When you step into Wellbeing Chiropractic the first thing you will notice is that it is full of families. From pregnant Mamas to happy grandmas and a sprinkling of papas too, plus plenty of happy kids. To find out how Wellbeing has become such a centre for family health in Amsterdam, read on....
After becoming pregnant in 2009, Dr. Karen Jaffe knew it was time. Having spent seven happy and successful years as a chiropractor in Castricum, she felt that it was the right time to move her focus and start her own practice in Amsterdam. I sat down with her and her team recently to find out more about Wellbeing Chiropractic and discuss what motivated her to start her own practice. Dr. Karen knew exactly what she wanted this new practice to become. More than just a chiropractic practice she wanted to create a community hub dedicated to optimising and maintaining family health in the city. To do this, she knew she had to combine all the skills she had learnt to date in her 10 years as a chiropractor with a fresh approach to how families should be cared for. Some ideas were simple to implement, such as referring to the individuals as clients, not patients, and eliminating the use of white coats and surnames to help both chiropractor and client connect on a personal level.
Some ideas proved to be more challenging, for example finding the perfect space in the right location. A space that would allow them to create a non-clinical, safe and open environment where children visiting the practice would be free to roam, explore and observe. A place where chiropractic care was normalised, as familiar a part of your health regime as going to the dentist.
Most of all, Dr. Karen and her partner Dorothee wanted to offer something where although a client may come in with a problem, they would want to stay for the added benefits of the care they received as well as the community spirit they found there. They wanted to be more than a chiropractic practice.
Dr. Karen’s route to becoming a chiropractor was far from direct. Hospitalised as a child after a near-fatal car accident she knew that she wanted to dedicate her adulthood to helping others. Medicine would have been the obvious choice but for one drawback, Dr Karen is really not a fan of blood! She is, however, supportive of medical care when it used as the last resort or in crisis care and the body is first given a chance to heal naturally. I asked her how she marries the two philosophies of medical and chiropractic care. For Dr. Karen the division and responsibility of each regimen is clear:
“Chiropractic is a health care model not a sick care model. To maintain your optimum health you need a whole body approach which is part of what chiropractic care gives you. But when you are sick then the medical system is there to help you in crisis.”
Chiropractic care was something very new to me. I come from a country with a highly medicalised approach to health care. I was highly sceptical about alternative health care and the idea of empowering my own health was something I only approached after the birth of my son.
Chiropractic care is still quite a mystery for many people so I asked Dr. Karen what are the biggest myths she hears about chiropractic care. Laughing, she replied, “That we ‘crack’ babies! There is no cracking, there is no force, our methods are so gentle that often babies will sleep during their adjustment” Dr. Karen and her associates at Wellbeing are all trained in the Webster technique, something she insists upon for anyone joining the practice.
I wanted to know more about the perception of “cracking” in clients so I asked Dr. Karen to explain what is actually happening when the “crack” sound is heard during an adjustment. “It is simply the release of gas built up between the joints. It’s the sound you get when you ‘crack your knuckles’. It sounds loud but it’s just noise, there’s definitely no actual cracking going on and afterwards you should feel a release. You should feel lighter and not as tense in that spot as you did before. But there are lots of techniques to achieve that and we work with each client to find the right one for them.”
I was intrigued so I also asked Dr. Karen what other myths she hears about chiropractic care. “That once you start going, you have to go forever, is a popular one,” she told me. “That’s not the case but we do see chiropractic care as something that should be built into your regular health maintenance, a check up for your body to make sure that everything is still working the way it should rather than something you only do when there is a problem. We believe that prevention is always better than cure.”
These core philosophies of chiropractic care are something that Dr. Karen was intent on maintaining as the cornerstones of the practice when the time came for her to add more chiropractors to her team. I asked her what she looked for when hiring new chiropractors for Wellbeing.
“It is very important that they live a chiropractic lifestyle, that they walk the walk. Equally important is their commitment to continuous professional development so that they are always learning, always improving what we can bring to our clients. In terms of education and experience, I look for a solid educational background and a minimum of three year’s experience and we don’t take any trainees. I want people in the Wellbeing team who will go the extra mile for our clients, who will inspire them while continuing to educate themselves.”
It may sound like a tall order but Dr. Karen has certainly found that in the two chiropractors who currently work alongside her at Wellbeing. Both Dr. Erin and Dr. Lauren have seamlessly joined Wellbeing bringing everything that Dr. Karen was looking for with their own individual styles.
I asked Wellbeing’s newest chiropractor, Dr. Lauren, how she had started with chiropractic care. “I was always interested in chiropractic care and helping the body from inside out. After training at university, I really understood the power and intelligence of the body when the body and mind are connected. I really enjoy helping clients discover that too.”
But what, I wondered, had brought Dr. Lauren all the way from sunny Australia to weather-challenged Amsterdam in pursuit of her career? Dr. Lauren explained, “I was travelling and had always wanted to live in and experience a culture other than my own. More than that, though, I had been observing a shift in Europe towards vitalistic chiropractic care and I wanted to be part of that.”
One of the criteria Dr. Karen looks for when hiring a new chiropractor to the team is that they live a chiropractic life. I asked Dr. Lauren what that meant for her personally. “It means that you eat well, think well, live well,” she said. “That you approach life positively. Amsterdam really supports people who want to live this way, you have great access to affordable organic food, to buy ecological products and reduce the chemicals in your lives.”
She also loves the bike culture of Amsterdam and has quickly integrated into Amsterdam’s running and functional training scene. It certainly helped that Dr. Lauren had the opportunity to work alongside Wellbeing’s owner, Dr. Karen and fellow chiropractic team member, Dr. Erin. Like Dr. Lauren, Dr. Erin loves the bike culture here. “It is the biggest plus for me. It is a great way to end each day.” Dr. Lauren interjects, “and a great way to start your day, it really wakes you up!”
Dr. Erin continued, “Everyone moves so much here, you can really tell the difference when you adjust them. And the alcohol culture is much smaller than in Australia, but the smoking... that’s something else!”
I asked Dr. Lauren and Dr. Erin, what advice would they give to a client wanting to make a change in their lifestyle?
Dr. Lauren: Just make one change, look for the positive in everything.
Dr. Erin: I agree, change is difficult, for everyone so just make one change at a time until that change becomes a routine, then make the next change. Don’t try to do it all at once, you’ll feel overwhelmed, start to feel guilty. And don’t assume that we chiropractors find it easy, we don’t! For example, I need to make myself active, I like to rest too! Chiropractors have just the same temptations as everyone else, my weakness is chocolate ice cream. Everything in moderation, though.”
So what are the most common chiropractic myths that Dr Lauren comes across? “That we crack your back - we don’t! And also that chiropractic care is a ‘cure’ for neck and back pain, whilst we don’t “cure” this, we do help the body to heal.”
Dr. Erin explained that as a profession she does believe that chiropractors could do more to help bust these myths, to really help people understand that while chiropractic care will help them, the root of what it does is to support the body in functioning the way it was intended to function and then everything - not just your neck or your back - will get better.
Like Dr. Lauren, Dr. Erin truly walks the walk of her chiropractic life. For her this is easy as she has been adjusted herself since she was a baby. Having known the benefits of chiropractic care her whole life, it was a natural step for her to want to give others the same positive experience.
Dr. Erin loves working with people and simply cannot imagine being in a profession where she wasn’t doing that. Since becoming a chiropractor, she has adjusted a huge range of people from newborns straight after birth to 93-year-olds so she knows first-hand what a difference it can make. She is fully trained in paediatric care and loves that aspect of her work.
Originally from Australia, Dr. Erin left Perth after 5 years of training, 2 degrees, 18 months of internship and was part of the first graduating class of her university. I asked her how she came to be in Europe and she explained that she truly believes that chiropractic practitioners in Europe are pioneering chiropractic care right now. And jokes that she had also ‘stalked’ Dr. Karen for a job after reading about Wellbeing Chiropractic online. The philosophy and approach of Wellbeing resonated with her. She and Dr. Karen share a similar background and she liked that it was an all-female practice.
Dr. Erin wanted to continue to pursue her chiropractic career in Europe because she finds the care here quite unique in that it is not tied to insurance and, therefore, you are able to give real care to your clients. There are also great opportunities to continue your education and professional development. She feels that chiropractors here are truly championing the message that everything is connected inside you so you have the key to heal yourself from the inside out. I asked both Dr. Lauren and Dr. Erin what their final advice to clients would be:
Dr. Erin: It’s never too late to improve.
Dr. Lauren: Anyone with a spine should visit a chiropractor, just like anyone with teeth should visit a dentist.
If you are interested in finding out more about how chiropractic care can help you achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle then Wellbeing Chiropractic run a weekly information session which is free to attend. They also run film nights twice a month focusing on birth and nutrition at which there is often a speaker relevant to the film. Wellbeing is clear in its mission to be more than just a chiropractic practice but to also be a hub for their community of families pursuing a healthier lifestyle in the city.
Disclaimer: Wellbeing Chiropractic has paid to be featured on Amsterdam Mamas because they believe that their services would be of interest and benefit to our readers, and we think so too. For more information on sponsored posts and advertising on Amsterdam Mamas, please see our Advertising and Disclosure policy.
Photo credits: Featured photo: Rudi Wells Fotografie, second and third photos: Dorothee Vernex-Loset.