Interview With A Chiropractor
I’ve always been curious about how chiropractic care actually works – I know I feel good when I’m seeing a Chiropractor on a regular basis but what are they actually doing when they adjust our spines, or ask us to do seemingly obscure things like hold our pinky finger and thumb together and try not to let them seperate? What are they seeing, feeling, sensing in our bodies that we are not privy to? How is it that just a few adjustments to our spines can change our mood, or outlook or overall wellbeing?
I first met Dr Lauren Steinfort a few years back through a mutual friend. We were both pregnant at the time. I was feeling exhausted, and to be honest, quite terrified. (Not of Lauren – she is lovely 😉 ). I was feeling terrified of the whole pregnancy thing, and birthing thing, and how much I knew the arrival of our daughter was going to change everything …and how much my partner and I really weren’t ready for that change. (More on that in another article)
She helped me through a pretty difficult time in my life through her chiropractic adjustments, and her friendship.
I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to chat with Dr Lauren about all thing Chiropractic.
In our interview we chat about:
- How chiropractic adjustments actually work
- How chiropractors technically don’t ‘fix or cure’ anything
- How it differs from Osteopathy
- When someone should see a chiropractor
- How many session you might need to feel a difference
- What a maintenance period could look like
- The negative press Chiropractors can sometimes get, and why
- What we can all start doing today to feel better
- Why it’s important to look after your spine and nervous system from as early as possible
Monique: How did you start your day today?
Dr Lauren: My morning routine has recently changed after learning the importance of watching the sunrise each morning. I rise when the first light streams through the windows and mediate for up to an hour before starting my day. Usually by the end of my meditation Hannah (my 2 year old) comes running out of bed and gives me a big cuddle. We then cook porridge for breakfast and eat together before I head off to work. Hannah will often shout to me as I leave the door “Focus Mama, focus!!
Monique: So what exactly does a Chiropractor do?
Dr Lauren: We help our client’s brain and body function at their absolute best. The brain sends messages through the spine via our central nerve centers to every single cell in our body (and they send messages back). If these messages get through at 100%, you and your body function optimally. However, if there are blockages in the spine, skull or pelvis, these messages are not received completely and the body will begin to change its function and compensate. Think of it as a phone call with bad reception or only receiving half of a text message.
Over time these can cause noticeable problems to how one functions. My job as a chiropractor is to facilitate movement of these blocked areas so the brain and body can communicate at 100%,therefore enabling the internal intelligence of the body heal to the individual.
Monique: Most people might not think of treating an ear infection or providing relief for digestive issues when they think of spinal adjustments, but I understand that these are things Chiropractors can potentially help with. Can you talk about this?
Dr Lauren: Our philosophy tells us that we do not “cure or fix” anything, rather we restore the motion of vertebrae/joints that are restricted in motion. By doing this we directly impact the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Because the central nervous system is responsible for co-ordinating the intelligence within the body, if the bony structures are functioning well, the central nervous system can also function well, thus the intelligence within the body can return the body to a “normal state” (Humans are designed to be healthy therefore we view “healthy” as “normal.”)
“We all have one spine and one nervous system, we live our lives through our nervous system, in fact we are our nervous system, so let’s look after it from day one.”
Monique: How many years do you need to study to become a chiropractor, and do you need to do continual training?
Dr Lauren: It varies from country to country. In Australia, where I studied, the university course is 5 years. The first three are an undergraduate program (Bachelor of Applied Science (Complementary Medicine (Chiropractic)), the later two are a postgraduate Master’s program (Master’s of Clinical Chiropractic).
Further, registration boards across the globe require that every chiropractor must complete further education each year. Most chiropractors that I know are very passionate about their profession, and study above and beyond of what is required.
Monique: How does it differ from Osteopathy?
Dr Lauren: There are a lot of similarities between the two professions, but when it comes down to it,the major difference is to do with philosophy.
The philosophy of chiropractic recognizes that the intelligence of the body is co-ordinated and regulated by the nervous system. By applying a quick “thrust” to release nerve impingement from the vertebrae, this allows the intelligence of the body to restore optimal function of the person.
Osteopathy searches for restrictions in the bones, muscles, bones, organs as well as the cranio-sacral systems. If restrictions are found, they utilize various mobilization techniques to mobilise the area and help the body heal.
While most of my clients stay in my care for regular ‘check ups,’ osteopathy generally is an allopathic holistic profession.
Monique: When would (/should) someone consider seeing a Chiropractor?
Dr Lauren: It is important for everyone, from every walk and stage of life to see a chiropractor on a regular basis, regardless of symptomatology, especially as our world continues to add a greater stress load for us to adapt to. We all require a well functioning nervous system to be as healthy and vital as possible.
As a society we are taught that from a young age we should care for the health and structure of our teeth, and we should visit a dentist regularly throughout our lives. Our spine, pelvis and cranium protect our nervous system, the main communication channel in our body. It is vital that we ensure optimum functioning of these systems throughout our lives. We only have one nervous system; it is so important that we care for it!
Monique: Do Chiropractors tend to specialise in certain areas? How would someone go about finding a Chiropractor in their area with the specialisations they are looking for?
Dr Lauren: Yes, many chiropractors tend to gravitate towards specialised areas. For example, some Chiropractors thrive in a paediatric and pregnancy based practice, others in a deeper neurological type practice where they see people who have had strokes, or have migraines, or epilepsy or other unusual neurological symptoms. There are Chiropractors who only want to see sports people, other Chiropractors who specialise in the emotional side of our physiology and how that affects our function, to name just a few areas of specialization.
The best method to find someone that specialises in what you are after is to call your local practice and ask if they can help you. If they can’t, ask them to refer you to someone that can. Chiropractic is a small world, and we generally know where to find the type of chiropractic care that you’re after.
Monique: Is there a number of appointments it usually takes for clients to feel better or see results? Or is it completely personal?
Dr Lauren: After every adjustment (session) I am looking for significant change in function of my pre-and post checks. That can be an increase in muscle strength/power, and improvement in pupil constriction/dilation, smoother eye tracking, increase range of motion/flexibility, equal leg length, a change in muscle tone etc. As a result of these changes I know that the person is beginning to heal themselves. What someone feels is dependent on the person, their history, their relationship with their body and also the chronicity of the complaint.
Monique: What would a maintenance period (of Chiropractic care) look like?
Dr Lauren: The word “maintenance” is an interesting one. Do we “maintain” anything in the body or does the body constantly either evolve or digress. Ideally we want to evolve!!
Most chiropractors will prefer to have themselves’ checked by another chiropractor once a week for the rest of their lives. This is because it allows us to function at our best, and move us towards greater levels of health and vitality. Just like we eat healthy foods, and exercise throughout our lives on a very regular basis, we also view having our spine checked and adjusted when necessary as an important part of our lifestyle.
In an ideal world, I want this opportunity for every living soul on the planet. However, I realize that not everyone wants to, or can, visit their chiropractor on such a frequent basis; therefore we create a schedule that meets the individuals’ goals. This is based on the person’s stress levels, activity levels, nutrition levels, emotional health and of course their goals. Children and infants need a lot less sessions (generally) than stressed out, sedentary adults. A “maintenance” period can be anything from once weekly to once 6 weekly, dependent on the above factors.
Monique: Should you feel a certain way after an adjustment?
Dr Lauren: There are no “shoulds”! There are so many factors that influence this! Common feedback that I receive from clients are that they feel lighter, may feel stronger, are more connected to themselves; may feel more tired/ or opposite; they may feel more energized and clearer; some people feel like they have had a workout as their muscle strength and firing patterns begin to change so they are using muscles in ways that they are not used to. There are many options on how people may feel post adjustment!
“Many people in today’s world do not realise how important their health is until they lose it. It’s so much easier (cost-wise and time efficient) if we grow up valuing and caring for all aspects of our health, than getting to crisis point and having to deal with it when things really go wrong.”
Monique: I used to see a Chiropractor in Australia when I was little, and it seems like the treatments nowadays are different – more holistic perhaps and incorporating a real mind body connection – is this a trend in Chiropractic, or just my experience?
Dr Lauren: Chiropractic began in 1895 with Daniel David Palmer who noticed that the janitor (Harvey Lillard – who was working in his office without a shirt on) had a vertebrae which was displaced. Lillard had explained that he moved the wrong way, heard a “pop” in his back and that was when he lost his hearing. DD Palmer at the time was involved in many healing therapies. Palmer “adjusted” his spine and the next day Lillard explained that he “could hear the rackets on the streets.” Over time, D.D. Palmer found that adjusting the spine rebooted the human nervous system to reset and restore tissues, organs and structures where other methods had failed to do so. DD Palmer was a very spiritual person himself, greatly incorporating man the spiritual with man the physical. In many ways Palmer was ahead of his time, quantum physics is these days proving what Palmer said over 100 years ago.
From early on there was a divide in the profession, which is still evident today. Some chiropractors prefer to focus purely on the physical body, with the goal of “fixing” the person. These types of chiropractors have a philosophy very similar to a physiotherapist.
Further down the spectrum of chiropractic philosophy are chiropractors that acknowledge the whole person, incorporating the mind body connection. This type of chiropractor is often labelled a “vitalistic” or “wellness” Chiropractor and is more holistic in their approach.
Monique: Chiropractors can sometimes get some negative press – why do you think that is and how do you respond to it?
Dr Lauren: Historically, the American Medical Association has been adamant that the chiropractic profession should be wiped out. Many Chiropractors were arrested and thrown in jail due to “practicing medicine without a license”. Chiropractic is not medicine (and proudly so!) and we are the largest profession that does not use drugs, pharmaceuticals or surgery in the world to help people heal. Our safety records are outstanding (contrary to what the press would have you believe) our results are very good and our patient satisfaction levels are consistently very high.
Monique: Can you share a story or experience where you have enabled positive change in a patient’s life?
Dr Lauren: Yes, I’d love to share a beautiful experience of someone who I worked with in my early years of practice in Melbourne;
A woman in her early thirties came in to see me originally for lower back pain. She was a professional actress who performed in many musicals in her professional career. She and her husband had been trying to fall pregnant without success. They then tried IVF several times with no luck. By the time she began care with me, they were going through the lengthy process to adopt a child. After two months of chiropractic sessions with me where we worked on both the physical and emotional aspects of her health and wellbeing, this woman came to her next appointment in tears, sharing with me the news that her and her husband had finally fallen pregnant naturally! She then went on to have a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a vibrant little girl. She continued chiropractic care throughout her pregnancy and post baby. This is one of my favourite memories of my early days in practice
Monique: What are you focusing on right now?
Dr Lauren: I am focusing on further improving my manual adjusting skills. Although it may look simple enough to “move a vertebra back into place” most chiropractors will work on this art for most of their lives! One needs to be absolutely present, fast, precise, and have a thorough understanding of the anatomy and neurology to be able to deliver a great adjustment. This requires practice, practice, practice, and continual learning.
Monique: From your perspective, what’s one thing we can do today to start to feel better?
Dr Lauren: Switch off our screens. I see so many relationships and families affected by too much screen time. Our sleeping quality is dramatically reduced, our concentration levels are affected. It contributes to bad posture (hanging over our laptops and gazing into mobile phones) which activates our stress nervous systems (the flight or fight responses) thus causing many chronic health issues. The effects of screens on our physiology, especially that of our children is very concerning. Let’s connect with each other not via our screens.
Monique: Can you share any references (books, websites) – that people can go to for more info on chiropractic care?
Dr Lauren: Dr Heidi Haavik from New Zealand has an amazing website full of easy to understand latest chiropractic scientific evidence. She herself is a researcher, a chiropractor and a neurophysiologist.Her book is called The Reality Check and is a great read.
Dr Sarah Farrant has written two philosophy challenging books – The Vital Truth and The Health Illusion; Is it killing you? Her newly launched website is designed for parents and families to gain greater health in a holistic manner.
The Australian Spinal Research Foundation is a great resource to learn more about chiropractic care, what it is, and what the latest research is.
Monique: Is there anything else you want to share today?
Dr Lauren: Many people in today’s world do not realise how important their health is until they lose it. It’s so much easier (cost-wise and time efficient) if we grow up valuing and caring for all aspects of our health, than getting to crisis point and having to deal with it when things really go wrong. Because, at this point, unfortunately, it’s often far too late. Someone said to me when I was a fresh chiropractor, “It is much easier to raise healthy children than fix damaged adults,” after 9 years in practice I couldn’t agree more. We all have one spine and one nervous system, we live our lives through our nervous system, in fact we are our nervous system, so let’s look after it from day one.
Monique: How can people find you?
Dr Lauren: I practice currently in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at a place called The Chiropractor.
I also have a podcast called JustTIC Chiropractic with my colleague Dr Lizette Botha (DC)
Image Credit: Traci Szemkus, Joyce McCown, Jairo Alzate, ChiroEurope