Dr. Ellen Wolk is a Waltham-based chiropractor I had the pleasure of meeting a few months back. Since that time we’ve had some fascinating discussions about how yoga and chiropractic care complement each other to encourage the body to heal itself, and Ellen has dispelled many misconceptions that I know I had about chiropractors! I’ve been personally adjusted by Dr. Wolk several times, and I was thoroughly impressed by her gentle touch and the lasting results, especially around a hip imbalance that has plagued me–and my yoga practice–for years.
In this guest blog, Dr. Wolk answers a few of my burning questions about chiropractors, how chiropractic care works, and how it jives with yoga. Isn’t it fortunate that there are so many choices when it comes to self-care, health and wellness? Hope you’ll find this post interesting and explore a new modality in the near future. 🙂
- How did your interest in chiropractic care begin?
I had always been interested in healing, even as a young child. Then in my 20’s I had a fairly serious car accident and experienced whiplash and shoulder injuries. I went the “traditional” route of seeing an orthopedist who gave me drugs that did nothing but make me sick to my stomach. He also sent me for physical therapy, which felt good but months later I was still struggling with the effects from this accident. I finally went to see a chiropractor and was astonished at how quickly I felt better! I began talking with my chiropractor and decided that this was where my interest in healing was meant to go.
- When I first heard the word “chiropractor”, I thought of people who crunch you and crack your back. Yet, your approach is gentle, nothing like that perception. What do you want people to know about chiropractic care that is different than they might assume?
First off, I specialize in “gentle” chiropractic care which means I use only low and non-force adjusting techniques. I have an instrument that I use that uses very gentle impulsing to move vertebrae and other bones back into alignment just enough to get the pressure off the nerves, then the body can heal itself. I also make non force adjustments using my thumbs and use muscle work to relax the muscles so the adjustments can hold better. People feel VERY relaxed with these techniques that are so gentle yet very specific. There is no popping, snapping or cracking. What many people don’t realize is that the major premise behind chiropractic is that the body can heal itself. However, when you have pressure on the nerves (also known as “nerve interference” or “subluxation”) the body can NOT heal. So, we are freeing up the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And the body can heal from amazing things when it has proper nerve flow. The profession of chiropractic began when a janitor in D.D. Palmer’s building in Davenport, Iowa, was checked by D.D. and had his hearing restored with an adjustment. Yes, a vertebra was found out of place; it was the vertebra that provides nerve supply to the ears so chiropractic is really about full body healing. Pain may be in the low back, the neck, the arm, headaches, etc. but the nerves that are causing that pain to let you know the body is not getting proper nerve supply also supply every organ, muscle and gland in the body. This is why people are often surprised to find their allergies, fatigue, sinuses, PMS, reflux, etc., improve along with their spinal or joint complaints. The only thing that chiropractors “treat” is nerve interference; this however, has a major effect on everything in the body. With 100% nerve supply we have the best chance for full and robust health–and who doesn’t want that!!!
- What is the most common issue you see in your patients, and how do you help them heal?
Nerve interference can occur anywhere in the spine or our joints. I would say that the most common symptoms that bring patients in to see me are low back pain and shoulder/arm/hand problems (numbness, tingling, pain down arms/hands). A big part of both those complaints is related to folks sitting on computers all day at work. Symptoms are most often what bring folks into a chiropractor but then they learn how good they can feel without constant nerve interference in their bodies and often will continue to get adjusted on some regular basis in order to stay healthy, in balance and prevent bigger problems from recurring.
- You do yoga and meditate. What are your thoughts about the relationship between chiropractic care and yoga?
Chiropractic and Yoga are a terrific combination. I know that I personally find that I hold my adjustments better when I have some kind of regular yoga practice. I find the same with my patients. Especially, as we age, yoga is so great for maintaining flexibility, for balance and in general, to help our bodies deal better with stress. Meditation is also wonderful to help with “de-stressing” our minds and bodies. Stress is what causes “nerve interference”, be it physical, chemical or mental/emotional stress. Our muscles tighten up in response to stress and the job of muscles is to move bones. Once bones in the spine (“vertebrae”) move far enough out of place, they put pressure on nerves and the body will at all costs try to protect that nerve. The way the body protects the nerve is by tightening (sometimes “spasming”) muscles and creating swelling around that area–none of this feels good, but it will limit our ability to move fully or to move with comfort so we won’t create further pressure in an area where nerve interference already exists. Anything that will reduce stress on our bodies and minds including chiropractic adjustments, yoga and meditation will help our bodies have less nerve interference. Chiropractic care can allow bodies to have more “ease” in doing poses. Sometimes yogis find that one side is much tighter than the other, this can often be due to muscle tension resulting from nerve interference so many yogis see me for care and find more ease in their practice.
- Many people today live fast-paced lives and are extremely busy. How do you work with people who think they just don’t have time to take care of themselves?
This is VERY common. Most of us live lives that are extremely fast-paced and busy. Taking 15 minutes out of that busy life, on a regular basis, to make sure your nervous system is functioning at 100%, allows the body to better deal with the constant stress coming at it and for folks to be as healthy as possible. The nervous system controls all other systems of the body so if someone is under constant stress eventually their immune system will not be able to work at 100% and they will be more prone to getting sick. The nervous system controls the immune system. So, often my patients who get adjusted regularly seem to get sick much less frequently because their bodies can work as well as possible to fight illness. First thing I do if I am feeling run down or perhaps something is “off” in how i am feeling, is get adjusted. Yoga can help with decreasing the stress load on the body.
- If someone doesn’t have an acute problem, would they still benefit from a chiropractic session?
ABSOLUTELY! I have many patients who seem me for what is called “Wellness Care”. This means they are past any acute problem/symptoms and we are able to address the root cause of the problem–nerve interference (also known as “subluxation”). In this way we are able to get them past the symptoms (Symptoms are the last thing to show up and the first thing to go away, when there is a problem. Bear in mind, that “lack of symptoms” is not health.), get them healthy and keep them well. PREVENTION really is the key. In the same way we want our dentist to find a cavity BEFORE we have intense pain, we want to find nerve interference, BEFORE your body has to let you know with intense pain. I would say that most patients come due to an acute problem/pain. When they see the many positive changes in their health that come from getting adjusted regularly, often they come to understand that they are healthier with getting adjusted and want to stay that way.
- What would you recommend to people to have a healthier spine?
Get adjusted and MOVE (yoga is great for that). Don’t sit a lot. Stay hydrated.
Dr. Ellen Wolk is conveniently located in Waltham. She can be reached by phone at 781-894-4890 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to know if chiropractic care could help you or if you have questions, a FREE consultation is always available. Start on the road to better health NOW!