Phuket Health: Back to the bare basics

PHUKET: Dr Thomas Walton is the newest member of the team at Thanyapura’s Integrated Health Clinic in Thalang. In addition to being a Chiropractic Sports Physician, Dr Walton, a native of Buffalo, New York, is also a US-licensed Massage Therapist and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified Personal Exercise Trainer, with some 25 years experience in the chiropractic profession.

The Phuket Gazette‘s Steven Layne recently had a rejuvenating consultation with Dr Walton, who took the opportunity to shed some light on chiropractic therapy and its purpose and benefits.

PG: Why would visiting a chiropractor be more advisable than say, going for a cheap massage?

TW: Many masseuses are trained to follow the ‘cook book’, meaning they learn and study a certain massage procedure which they will apply to everyone. Even as a trained and licensed massage therapist myself, I cannot stress enough that every patient and condition are not the same, and there is never one universal treatment or procedure that can be applied across the board.

As a chiropractor, I first assess the patient and problem thoroughly before making a diagnosis and before doing any adjustments or giving treatments, which are fully individualized.

What is the purpose, aim and function of chiropractic adjustments?

The first thing we do is identify whether the joints are moving correctly – too much or too little. Chiropractic treatment is most effective when a joint is not moving enough, or what we call a fixation. When we identify where a fixation is, we can make a chiropractic adjustment to restore the proper motion to the joint. When the joint is moving properly, it can heal since there is no longer increased pressure on the joint which causes the irritation, which causes the pain. So, the purpose is to get the joint to move properly, so that it can heal.

What also happens when we make an adjustment, is it normalizes communication from the joint to your central nervous system, which in effect normalizes messages from your brain and spinal cord back down to the joint and to surrounding areas, whether it be muscular or organ systems. In summary, the adjustment restores proper communication in the nervous system so nerve messages are more efficiently transmitted.

When you make an adjustment, what causes that ‘cracking’ sound?

We generally don’t like the term ‘cracking’. For some reason, it’s a sensitive note for chiropractors [laughs]… When we make adjustments, what we’re doing is gaping the joint by making more space where the joint is, reducing pressure inside the joint capsule, which contains fluid that acts as nourishment and lubrication for the joint. Inside the fluids are dissolved gases, and when we gap the joint and reduce the pressure inside the joint capsule, it allows gases to be released from the fluid, which is what causes that ‘popping’ sound [snaps his fingers]. It is similar to the effect when you open a bottle of carbonated soda.

How quick can one expect results? Is there such a thing as an instant result?

This will depend on various factors, including the patient’s injury or condition, history and age, among other things. I always stress that it is the patient’s body that heals itself, not the doctor doing the healing. We just help to restore normal function. Through adjustments or treatments, the restored communication function can be realized instantly.

For example, if someone had interference in nerve flow [signal transmission] to a weak muscle that is caused by a fixation in the joint, I can do an adjustment that frees the joint and the muscle would become instantly stronger. However, there are many reasons why a muscle can be weak, so we have to take into account the entire picture. Another important factor about healing is time. Even after normal communication function has been restored, the body generally needs a few days to heal itself, much like after being sore after a good work out.

We often hear about good, perfect or normal posture. What does that mean?

I don’t know if ‘normal’ is a good way to describe it. Everyone has certain postures – sitting, standing and lying-down postures. The ideal posture is where the whole structure of your body is balanced – from left to right, and front to back, there’s balance. Unfortunately our bodies aren’t symmetrical, meaning there are very few people with ‘perfect’ posture.

The reason posture is important is that gravity is pulling your own body weight through your posture, to the earth. If you have poor posture, where you have these big imbalances – say you slouch when you’re sitting – then gravity is pulling your own body weight through that slouch posture and putting more physical stress on those areas where there’s poor posture.

This physical stress causes muscles to tighten up, which causes joints to become fixated, increasing wear and tear on the joints, muscles and altering nervous system communication.

What age is considered too young or too old for a chiropractic consultation?

There isn’t any such thing. Everything is geared toward the individual person. We have techniques that are very, very gentle and painless which we can use on infant babies.

For example, we can make safe and painless adjustments, using a mechanical device called an ‘Activator’ on babies as young as six months, or an older, fragile person with osteoporosis, for example. I’ve treated people in their 90s.

With each person, we find out their health history to see if there are any risks or dangers; then we do an examination. Based upon that, we have a diagnosis and can continue with a treatment.

Some people may be scared or intimidated to visit a chiropractor for the first time. Do you have any advice?

As human beings, we’re always cautious with new things; we want to make sure we’re safe. As a chiropractic doctor taught in the US with 25 years experience, I was trained as a primary care physician so I’m sufficiently knowledgeable to diagnose problems. If the problem is not chiropractic related, then I refer the patient out to an appropriate person; if it’s something I can help them with, I will treat them.

I like to treat as gently as possible and be effective at the same time. I explain everything that I’m doing and make sure the patient is relaxed and comfortable.

For further information, contact the Thanyapura Integrated Health Centre on 076 336 000, ext. 5080.

— Steven Layne

Thai Life

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