November 30, 2016

wfc-quote-v2-600x326Chiropractic care begins with the philosophy that the life-giving force of the universe runs through us all, giving each of us the capacity to heal our bodies and live in optimal health. In light of this, care begins from the inside out.

Mechanistic

Some people find the approach of chiropractic care confusing. It’s different than the mechanistic approach of Western medicine. A mechanistic approach breaks the body down into various parts or systems — the respiratory system, the nervous system, the muscular-skeletal system, and so on. It then assigns specialists to each part — pulmonologists, neurologists, orthopedists, etcetera. Within the Western model of medicine, if your wrist hurts or you get chronic headaches or your lower back is constantly in pain, you see a specialist who can address the particular system where your symptoms occur. After all, if your sink is backed up, you call a plumber, not an electrician. Likewise, to fix a broken air-conditioner in a car, a mechanic finds the malfunctioning part and replaces it. If the body is a like a house or a car, then treating ailments or injuries as isolated incidents in particular systems and responding to them with therapies such surgery or drugs may be the best path to follow.

The only problem with this approach is that the body isn’t a machine or a building. It’s a complex and integrated organism with an innate intelligence.

Vitalistic

While a mechanistic perspective sees the body as reducible to its various parts and systems, vitalism sees the body as a dynamic whole. Each system of this whole coordinates with the others to adapt and to change, to grow and to heal. Derived from the root word vitality, which means “the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things,” a vitalistic perspective begins here.

When we heal from a small cut or a sprained ankle, we see the body’s innate healing intelligence. Diseases occur when this process is interrupted. The spin protects the central nervous system, which is essential to the body’s proper functioning and healing. When vertebrae are even slightly misaligned, the connection between the body and the brain gets disrupted. Called subluxations, misalignments in the vertebrae affect the normal operation of the nervous system and disturb the body’s innate ability to heal itself. In chiropractic care, through gentle and targeted adjustments, subluxations are removed, and the body’s natural healing abilities are restored.

Aligning with Our Body’s Innate Intelligence

Health is a dynamic expression, not an event. This is why reducing the interference in the nervous system and re-connecting my patients to their innate healing ability is primary in my care. Another way to say this is that by reconnecting the body with the brain through the removal of subluxations, I work to help patients connect with their body’s innate intelligence. When patients are in alignment, with their brains and bodies connected, healthy decisions come naturally as we listen together to their bodies’ inner wisdom.

kara_adjusting_jemmaWhen I was fourteen, after injuring myself playing soccer, my mother took me to a chiropractor. Working a physically demanding job and keeping up with me and my three siblings at home was demanding, and seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis allowed my mother to keep up. While she had been going for some time, the experience was new for me. He used his hands to assess my injured knee and asked me questions, explaining to me and my mother what he noticed as he went along. After a couple of adjustments, he gave me instructions for my home care, and we were on our way. I still remember the stretch he taught me for the tiny muscle behind the knee that I had injured.

Almost ten years later, I got in a car accident and went back to a chiropractor. I also saw my primary care doctor, an orthopedist, and a physical therapist. I was prescribed pain meds and muscle relaxers and, within the first two months, treated with multiple therapies. During this initial phase of treatments, I realized that recovery was going to take a lot more patience and care than the medical system was going to offer. I stopped taking the medications, wanting to feel my body’s natural rhythms even the warning systems of pain, and discovered a yoga class near my workplace. It was Iyengar yoga, and the teachers modified everything for me in light of my injury.

What I realized then is that allopathic care is inadequate for the types of injuries I had as well as for many others. Allopathic care uses drugs or physical interventions to treat or suppress symptoms or diseases. For the most part, it’s mechanistic, looking at the body as if it’s a machine with a (some) malfunctioning part(s), versus approaching the body as a dynamic system. It often doesn’t recognize the fact that we are more than the sum of our parts.

I continued my chiropractic care for about two years, and during the second phase of my recovery, which started after three months, I slowly became empowered. It took me three years to get to the point where I could play soccer without my injury flaring up — years after my medical care was completed according to the allopathic paradigm.

When I was 28 years old, after several years working in the biopharmaceutical industry, I decided to follow my passion for preventative health and education. Chiropractic care had always been something I’d kept at the back of my mind. Instead of developing drugs to treat illnesses and the people who were already sick, I wanted to help people learn how to stay well and not have to get sick. I wanted something more.

I enrolled in chiropractic school in Hayward. I also joined a sorority, and while it may sound a little silly, I’m incredibly glad I did. One of the requirements of joining the sorority was to dive deep into the central tenants of a vitalistic chiropractic philosophy.

During the 80s, a lot changed in the chiropractic profession. Insurance companies began reimbursing for care, which was a boom for chiropractors at the time, but it also meant that the insurance companies started dictating chiropractic education, making it more allopathic, medical, and mechanistic. My school was rather vitalistic when compared to others, but it still focused a lot on the mechanics of care and rightly so. Though the body’s systems are interconnected and a mechanistic philosophy isn’t the right approach in most cases, we still needed to learn about the systems as well as to understand the proper techniques and modalities for care. Nevertheless, my introduction to the vitalistic approach early in my education was incredibly important, and it continues to guide my approach to caring for the people in my office.

My journey to my vocation as a chiropractor took some twists and turns, but I eventually found my path. Just as with everything else in life, health care is also a journey. I love helping reconnect my patients with their own life-giving force, and coaching them as they live into the benefits of their physical and spiritual reconnection.

Read more in my next blog to learn more about my approach, it will be about mechanism vs vitalism.