Shaftesbury Chiropractic is offering a free examination for all local youngsters during the half term break. ThisIsAlfred’s Keri Jones went for a check up to find what is involved and why it’s considered important.
Erika Anderson-Groves is used to people asking whether she can advise about bunions and verrucas. They need a chiropodist. Erika and her colleague Vanessa Spencer operate from their Bimport practice as chiropractors.
“It’s a really common thing. People will come and ask if they can have their feet done,” laughed Erika. “A chiropractor looks at your musculoskeletal system. We deal with anything to do with joints and muscles, especially the spine.”
Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine that originated in the 1890s across the Atlantic. “It has been around for a few years, especially in America and it’s been in England a good while,” said Erika. “If you’ve heard of osteopathy then it is a very similar treatment,” she added.
I can’t recall having a spinal check when I was in school, although that might be because it was a very long time ago! The phrase sounds like something from a different era, almost Dickensian. But spinal checks have been in the limelight recently after Princess Eugenie chose to wear a wedding dress that revealed the scar on her back, following corrective surgery in her teens.
“What she had was scoliosis, which was obviously picked up. That would have affected her back and she would have been in pain,” said Erika. “We’re looking at gentle, mild curves in the spine that you wouldn’t necessarily see and may not feel but which would affect you in adulthood.”
Eugenie was suffering from curvature of the spine. The royal underwent an eight-hour operation to insert rods into her body. But Erika expects to see patients with far less serious issues. “We look at things that have, perhaps, not been picked up by the school nurse or parents. Mild scoliosis may not be identified until adulthood. It’s easier to get things done when you are young. Children can get poor posture because they hunch over when they are sat at school all day. They can get muscle tension, which can affect their neck or the whole spine,” said Erika.
Few children would relish the prospect of going for any form of check up or examination during their half term break but Erika has found a good ‘selling point’ for parents. She says that chiropractors could potentially improve a patient’s sports performance. “What I would do is look at your lower back, your hamstrings and your quads. Maybe there is some tightness or imbalance that I can work on. We can stretch muscles, work on knots and get your posture better. It’s something that’s good for athletes,” she said.
You might argue that people who stay indoors, glued to their devices, are more likely candidates for chiropractic examination. “Kids these days like to use their mobile phones and can have really poor posture because of that. If you look at your child sitting and how their spine is bent over you can see if that’s a thing we need to look at,” Erika added.
Most people who are in pain will head straight to their GP. Erika says that her patients aren’t necessarily experiencing any discomfort. “We don’t just look for pain, we also look for functions. I want to see that you’re moving correctly and that your posture is really good. These can be the little things where we can help.”
So what happens during a spinal check? “I look at you standing up – how you stand, whether you are slouched over and if your hips are nice and straight. I look at your feet and see if they’re turning inwards or outwards. It tells me a little bit about what’s going on in the pelvis,” said Erika. “I also look at your gait, to see how you are walking and then I will get you to lie down, look at your core muscles and see how your core strength is.”
It was time for my examination. Erika explained that patients remain fully clothed. She first asked me to stand up as she put one hand on each of my shoulder blades. “They are winging a little bit”, she said, before asking me to drop my hands by my side. “The end of your shoulder blade is lifting away. It has probably been like this for ever and it’s not a big deal unless you’re going to do something like climbing.” I was relieved as I pointed out that there was no chance of that as I am scared of heights!
Next, Erika asked me to lie on my back on the massage-style bed in the centre of her room. She asked me to lift each leg, one at a time. Erika put her arm under my left calf and asked me to relax completely, so my floppy leg would crash to the floor if she stopped supporting it.
She sensed my discomfort as her supporting hand moved down toward my left foot. “You don’t like it, do you?” Erica asked. I had to explain that I was tense because my feet are highly ticklish and I was anticipating that unpleasant sensation. Erika then extended my leg out to the left and then to the right as far as it would move.
As I flipped over to lie on my front, Erika made an interesting observation. “This is almost not worth mentioning but your left leg is longer than your right leg. It means that something in the pelvis is twisted,” she said.
During the examination Erika found a ‘knot’ in a muscle, but I experienced no pain during her check up, just a feeling of light pressure being applied. “It’s very gentle. I wouldn’t cause pain. Obviously I have to touch to see if there is any muscle tightness and I can feel the spine and the different joints of the body as well.”
The spinal check was over in a few minutes. Erika said that if she, or her colleague Vanessa, uncover anything requiring further attention they can offer treatment, advice or in my case, suggest some exercises. “We found some tightness in your lower back on the right-hand side, so some stretches would be good. Your hips weren’t moving nice and freely like I would like so maybe you need some glute stretches as well. But your spine is fine,” she said.
There’s more information at ShaftesburyChiropractic.co.uk.