Wednesday, September 19, 2007


First published in The Jakarta Post, September 19, 2007


Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Jakarta

In 2004, Anton (an alias) was diagnosed with herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP), a condition in which a disk is slipped along the spinal cord. The condition happens when all or part of the soft midpoint of a spinal disk is forced through a diluted part of the disk.

He said he could not walk, adding that the incident might have occurred while he was bungee jumping.

So he underwent surgery. But after four to six months his health deteriorated. Giving him only painkillers, the doctor advised he again undergo surgery, which scared him and his wife.

A friend suggested he undergo chiropractic treatment instead.

"At first I didn't believe it. But I have made a lot of progress," Anton said at the Chiropractic di Indonesia clinic in the Jakarta Stock Exchange building.

The objective of the chiropractic profession is to detect and treat the mechanical disarray of the spine and musculoskeletal system. This is intended to enhance the nervous system, which could result in improved health.

The misalignment of the spine, which affects nerve flow, is called subluxation. This is when one or more of the vertebrae slip out of position and generate pressure on, or exasperate the spinal nerves. Spinal nerves are the nerves that come out from between each of the bones in the spine. The pressure on the nerves then results in nerve malfunction and obstructs the flow of the signals that run through the nerves.

If there is an obstruction of the signals running through the nerves, parts of the body will not get the proper messages and will operate improperly. This can adversely affect the function of various parts of the body and eventually the health.

A chiropractor diagnoses and fixes spinal subluxation. The correction is done through a procedure called an adjustment, which is a specific movement with direct careful pressure. The pressure allows the vertebrae to return to a more normal position and movement, thus smoothing the flow of nerve signals.

"We optimize the patient's health potential," said chiropractor Anthony K. Dawson from Chiropractic di Indonesia clinic.

"We believe that a body is a healing entity that has a self-regulatory system," said chiropractor Michael Cornish who works at the same clinic.

"That is the philosophy of the chiropractic profession."

Cornish, whose 80-year-old mother still plays tennis every week thanks to chiropractic care, explained the four phases of the degeneration of the spine.

Phase one is general misalignment. Phase two is when the disk starts to narrow as it is not being stimulated. Phase three is when the disk starts thinning and there is calcification in the joint spaces. And phase four is when the joint space is made up of cartilage that has completely fussed.

The disk is the cartilage material located between the vertebrae, one of the small bones that forms the spine.

Stresses and strains and knocks and bumps sometimes result in such an imbalance. Thus, simple matters can cause subluxation, "such as the wrong sleeping, sitting or standing positions," said Tinah Tan of Citylife Chiropractic Care.

She said chiropractic care may assist in the management of a wide variety of health problems. However, people see chiropractic care as being for the following conditions: back pain, stiffness and pain in the neck, pain between the shoulder blades, tension headaches, migraines, disk problems, arm and leg pain, knee problems, sciatica, infant colic, other joint injures and numbness or pins and needles in the hands and feet.

Sciatica is sometimes harsh pain resulting from general compression and/or irritation of one of the five nerve roots that are branches of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, and/or various parts of the leg and foot. Infant colic is a situation in which a baby cries or screams recurrently and for extended periods, without any perceptible explanation.

"Chiropractic care is very safe, even very gentle for children," added Cornish.

Normal childhood activities such as falls from a bike, sledding or playing ball can also result in subluxation in children's spines.

Tinah cited an example of a 6-year-old girl who was accidentally pushed hard by her friend from the back, causing severe subluxation. She has been undergoing chiropractic care and has progressed a lot.

Chiropractic, which is completely drug-free, can also help cure people with scoliosis.

Cornish cited the example of a 20-year-old woman with 34 degree curvature. The curvature was corrected to 17 degrees in less than a year after undergoing chiropractic care.

He also said pregnant women could benefit from chiropractic care. A number of studies have shown that pregnant women who have regular chiropractic care have shorter and less painful labors with fewer complications.

Unfortunately, despite an abundance of scientific research and positive patients' testimonials of chiropractic care, there is still a "jealousy gap" between ordinary medical treatment and chiropractic care, said Sukarto, the chairman of the Indonesian Chiropractic Association (Perchirindo), who studied chiropractic techniques in the U.S. in 1972.

He explained that even in the U.S. -- the country where chiropractic was founded by Daniel David Palmer -- it was not fully acknowledged for 100 years.

Palmer made a man who was nearly totally deaf hear again after fixing the man's bone back into place.

In Indonesia, it was only in 2003 that chiropractic was acknowledged by the Health Ministry as a "traditional treatment".

"We are now pushing to make chiropractic a complementary treatment," Sukarto said at his clinic.

Even in Indonesia in recent years there has been a rising demand for chiropractic care.

Sukarto initiated the establishment of Perchirindo after a serious incident in which a quack chiropractor committed malpractice before fleeing the country, giving a bad name to genuine and registered chiropractors with good records.

In 2006, the Health Ministry declared Perchirindo the official chiropractic association, giving it some important tasks: outlining guidelines for foreign chiropractors who are employed as consultants by local clinics, verifying the documents submitted by a clinic that intends to employ foreign chiropractors to ensure knowledge and skills transfer and coordinating with provincial/municipal health offices for evaluation and reporting to the Health Ministry.

Today, Perchirindo has two Indonesian chiropractors as members and twelve foreign chiropractors as associate members, meaning they are legally acknowledged by the Health Ministry.

"We are also planning to establish the first chiropractic school in Indonesia," said Sukarto, adding that the two-year-course would only accept local students who already held a bachelor of medicine.

"We will invite foreign academics and highly trained chiropractors to teach at our school," he added. To become a chiropractor in the U.S. or Australia one has to undergo five or six years of tertiary education. Many have become reliable partners of both general practitioners and specialists. Sukarto said it was imperative that an increased awareness of the benefits of chiropractic care was accompanied by a well designated education program and professionalism.