Interview with a Chiropractor – Dr. Jeff McIntyre

Author:  Belinda Ongaro

Institution:  University of Alberta

Dr. Jeff McIntyre initially completed a Bachelor of Education at the University of Alberta. At the turn of the century, however, Dr. McIntyre began pursuing a new passion. He attained his Doctor of Chiropractic at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto and later received a certificate in Graston technique at CMCC and a certificate in Medical Acupuncture at McMaster University. He now applies his diverse skills to developing personalized chiropractic treatment programs for his patients at Park Place Chiropractic in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

JYI: On behalf of JYI, I would like to extend a thank you to Dr. Jeff McIntyre from Park Place Chiropractic for taking the time to meet with me today. So to start off, when did you decide that you wanted to become a chiropractor, and why did you choose to pursue that as an occupation?

Jeff: I started to think I wanted to become a chiropractor in the fall of the year 2000. I was a teacher at the time. I liked my job, but I didn’t love it. So I started to educate myself as to what other careers I could have. I started to get to know a few chiropractors at the golf course that I was member at. I started to play golf with them and ask them questions and then I figured out this might be something I’d like to do, so I shadowed them. I decided it was for me, so I beefed up my schooling, decided to go through the interview process, got accepted into school, and in the fall of 2001, I was in Toronto, Ontario going to school.


JYI: Nice, and what academic pathway did you pursue exactly?

Jeff: In high school, I had what at the time was called matriculation, so I had all my thirty* courses [grade 12 equivalent]. But I had various exposures to a lot of classes, so I wasn’t directed into only one sort of career.
And then the school I chose allowed me to be much more flexible because I didn’t need to have a lot of science background. And because I didn’t have a lot of science background, by the time I got to school in Toronto, it was very difficult the first two years; I had a lot of catching up to do.


JYI: Right, absolutely. When you were learning about the profession, in your studies, how did what you predicted about the career differ from how it actually is?

Jeff: How hard my job is, especially physically as well as mentally. You know, when you’re in school and they’re teaching you all the science it seems pretty simple, but when you start putting people’s emotional and financial well-being together, there’s a lot of pieces to that puzzle that you’re trying to fit together. When it might be a physical symptom they have, but then you start to add the psychological and the emotional and their childhood upbringing and their family and you put it all together, it can be really difficult to get someone better. And then on top of that it’s so physical, so I need to keep up my own physical well-being and health.


JYI: Yes, there are a lot of dimensions to it obviously. With regards to that then, aside from just the knowledge-based aspects of chiropractic, what are the key skills and qualities that you think are essential for a chiropractor to possess?

Jeff: Well definitely being able to interview a patient. I have to have a physical exam, and then there’s a history. I need to be a very good history taker, so I have to know what questions to ask somebody in order for them to tell me what the problem is. If I don’t ever get down to what the right question to ask is, it’s going to be hard for me to find the problem. And then on top of that, once I figure out what I think is the problem from the history I need to figure out so that my findings all match up with the history. And then after that I need to come up with a treatment plan. What benefits a patient so they can get back to health and wellness. And I’ve got to tell them the right things they have to do in order to make me look good so that I get them better. So there’s lots of different dynamics there.


JYI: Yeah, you can’t just approach it all the same way; everyone is a specific case.

Jeff: And you know, sometimes a really good point is that not everything is a cookbook. Everything is constantly changing.


JYI: For sure. So if you were to give some advice to students who are studying chiropractic, what would that be?

Jeff: My advice would be to keep a really open mind. There are many different disciplines in my profession. Some of it is not looked at in a very positive light but other disciplines are, so please try to keep an open mind and decide what will work best for you and for the patients you look after. And work hard of course – that would be number two.


JYI: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job? 

Jeff: Patient management is the most challenging. Trying to get people better is always priority number one, but there is also booking patients and understanding where they are coming from. If I can understand someone’s background and where they are coming from, then I can help them more. Not everyone is slotted in in a certain way.


JYI: Absolutely! On the flipside then, what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Jeff: Getting someone to ask questions to me about how I am. There is that typical doctor-patient interaction, of course, but some patients are more special than others. When you get to meet people, because you’re looking after their wife, kids, mom or dad, and you’re making a difference for them, it pushes the relationship to another level. Eventually your camaraderie is so wonderful that you can talk about anything or they’ll invite you over to their home! Things like that! Those are very special.


JYI: Yeah, there’s that closeness! Have their been any really particularly interesting cases that you’ve dealt with where you have been really successful or had an interesting turn of events as a result of your treatments?

Jeff: I’ve had numerous cases that were very special. Ones that come to mind are the elderly, or geriatric population. Or even the really young—the babies. Where you can make such a humongous difference so quickly that the parents or their family can hardly believe that they are the same person.


JYI: Wow! So what would a typical day of work look like?

Jeff: I work longer hours, so I have to be prepared physically, not being overtired – being mentally ready to go. I come into work and I literally start treating people right away. No day is the same though, so as you go through your schedule there’s always little things, like even today with this interview. There are constant little tiny changes that you have to make; otherwise it will make you go crazy. But with all these little changes you make, there’s also a big responsibility that after you see every single person you are going to try your best to help them feel better. Get them ahead.


JYI: There’s a lot of accountability.

Jeff: There’s a LOT of accountability, that’s a wonderful word. And then as the day goes on, you know, you start to have fun with people, and that is what I try to make it everyday – fun – because then it doesn’t seem so much like work.


JYI: Absolutely! So just a couple questions specifically regarding treatment; for those who are unfamiliar with the differences, how does chiropractic vary from just massage or physiotherapy?

Jeff: As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I’m responsible for musculoskeletal diagnosis. So as a chiropractor, I am using the physical assessment, motion palpation, joint mechanics – those kinds of things to assess and alleviate people’s pain. So a physiotherapist is maybe more in line with exercises, and massage is more along the lines of soft tissue. A Chiropractor, the way I practice, is in charge of joints, muscles, and the soft tissue, and the rehabilitative exercises. So I kind of think that I’m everything that someone could want because I have that knowledge base.


JYI: Yeah, for sure, and how all the pieces interact and not just focusing on one of the details.

Jeff: My practice is based on joint manipulation, so as a chiropractor I am trained to be the best at adjusting or manipulating joints. So that would be my primary tool to get people better.


JYI: Sounds good. What benefits do you personally think chiropractic treatment has to offer and how has it impacted the lives of patients?

Jeff: Well, first and foremost, my profession allows people to talk about their issues when they’re physical but also mental. The special thing about my profession is that I actually get to physically examine and assess people. So there’s quite a difference between my profession and, say, that of a medical doctor because I’m actually physically touching people, and that physicality is for them to get better through my adjustment and through my soft tissue work. And when that happens, it allows the patient not only to get better physically but mentally as well. 
It impacts their lives because I’m a sounding board; they can communicate and talk to me. Maybe they can’t communicate and talk to their spouse or their children so it allows them to get rid of those burdens. They can get on with their day, and they know that somebody is actually listening to them as opposed to rushing them in and out of the office. Our lifestyle today is so hectic. People can come in here; they know they’re safe. We’re providing a safe environment, I’m helping alleviate their symptoms, whatever pain they’re in, but I’m also giving them a bit of a mental break as well. And as we all know, the mind is a humongous asset to physical as well as mental healing, so if you can keep people calmer and help them that way, then the healing is much easier to have happen.


JYI: Yeah, that’s great, I didn’t really realize it tied in with the mental side of things as well as the physical.

Jeff: For sure!


JYI: You had mentioned that there are always changes and that there is also a lot of variation across the disciplines. From your experience, how has chiropractic evolved?

Jeff: That is hard to say, because that’s where the different disciplines of chiropractic come in. In certain ways chiropractic has evolved immensely, and in some ways it hasn’t. I would say people that have been trained recently are much more open minded to various principles, or what we call “dogma.” Older generational chiropractors are very rigid, in terms of the philosophy and dogma they preach. People who are more recently educated are more open to lots of different ways to get people better. So, with that in mind, I espouse to be someone that is not just adjusting people and sending them out the door, I am trying to improve their life by giving them rehabilitative exercises, providing ways that they can sleep better, referring people where it’s appropriate. I try to get them involved in their nutrition, health, and wellness, because those are such important aspects to being an overall healthy person.


JYI: And are there any more recent treatment methods that you employ?

Jeff: There are. I practice certain soft-tissue techniques that allow scar tissue to heal more efficiently or faster, instead of doing just manipulation or adjustments. I’ve also been trained in acupuncture and I see the benefit in using acupuncture as a modality as well. Being my age, I understand that nutrition is very important and that is also a big asset in people’s health in terms of alleviating some of their pain. Nowadays, people do not eat very well, so that’s a big set back in terms of their own health and wellness.


JYI: For sure. And a lot of patients are no doubt uncomfortable with the idea of chiropractic treatments due to some negative stigma. If you had to say something to help diminish that, what would that be?

Jeff: You know, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. There is a lot, at least there used to be, a lot of negative perceptions or stereotypes about what chiropractors are. The wonderful thing about my profession now is that there are so many good chiropractors doing wonderful things. There is a lot more good happening in my profession than bad. The nicest thing about the good work is that once a patient that’s had a really good experience at a chiropractic clinic begins to refer other people to those chiropractors, it results in better chiropractors being rewarded more while less reliable chiropractors are pushed to the fringe more. A proper chiropractic is much more mainstream and acceptable, and as we do better work, the medical community becomes much more comfortable with the things we do and what we espouse to be.


JYI: It seems like we’re becoming a lot more open minded to it. That’s really great!

Jeff: That is exactly right.


JYI: We very much appreciate your time. Thank you!

Jeff: You’re welcome!