As we close in on the second anniversary of our clinic opening, I realize I’ve grown as a chiropractor in many ways. One of these is in becoming more attuned to the subtle changes that occur in many of the sick and desperate people who come through our doors seeking care.
I look for very objective changes in patients on a daily basis- for thermal instrumentation and xray changes, legs and hips to balance, range of motion to increase, muscles to release from spasm, and client feedback on changes occurring in their health. These findings help guide my analysis and tell me what the next chiropractic ‘move’ is- which vertebrae or extremity joint to adjust, in what direction, with how much intensity, and what to recommend for an individual’s care in the future.
Lately however, I’ve begun to appreciate other more discreet changes beyond the obvious, which patients can’t always appreciate themselves. Over time I often witness strained facial expressions and clenched teeth relax, observe colour returning to a face that was once pale from lack of circulation and nerve flow, listen to ease of speech return to a tongue once numbed by pain and medications, and witness increased speed of thought and cognition, more erect posture, and a lighter gait.
My personal favorite however is the visible ‘light’ or ‘twinkle’ that seems to return to an individual’s eyes when the healing process is underway. It’s as if the patient’s internal life force that has been struggling to express itself has finally been released and has found a window through which to shine.
This may sound esoteric but as one who witnesses the effect of the spine on the nerve system on a daily basis these subtle observations relate very real, very profound changes in the body that go far beyond the relief of muscle tension and an increase in range of motion. They relate a greater ease of function in the body’s internal environment. It is this effect that chiropractic has on the spine and nervous system that explain why I have seen chiropractic to be effective on infants and young children, for example. Kids don’t always fully understand what is happening or what is ‘supposed’ to happen when this strange Dr. Mark (who doesn’t have a white jacket or stethoscope) starts pushing on their back while lying on his table that makes the ‘kathunk kathunk’ sound or when he’s simply holding pressure with his thumb against the side of their neck. Nevertheless, parents soon find that the same child can sleep through the night easier, participate fully in sports, or express themselves with less crying when previously they couldn’t.
Recently a middle aged woman came to our clinic because she had heard good reviews, was interested in my particular approach, and wanted a new set of eyes on her long-standing issues. Her complaints were somewhat typical- low back pain and neck pain with radiation into the legs and arms, and bilateral hip, wrist, thumb and shoulder pain. In addition, she had digestive and thyroid issues, panic attacks, depression, and a number of other visceral issues. What was just as revealing as her intake form however was her facial expression. Along with her skin that appeared somewhat ashen she held a resolute grimace from the pain she had clearly been dealing with for years. Her eyes also appeared somewhat grey and dull, her eyelids drawn slightly down on a face that struggled to smile bravely despite the agony and hopelessness she was carrying.
After just two visits this individual looked and acted like a different person, the person I suspected she had wanted to be for years. All of the issues she had come in with were vastly improved and it was as if this internal light that had been dimmed had suddenly been turned on after being snuffed out for so long. This light beamed through both of her eyes and through the brilliant smile she now brought into the office as well. After 3 visits the tears of despair on her initial consultation had turned to tears of joy, elation, and gratitude at the prospect of being able to enjoy, and truly live the next 20 years of her life.
If there could possibly be a negative point drawn from this story it’s this: That there are countless others among us experiencing the exact same issues as this person who could benefit from chiropractic care but simply don’t know or for whatever reason haven’t tried.
Usually, by following their strongly reinforced beliefs on healthcare these people end up in overcrowded medical practices, hospitals, and pharmacies and usually leave with more prescription drugs than answers or proactive solutions. Indeed, this is often all that can be offered to help them in a system better suited for emergency intervention than health promotion and lifestyle guidance.
Some of my best friends, family members, and clients are devoted professionals working tirelessly in this system who, despite their best efforts bend and sometimes break under the overwhelming and unrealistic demands placed on them. Often they end up in my office as a direct result of caring for people who likely should have never been in their care in the first place had they taken other proactive measures like chiropractic care earlier in life.
I love the expression “It’s not about your back, it’s about your life”. It sums up perfectly what chiropractic is and what it has meant to me in my first two years of practice- hope, healing, and greater expression of life in a world that sorely needs these things. The challenge for myself, for my clinic, for those who have seen the results, and for those that know someone who needs what chiropractic has to offer is to spread the word to those who need to hear it.