We recently corresponded with Dr. Steven W. Shaw, M.S. D.C., F.A.C.O. founder of Shaw Chiropractic Group, with five locations throughout Connecticut. Dr. Shaw is Board Certified by the American Board of Chiropractic Orthopedists and treats seriously injured people as well as consults with personal injury attorneys regarding proper treatment programs. One of Dr. Shaw’s specialties is the science and treatment of biomechanical trauma.
Please tell us a little about your professional background.
I graduated chiropractic college in October 1984 and opened my first practice in my hometown in Orangeburg, NY in December 1984. Over the next 6 years, I opened two additional practices in Haverstraw, NY, and Englewood, NJ. In 1988 I opened a mobile electrodiagnostic and thermography laboratory servicing physicians from Delaware to Maine and sold my practices. I transitioned that business to my wife and opened my first Connecticut chiropractic practice in New Britain in 1990. Since then, I have opened 17 chiropractic, medical and physical therapy practices throughout the state. I sold many of the practices to my associates and now maintain 5 chiropractic, 2 medical, and 3 physical therapy offices, mostly in Hartford County.
In addition to my doctorate in chiropractic, I have a master’s degree in biomechanical trauma through Lynn University. I also have a post-doctoral degree as a chiropractic orthopedist through National Chiropractic College and I am a Fellow of the Academy of Chiropractic Orthopedists (FACO) and a Diplomate through the American Board of Chiropractic Orthopedics (DABCO). I am certified in impairment rating, hold a certificate in collision analysis for medical physicians through Texas A&M, and have completed thousands of hours of post-graduate education as it relates to trauma and related sciences, too many to mention.
What is chiropractic medicine?
I’ll give you my definition although if you ask 100 chiropractors, I suspect you will get 101 different answers. This is because there are many ways to practice chiropractic.
From my perspective, chiropractic is the branch of the healing arts that recognizes the relationship between the structure and function of the body.
We acknowledge the ability of the body to heal itself and maintain balance (homeostasis) in the absence of interference and we seek to remove those interferences when they exist. When applied to my practice emphasis in treating traumatically injured patients, that means restoring the biomechanical integrity of the joints of the body by making sure that the connective tissue structures of the body (bones, ligaments tendons, muscles, nerves, fascia, etc.) work in balance the way they were intended. We do this primarily with manipulation of these tissues with the support of exercise, nutrition, and a variety of physical therapy modalities and techniques. Our goal is to facilitate the repair of the traumatically damaged tissues so that the body can optimally heal. The specialty of chiropractic emphasizes non-pharmacological and non-surgical approaches. That does not mean that our patients do not require or receive medical and surgical management. Rather, it means that chiropractors coordinate care as a team with other health care disciplines so that the patients receive the care they need from the providers best able to provide that care. For most patients, chiropractors serve as the triage providers by diagnosing the injuries, ordering the proper tests, and then providing the appropriate care and making referrals to other providers to provide care related to their medical specialty.
What types of treatments do you offer to people who have been injured as a result of an accident?
The most valuable service we offer is an accurate diagnosis followed by the development of a coordinated treatment plan with a specialist team. However, specifically as it relates to types of treatments we offer in our chiropractic facilities, there are many. Of course, they include various forms of manipulation by hand or instrumented methods which are unique to chiropractic physicians. Modalities available include the more commonly used therapies such as electrical, thermal, and sound modalities like most chiropractors and physical therapists may offer. Some of the more unique treatments we offer include non-surgical spine decompression, Class III and Class IV Laser therapy, acupuncture, and Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT). All of these are important and have their place during the acute and subacute phases of healing in the first 1-3 months of rehabilitation. However, they are replaced as soon as possible with rehabilitative exercises and eventually a transition to an independent home care program with periodic re-evaluations for modification and the determination of maximum medical improvement.
In what capacity do you work with personal injury attorneys? What is a typical engagement?
I recognized early in my career that my specialty training as a chiropractic orthopedist was best utilized by treating traumatically injured patients. Initially, my skill set organically attracted relationships with attorneys who were seeking a physician with the clinical competency to help their clients recover but also the capacity to thoroughly document their injuries. As important, I had the communication skills and willingness to present my opinions in the form of expert testimony. My practices have met those needs over the past three-plus decades and I’m proud to have developed a favorable reputation. We now receive referrals from patients and attorneys from all over the State.
At this point, nearly all our patients have attorney representation.
I have trained all my associate physicians in the proper way to coordinate the patient’s health care so that the management and documentation are appropriate and complete. Patients receive the care they need, and attorneys receive the backend support they need in an ethical and cost-effective manner. Specific accommodations we have implemented is a centralized billing office for a single portal of contact, transportation for patients without vehicles, accepting attorney letters of protection, developing networks of medical and allied professionals who have a similar management philosophy, notes, and reports that are provided rapidly upon demand, multilingual staff and physicians, electronic medical records and voice recognition technologies just to name a few.
Most attorneys look to my practices to serve as the “quarterback” and to call the “play”. What that means is that once we have the “ball”, we run with it and provide the appropriate care. They want us to do the best we can to bring the patient to 100% recovery, but if the patient cannot fully recover, they know that we will provide the documentation they need to make the patient whole again using the tools they have available. The doctor/attorney relationship is one of close communication but not care coordination. In our offices, the patients get the care they need as our primary concern and attorneys get the resulting documentation. Most attorneys appreciate that level of professionalism and separation and choose to use our services. Those looking for a more “transactional” relationship are best served looking elsewhere for providers willing to cross those red lines.
What advice would you give to an injured person on how they can assist in their own recovery?
Every injury is unique even when they have many commonalities. The doctor you choose should be experienced in managing injured patients daily. The best advice I can give a patient is to look for a doctor who specializes in injury management. If the doctor promotes himself as a family chiropractor, a pediatric specialist, a wellness practitioner, a “straight” chiropractor, a general practitioner, a functional medicine specialist, etcetera, they are probably not prepared to provide the needed services. That’s not to say they are not good doctors, but they’re not ideal. On the other end of the spectrum are those doctors that see every injured patient as an opportunity to bill in a manner that I would consider opportunistic and abusive. To find the right injury management doctor, I find it is best to ask their attorney who they have had a good experience with in prior cases. The attorney will not recommend someone that is ill-equipped to provide the services and they also won’t recommend a doctor that is a known opportunist. Some lawyers have tried to distance themselves from making direct referrals to avoid an appearance of impropriety or conflict. However, most have balanced that concern with the alternative of their clients receiving improper care or documentation and decided that it is best for their client to treat with an experienced Doctor of Chiropractic that has a good reputation.
What is it about being a chiropractor that gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Now that is an easy question to answer. All doctors go into their profession to become healers. Regardless of their specialty, the goal is to help their patients return to optimal health and stay there. I chose chiropractic due to a personal experience and the impact it had on my life. In my early days in practice, I treated a population that was underserved and often uninsured. Receiving payment in the form of handicraft or some homemade food was more gratifying emotionally than receiving a check. I continue to treat my patients the same as then, regardless of their ability to pay. Nothing makes practicing more gratifying than when a patient recognizes our efforts and acknowledges them with a grateful smile. Of course, I will still take the handicrafts and homemade food when offered but share it with my staff that usually earned that honor as much, if not more, than me.
Pro Tip: Personal injury cases that involve significant injuries sometimes require the services of a chiropractor and an injury attorney who can help in a variety of accident cases. Should you have any questions about your Connecticut accident case, please contact us.