demonstrating that the free exchange of information and open dialogue can bridge even the widest gaps.

The Historical Context of Medical-Chiropractic Relations

The healthcare environment of the 1980s was characterized by rigid boundaries. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs) were in their infancy, and the integration of different healthcare practices was minimal. Chiropractic care, despite its popularity among patients for addressing musculoskeletal issues, was often dismissed by the medical community. This dismissal was not based on robust scientific debate but rather on longstanding biases and a lack of mutual understanding.

A landmark study by Carey et al. (1995) underscored the effectiveness of chiropractic care in treating low back pain, a common condition managed by both chiropractors and medical doctors. Despite such evidence, many medical professionals remained unaware of or chose to ignore the benefits of chiropractic interventions. This divide was further exacerbated by professional turf wars and a lack of interdisciplinary communication.

Breaking Down Barriers Through Dialogue

In 1996, a pivotal moment occurred when BroMenn Healthcare sponsored a symposium on headaches. This event marked the beginning of a new era of dialogue between chiropractors and medical physicians. Despite the initial reluctance from the medical community, persistent efforts by chiropractors to engage in these discussions began to bear fruit.

During the symposium, Dr. Steve Troyanovich and his colleagues confronted the biases head-on by presenting evidence from medical literature that supported the efficacy and safety of chiropractic care for headaches. This direct confrontation of misinformation with well-substantiated evidence was crucial in changing perceptions. Studies, such as those by Bronfort et al. (2001), highlighted that spinal manipulation was not only effective but also safer than many pharmaceutical interventions for certain conditions, providing a compelling argument for its inclusion in comprehensive patient care.

The Central Illinois Neuroscience Foundation (CINF)

The establishment of the Central Illinois Neuroscience Foundation (CINF) in 1997 marked a significant step towards interdisciplinary cooperation. The foundation, initiated by leading neurologists and neurosurgeons in Bloomington-Normal, aimed to advance research and education in neurosciences. By including chiropractors in their educational initiatives, CINF fostered a collaborative environment that emphasized mutual respect and shared knowledge.

In July 1997, chiropractors Drs. Monica Schnack, Richard Lohr, and Steve Troyanovich presented to the CINF membership, detailing the chiropractic approach to diagnosing and treating spinal issues. This presentation, grounded in scientific evidence, highlighted the similarities between chiropractic and medical practices in patient care, thus debunking myths and fostering mutual respect.

Transformative Outcomes

The ongoing collaboration between CINF and local chiropractors led to tangible improvements in patient care. Neurosurgeons like Dr. Ann Stroink and Dr. Keith Kattner began to appreciate the benefits of chiropractic care, leading to more integrated patient management strategies. For instance, chiropractors were eventually able to order advanced imaging studies directly, streamlining the diagnostic process and enhancing patient outcomes.

This cooperation extended to joint research projects and shared educational initiatives, further breaking down professional silos. By 1998, Dr. Troyanovich had become an official member of CINF, reflecting the deepening integration of chiropractic perspectives into mainstream medical discussions.

The Broader Implications

The Bloomington-Normal experience serves as a microcosm of what can be achieved through open dialogue and collaboration in healthcare. Studies have shown that integrated care models, where different healthcare professionals work together, lead to better patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction (Bodenheimer & Sinsky, 2014). The success of CINF in fostering interdisciplinary cooperation underscores the importance of mutual respect and the free exchange of ideas.

Moreover, the integration of chiropractic care into mainstream medical practice can help alleviate the burden on the healthcare system by providing effective, non-pharmaceutical interventions for musculoskeletal issues. This is particularly relevant in the context of the opioid crisis, where non-drug pain management strategies are urgently needed (Deyo et al., 2015).


The transformation of the healthcare landscape in Bloomington-Normal from a place of professional rivalry to one of mutual respect and cooperation is a testament to the power of dialogue and evidence-based practice. The story of Dr. Troyanovich and his colleagues illustrates that when reasonable people are equally informed, they can overcome deep-seated biases and work together for the betterment of patient care. This lesson is not only relevant for chiropractors and medical doctors but for all healthcare professionals striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for their patients.


Bodenheimer, T., & Sinsky, C. (2014). From Triple to Quadruple Aim: Care of the Patient Requires Care of the Provider. Annals of Family Medicine, 12(6), 573-576. doi:10.1370/afm.1713

Bronfort, G., Assendelft, W. J., Evans, R., Haas, M., & Bouter, L. (2001). Efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic headache: a systematic review. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 24(7), 457-466. doi:10.1067/mmt.2001.118208

Carey, T. S., Garrett, J., Jackman, A., McLaughlin, C., Fryer, J., & Smucker, D. R. (1995). The outcomes and costs of care for acute low back pain among patients seen by primary care practitioners, chiropractors, and orthopedic surgeons. New England Journal of Medicine, 333(14), 913-917. doi:10.1056/NEJM199510053331406

Deyo, R. A., Von Korff, M., & Duhrkoop, D. (2015). Opioids for low back pain. BMJ, 350, g6380. doi:10.1136/bmj.g6380

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