I joined a group of people waiting outside a large tent filled mainly with locals, most of them lying flat out on their tummies and having their spines checked – and cracked back into place by an enthusiastic group of chiropractic students.
The only previous experience I have had with chiropractic medicine was as a child being sent to one by my father after he thought that I had bent my spine while playing soccer.
Having recently started suffering from neck pain, most probably caused from bad posture staring at a computer screen for hours, it a good opportunity to have my neck and back checked out while I was there.
I was greeted by Dr Phil McMaster, who presented himself as an alert and engaging man, who also happened to be a well-qualified and internationally respected chiropractor and president of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic.
Sensing my apprehension he strated by filling me in on what a chiropractor does to treat just about any imaginable ailment.
In simple terms, he explains that once a person’s spine is correctly aligned it will enable the body to heal itself.
He said chiropractic treatment to align the body, and therefore the central nervous system, helps the brain to function at its optimum.
A little unsure of his claims, I asked if it could really help with my on-going neck problem. Immediately he smiled and refered me to one of his students for treatment.
He said it is a common issue for people such as journalists sitting for long periods of time steering at a computer screen while awkwardly hunched over a keyboard
He also said, yes, that I would finally get some relief.
I then chatted with Kendell Burden, a 20-something bright and smiling student of the college, who went through a thorough check sheet of my previous medical history.
She then asked me to lie down on the massage table and announced she was about to go through a comprehensive hands-on check of my spine.
Lying flat down on the table steering at the ground beneath me through an opening for my face, she proceeded to prod my spine with her fingers from its base to my neck.
She then made me raise each of my legs backward as high as I could without lifting my hip off the table, and back down again.
Next she got me to tilt my neck from side to side. This was followed by a series of further checks while standing before her – such as raising each of my knees into the air, and then leaning from side to side.
She eloquently explained that messages from the brain are passed through the spine to the body and that the chiropractor’s task is to remove any interference caused by blockages so that the brain can communicate as clearly as possible to every part of the anatomy.
Having completed her initial findings, she concurred with Dr McMaster over the sad state of my spine.
My ears pricked up when I heard them mention “C6”, and that my “atlas” needed to be put back into place.
This, I later found out was in reference to the first bone in the neck that can stop a person’s brain from effectively passing messages to the spine – also called “C1” for short. It is usually the source of a lot of people’s headaches when out of alignment.
I laid back down, this time on my back, and Dr McMaster examined the toughened and tense part of my neck. He then motioned to Burden the best technique to pop it back in place.
She took his place in the seat behind my head. Then placing her fingers just below my eyes and with her arms around my neck, my body started to tense, as I didn’t know what to expect next.
She gave it a twist and I started to feel something release but she stopped, almost hesitating. Dr McMaster took over.
He used the same embrace but with a bit more force, first holding my head firmly, and then twisting it quickly to the right, in an almost violent motion, until I felt an enormous “crack” and a sensation of relief all in the same instance.
My eyes shot wide open and my head immediately felt lighter, if only for a few seconds.
Dr McMaster exclaimed: “See! You can see it in his face that it worked”.
I nodded to them agreeing, with a great deal more noticeable amount of freedom. I graciously thanked them both, now as a newly converted follower of chiropractic treatment.
Also having his back looked at was Avatiu local, Joe Heather, is returning for his third consecutive years’ treatment and can also vouch for the treatment having noticed a big improvement to his shoulder that he had previously injured.
He was in good hands this year with Student Mathew Wheatcroft providing relief this time.
Dr McMaster explained that some people may not get completely free of their perceived back or neck problem – but could potentially notice a number of other benefits following treatment –- such as being able to sleep more soundly, have lowered blood pressure and even enhanced overall health and improved immune system function.
He said he encourages people with diabetes to monitor their insulin levels so that they can also track their improvements – as the body is able to self-regulate better after seeing a chiropractor.
Dr McMaster further explained that chiropractic treatment has been embraced by many top sporting athletes. He says that Usain Bolt uses the treatment before his races to have his brain’s neural pathways “sparking in sync”, as this in turn directly impacts on his tendons and muscles for the sprinter’s body to be “firing on all cylinder”.
It seems to be working out alright for the reigning world 100 and 200 metres champion.
It appeared to have worked for me as well. That night, following the treatment, I had the first sound and uninterrupted eight hours of sleep I’d had for several weeks.