I’ll admit – sometimes I watch back-cracking videos on end, while I await sleep to hit me at night. It’s either that or pimple-popping videos. Both satisfy and calm me in their own way, and it was this curiosity that led me to want to learn more about chiropractic care, and what it truly entails.
After much research, I stumbled across a new studio that’s located in town and run by a married couple, the McMaster’s. Chiropractic Studio Singapore in TripleOne Somerset is every monochromatic-lover’s dream space — bright and minimalistic.
The adjustment tables play a central role in the studio, and it’s the first thing you’ll notice when you walk in. I wanted to hear the truth about chiropractic care, and to figure out if it’s more than just the gratifying release of tension and aches.
Dr Aaron McMaster and his wife, Dr Andrea McMaster, have been practising since 2014. To dispel preliminary assumptions that most people have about chiropractic therapy, I asked Dr Aaron to elaborate, in his words, what chiropractic therapy really is.
“Chiropractic is a holistic approach to someone’s health and well-being. Doctors of Chiropractic focus on the proper alignment, integrity, and movement of the spine and apply adjustments (gentle and specific input into the spine) to promote healthy spinal function,” he detailed.
He was quick to dispel a lot of misconceptions about what chiropractic adjustment really is, given the jumble of misinformation on the internet. One of the issues he addressed was the perception that this therapy is only meant for those already in pain.
“Anyone with a spine and nervous system can benefit from chiropractic care. Just as you would visit a dentist for regular teeth cleanings and checkups, we encourage everyone to visit a chiropractor to have their spine properly assessed. Regular maintenance care can help to prevent many spinal problems from occurring, and preexisting spinal conditions are much easier to care for when detected early,” Dr Aaron clarified.
He also touched on the common mistake of people cracking their own backs, often by twisting their backs and turning their necks with sharp, quick movements.
“Often times when people attempt to adjust their own back or neck with forceful twisting motions they are placing undue stress on the spinal joints. Cavitation (the popping sound you hear when gas is released from your joints) typically occurs in joints that are hyper-mobile,” he detailed.
He then went on to furnish his statement, “The problem areas are usually the joints above or below these segments which tend to be fixated and not moving properly. The expertise to understand precisely where to apply the adjustment rather than performing a general manipulation takes years of postgraduate study.”
My initial thought going in for consultation was that Dr Aaron would put himself to work to sort my bones out almost immediately, but he doesn’t believe in jumping the gun, especially when every client’s body is different and so is their medical history.
We ran through several tests, like having me bend to touch my toes, tilt my head side-to-side and even simply standing in a neutral posture. We even got me to lie on my stomach, through which he could tell that my right leg was shorter than my left!
The coolest part of the initial consultation was the feature wall with a grid called the “Posture Zone”. This wall assisted Dr Aaron in breaking down an analysis of my posture, which is digitised for review during the follow-up appointment.
Before the consultation was over, he recommended I get an X-ray of my spine done so that when he met me again, he would have a better understanding of what my current spinal health is, and what measures he should be taking.
Less than a week after, we sat down to pore over my X-ray results as well as conduct a follow-up review of what he discovered when I first consulted with him. Right from the first scan, he pointed out a few issues regarding my forward head tilt.
Apparently I have an anterior tilt, which is when the head sits in a forward position (away from the shoulder), making my spine have to carry more weight than it should. The weight of my head carried should be around 4.9 kilograms, but I currently am burdened with 8.6 kilograms! That’s almost twice as heavy, which actually freaked me out quite a bit.
He also mentioned the extent of my pelvic bone tilt, making one hip (the right) higher than the other. This is highly likely a result of the mild scoliosis condition that I was diagnosed with as a child, and could very well be one of the contributing causes of my back aches.
On the first visit, Dr Aaron used a neurocalometer (a heat-sensing instrument used to detect “nerve interference”) to test the differentiation of temperatures along the spinal region of my neck. Apparently, I had some activity happening on the right side of my neck — which was surprising to me, given that my aches had all along been on the left side.
At this point, I was informed that it’s a common misconception for many to want to simply target the area of discomfort, thinking it would serve as a cure. But according to Dr Aaron, “Humans are naturally inclined to treat immediate pain. However, we need to try and move away from that thinking and realise there’s usually a deeper, more enduring source that has been neglected for some time.”
The next part of the appointment had me face-down on the adjustment bench where Dr Aaron assessed different areas of my body.
He started off by adjusting my sacrum, a triangular-shaped bone that lies between the fifth segment of the lumbar spine (what the industry would call ‘L5’) and the coccyx (tailbone). This adjustment is commonly used to treat lower back pain or a displaced sacrum. In fact, it can also help provide more range of motion when getting into deeper squats during a workout.
He then applied an activator adjusting tool on strategic points on my back, mainly used when there’s pressure that is needed to be applied to an area that is more sensitive or only requires less force than doing so manually with one’s two hands.
It gives off a loud clicking sound every time the lever is depressed and although it might sound painful, it actually felt very similar to someone jabbing me with a finger.
Because we’re constantly hunched over our devices all day, our upper backs are in a consistent bend that can affect our posture over time. To release the tension that this bad habit has created, Dr Aaron asked me to flip over and cross my arms, embracing myself.
He gently lifted me up towards his chest and asked me to take a deep breath in and a long breath out. On the breath out, he pulled my body towards him in a swift motion that resulted in the sound of faint cracks.
“Not to worry,” he reassured. “Those cracks are just air escaping the joints, and not your bones.”
The next move was a bit more uncomfortable (as seen from the expression on my face), as he had me lay on my right side, with my left leg bent towards me while my right leg remained straight. Again, I crossed my arms, and using my bent left leg for support, he leaned into my arm to apply pressure to crack my mid-back.
I have to say, that was a bit painful. But that was highly likely because it was my virgin adjustment and my body had plenty of pain it was holding on to.
The final adjustment is probably the most commonly viewed type on the internet, which has led many to believe chiropractic therapy is simply a crack of a neck. It may look excruciating, given it’s usually accompanied by a series of loud cracks, but it was more relieving than agonising.
I continued to return to Chiropractic Studio Singapore for the next few weeks, subjected to the similar adjustments that I’d experienced my first time. With each session, Dr Aaron observed that it was getting easier to adjust my body, as my joints weren’t as stiff and were more ‘flexible’.
In fact, during the second adjustment session, when my neck was being manipulated, I felt an immediate rush of warm fluid flowing up my neck which felt truly amazing and intimidating at the same time. I shared the sensation I felt with Dr Aaron who elaborated that it’s synovial liquid that’s being released. This liquid has the consistency of egg yolk and nourishes the joints.
He even showed me some ways to keep my spinal health in check, in between appointments, and I actually felt like they benefitted me, with regards to daily mobility and avoiding stiffness in my back and neck.
The bigger question is, would I recommend chiropractic therapy and am I now a convert? With a resounding YES, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking not just for relief from the stresses that one’s body is put under on a daily basis, but also to those who wish to improve their physiological well-being.
I’m honestly grateful for this experience that has led me to learning more about my medical condition that has stayed with me as a child. It’s also taught me what the body undergoes and how it evolves and even adapts to wear and tear, and how to manage pain healthily.
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