Returning chiropractic clinic a hit in Samoa

By Sapeer Mayron ,

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Simone Schapke treats a patient’s knee and back, using an Activator. It aligns the bones of the spine gentler than the full force of a chiropractor doing the work manually.

Simone Schapke treats a patient’s knee and back, using an Activator. It aligns the bones of the spine gentler than the full force of a chiropractor doing the work manually. (Photo: Sapeer Mayron)

A group of chiropractic students have successfully completed a two weeks visit in Samoa, with over 300 people attending their clinic.

This is the fourth consecutive year Dr. Lora Tanis has arranged this student group. She said the awareness and appreciation of the practice is growing.

The team of six had more than 600 visits to their clinic at A Touch of Samoa in Tanugamanono, many of whom were people coming back for a second or even third visit.

Simone Schapke and Nick Ruffin are two chiropractic students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Melbourne.

They said even two weeks in Samoa have been eye-opening for their learning.

“We are seeing a lot more advanced conditions that would be dealt with quite quickly at home,” said Simone.

Chiropractic is a form of medicine which diagnoses and treats mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Untreated sports injuries, chronic pain and advanced neuropathies (damage to the nervous system) and osteoarthritis are just some of the conditions the chiropractors were able to diagnose and begin treating.

But the changes can be fast, which is encouraging, said Simone. 

“Because people haven’t been treated before like this, we are seeing responses from the moment they come in,” she said.

Dr. Lora, the chiropractor responsible for these groups said beyond diagnosing conditions, their primary focus is to help with a wellness regime.

“Teaching Samoans how to take control of their own life situation through diet and exercise can improve upon the quality of their health,” she said.

Wellness, self-care and chiropractic care are not common in Samoa, but Dr. Lora said she believes Samoa is doing the best it can, resource wise. 

“We are just here to help augment those resources, and teach people just a little bit of a different avenue of self-care, nutrition, exercise, wellness and rehabilitation.”

Simone Schapke treats a patient’s knee and back, using an Activator. It aligns the bones of the spine gentler than the full force of a chiropractor doing the work manually.
Simone Schapke treats a patient’s knee and back, using an Activator. It aligns the bones of the spine gentler than the full force of a chiropractor doing the work manually.

Ultimately, Dr. Lora would like to see a permanent clinic established here or at least more frequent rotations of visiting chiropractors to follow up on treatments.

“Maybe through the work we do here, some young Samoan will take an interest in what we are doing, and maybe we can help get them sponsored to a chiropractic university so that they can be trained. 

“Then, we can in turn help them set up here to create that sustainability for their country,” Dr. Lora said.

A great deal of the treatment can be just giving wellness advice, said Nick Ruffin, one of the student chiropractors.

“Hopefully some of our advice will last after we’ve gone.

“If we can affect a few people at least a little bit for a while, that is something,” he said.

Advice can include rehabilitative exercises to help patients treat ongoing pain on their own, or workplace positioning to learn how to be more comfortable throughout the day at a desk or in a factory, for example.

Chiropractors can also refer patients further if necessary. Through blood pressure and other medical testing, the students can determine if a patient can receive chiropractic care, or if they have a condition that should be treated at the hospital or by a general practitioner. 

“Something’s can be confused with musculoskeletal conditions,” said Simone.

“You might come in with severe swelling in the leg, and think that is some fluid build-up but it actually could be a heart condition.

“We are trained to identify the difference and refer you onwards if needed.”

Nick said if problems are diagnosed, the chiropractor cannot treat directly, they can still offer useful advice about health, diet and lifestyle.

“We can try and get to the root of the problem instead of putting a band-aid on it with medication,” he said.

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