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Health Talk 

Kandace Power Graves discusses chiropractic as a doorway to wellness with Dr. Patrick McNeil, owner of McNeil Specific Chiropractic.

Q: You recently went to New York to perform adjustments on rescue workers at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center site. What made you think of volunteering chiropractic adjustments?

A: As far as my great desire and concern, dealing with just the stress that I saw in my patients here from that experience (the Sept. 11 terrorist bombings), there was a lot of healing that needed to be done on this level. Chiropractors across the country ... saw an influx in offices like ours. You can imagine the stress levels, and we're not as connected in New Orleans to the situation in New York.

Q: Making that connection was your motivation to go?

A: To be a part of the community, that was my motivation.

Q: Were the rescue workers open to chiropractic?

A: Oh yeah. I adjusted quite a few people that it was their first time. When we're adjusting people, it's more than just relieving pain or tension. We were trying to administer as much healing as we possibly could. We could just feel and see what was happening with these people -- the stress and anxiety. I can't imagine loving somebody more than by giving an adjustment, and that's what we were there to do.

Q: Did you feel successful in helping them?

A: One of the guys was pretty twisted up and ... had a lot of pain shooting down his legs. To have a guy get adjusted and stand up and say 'Wow, I feel a whole lot better' ... is something.

Q: It must be gratifying.

A: It is in a sense, but I know that chiropractic works. I've never found anything more reproducible than chiropractic, because we're doing nothing but working with the body's natural ability to heal.

Q: So is the adjustment a cure in itself or does chiropractic go on the notion that if your bone structure or spine is in order your internal organs work better?

A: There are a lot of ways to state that. There are a lot of ways to misstate that, also. That's why the procedure of education we have in this office is allowing patients to be empowered and informed and then make an informed decision. We don't cure anything. The adjustments help to bring the body into balance and allow it to work like it should. ... We brush our teeth to prevent tooth decay, we change the oil in our car, but we don't do much for our body's natural health.

Q: Is self-healing a standard line of thinking for most chiropractors?

A: There are a lot of misnomers as far as the way chiropractors try to communicate. A lot of people have fought to be chiropractic physicians. For me, I consider myself a chiropractor because physician goes hand-in-fist with medicine: allopathic care. That's an outside and therapeutic approach to curing a body, disease or system.

Q: And that isn't your approach to health care?

A: Health care no longer is about health. It's about crisis intervention. Even prevention in an allopathic world is something that's going to be, 'Come get your blood checked' or 'Oh, you're OK this year.' It's got to be about lifestyle change. There's no profession that's done wellness better than chiropractors. That's what we've always done.

Q: So it's not all about spines and backs?

A: Chiropractic does wonderful, great things with people's back problems, great things with spines that are bent. What we do as chiropractors in this office is much different than a lot of offices around the city in the sense that, number one, we do specific techniques toward maximum correction and we know that the body's taken years to get to a point where it produces a symptom. Research says that it takes close to 60 percent or more of the nerve to be interfered with before a symptom comes on.

Q: So by the time I feel a sharp pain, I would be in pretty bad shape?

A: You could be pretty damaged. You could have severe degeneration and you've got to look at a lot of different things as far as what could happen between the point of being optimally healthy and being sick. We don't have a lot of 12-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 20-year-olds that are having a lot of problems. It's typically when they're 30, 40, 50.

Q: When you make an adjustment, does the problem go away immediately or does it take lots of visits?

A: An adjustment is a specific adjustment to restore proper balance in the body. What we do is through time, bring a body back into balance. You have a physical component; you also have a very strong mental and neurological component. The feeling better is what follows when there's better connections and better workings.

Q: Is it like yoga, where the theory is that if you have better posture and breathe well, all your organs work better?

A: That's not just a theory. That is clinical science. Now it's been proven because our minds have caught up to what our bodies already do. As we become educated, in some sense we become stupid. As children, when we're tired we sleep, when we're hungry we eat. Now we hold it all in; we don't allow ourselves to do what comes naturally.

Q: Meaning we're a manipulated society?

A: That's the thing. You've got educated brain and you have innate brain. Pain is a sense that we learn; it's an educated response. Innate is working all the time. The innate ability of your body to heal is 100 percent from the time you're born to the time you die. It's just a matter of what interferes with that or what restricts that.

Q: Does education help or hurt?

A: Somebody could read the Atkins diet and believe it's a great way to live. But living in an acidic environment is very risky. There is a lot that is proselytized that doesn't work. If it isn't lifestyle, you can't depend on it.

Q: So it needs to be education about how the body works on a basic level?

A: As we understand more, we don't go back. If I told you today that aspartame is a highly carcinogenic agent that when put into our bodies turns into formaldehyde at 98 degrees, which is preserving the body before you're dead, and that's not a good thing because it stresses our organs, causes all kinds of neurological distress and other problems. With that simple information, a lot of people would never take aspartame again, yet it's in toothpaste, diet sodas, all these different things. That drug is a sweetener, but yet it's had bad, bad side effects in the body and we just accept that. But yet, when you become informed you make wiser decisions and that raises the bar.

Q: Why do we accept it?

A: Most people are apathetic. They just hope to make it to the next paycheck, make it to the next Christmas. One thing people are lacking is a far-sighted vision and goal within their lives and within their jobs.

Q: I've heard you say chiropractic is the wave of the future. What do you mean?

A: It's the health care of the future ... the care for the health, the wellness care. Everybody wants to put wellness on a tag. Everybody wants to define wellness for theirselves. Chiropractic enhances neurological function and when you deal with the four essentials of health, life and living, you're dealing with air, food and water. The thing people forget about is the nerve system. If you decrease the quality or quantity of any one of those four, you start to die.

Q: You believe in this on a personal level, not just as a clinician?

A: It's what helped me. I was involved in a car accident and injured my spinal cord and blew out some disks on my lower back and suffered quite a lot.

Q: Have you recovered?

A: Yes. I even run now. In the mornings ... I go running. That gives me my time. It's the only time I have to myself. It gets my batteries charged and I can last throughout the entire day.

Q: Does your family come for adjustments?

A: Every week my children and my wife come in. My children have had adjustments since they were born. We have children who come in with ear infections, pus coming out their ear, and we adjust them and their bodies clear up. If you don't take care of kids and the twig is bent as it is growing, the tree grows crooked. As the bones harden, it's going to be that much more difficult to correct an imbalance.

Q: Do you think people in general are overcoming past notions of chiropractic as quackery?

A: It doesn't matter. The truth is always going to be upheld in the end. As much grief and anguish as people have put chiropractors through over the past 107 years -- 1895 was the first chiropractic adjustment and was done on a janitor ... manipulation of bone centers has been in societies for thousands of years, but chiropractic has refined it into a philosophy, an art, a science, something that's reproducible. The profession is just a few years older than 100. It's a very young profession. If you look where physics, biology and chemistry were as sciences, they were still doing a lot of different experiments at 100 years old, trying to figure concepts out. The principles of chiropractic are: No. 1 that the body has the innate ability to heal itself, to be healthy. The metaphysical concepts of health and healing are just starting to be tapped into and understood.

Q: What do you say to those who think it's a little out there?

A: It's pure science. It's wonderful, because you have miracles happen everyday ... without drugs. The top three killers of Americans are heart disease, cancer ... and reactions through medications. That's not necessarily the fault of the doctor ... but any time you put a chemical into your body expecting a reaction, it's a risk. What I see happening is that people believe it's an acceptable risk. For me it's not acceptable, because when it's you (or your body doing the healing) it's 100 percent.

Q: As a chiropractor volunteering professional services at Ground Zero, you were admitted into the inner sanctum of the rescue operations. What was that like?

A: You walk up to that chapel (where rescue workers, eat rest and are treated) and see what you see on TV and the wall surrounding it with all the pictures, all the memorabilia. ... You could feel the sorrow. My buddy (another chiropractor volunteering services) and I were pretty awestruck. You just felt an overwhelming sense of community.

Q: Did it also help you personally to deal with the events of Sept. 11?

A: As much as I adjusted them, I just wanted to hug them. I needed healing, too; I didn't realize that. Just by adjusting people and being a part of it, there was a great deal of healing that was going on inside me. I had a strong conviction about everything that I did and a stronger conviction of service.

Q: Did it change the way you approach things?

A: I came back and said, 'Our office isn't big enough. We need to get a larger office in order to serve more. We need to be adjusting more people in our community.'

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