By Dr. Jasleen Singh |
It can be challenging for newcomers or immigrants to Canada to attain the health care (including chiropractic care) they need. Long wait times, language challenges, limited clinic hours and lack of health care knowledge are potential barriers to providing chiropractic care to patients from the South Asian and other diverse communities.
I am happy to be part of the team at Sujok Homeo Clinic. At our clinic, we treat and provide chiropractic care for patients from the South Asian and other diverse communities. Our goal is to help these patients, particularly women, get healthier, naturally. I’ve also earned a reputation for effectively treating ankle issues to vertigo.
I graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 2016 and practise in the ever-growing city of Brampton, Ontario. There, I work in an interdisciplinary clinic with a homeopathic practitioner.
Introducing Chiropractic Care to Diverse Communities
My patients include teenagers, young parents and retired seniors. Many of the seniors I see have spent years building a life for their families; now they are starting to finally take care of themselves. We also welcome members of the LGBTQ+ community, providing a safe and accepting space for them.
Chiropractic care is not well known or accessed in our South Asian community. However, joint manipulation, or bone-setting, is a technique many are familiar with, stemming back generations. Many people know what an adjustment is and will actually travel to villages back home to seek treatment for spinal and musculoskeletal (spine, muscle and joint) injuries. Some patients are surprised – and relieved – when I explain how I will use an adjustment to treat their condition. Many patients will recount how they’ve witnessed ‘chiropractic-like’ care back home but didn’t know they could get this treatment in Canada.
Overcoming Barriers and Improving Accessibility
A number of the people I treat have a South Asian background and many speak Punjabi and Hindi. As I’m fluent in these languages and understand these cultures, I’m well equipped to overcome these barriers to deliver needed health care. I take a keen interest in explaining how the chiropractic profession has put the evidence and science behind this powerful technique.
Working with these patients, I quickly learned that accessibility to manual care was a barrier to those who need it most. Not everyone has a Monday to Friday, nine to five work schedule. For example, long-haul transport drivers are challenged with many threats to their health and well-being, such as long working hours, disrupted sleep schedules, lack of movement, compromised nutrition and social isolation. These patients often only have one day out of the workweek to come home and see their families. So, I modified my working hours to include Saturdays and Sundays where patients, such as long-haul transport drivers, auto mechanics and trade workers, can come in for treatment.
Treating Ankle Issues to Vertigo Impacts
My role is to assess and treat conditions related to a patient’s muscular and skeletal systems. I see a lot of patients with neck and shoulder pain, as well as back, knee, hip and ankle issues.
I’ve become known in the community as the doctor or chiropractor who treats vertigo or dizziness. It started with a patient who was hospitalized for unrelenting vertigo and nausea. I treated her neck and helped alleviate her discomfort. Then, word spread amongst the community that I could cure dizziness.
Patients with vertigo are often very nervous. I put them at ease by explaining how their body’s balance and positioning systems function, which helps them understand why they are feeling dizzy or experiencing related symptoms. As part of this process, I explain how the inner ear works to control balance. I also outline how our joints send feedback to our brain about how our body is moving and what happens when there’s a disconnect.
Often, I can treat these patients with therapeutic exercise and spinal manipulation. Sometimes I collaborate with my colleague, Pam Bal, who is a homeopathic practitioner, on these cases. Occasionally there is an underlying health issue and I need to refer that patient back to their medical doctor (M.D.) with my notes.
Finding My Way to Becoming a Chiropractor
At a young age, I became all too familiar with how tragedy, physical disability and chronic pain can shatter your life. My family doctor was a great role model for me and my family as he is a huge proponent of functional medicine and conservative care over drugs. He was like a god to my family and I wanted to be like him. Since I was young, I’ve always loved to teach others by breaking complex concepts into simple and easy to understand parts. It’s a way for me to reinforce and better my own knowledge.
In university, I researched extracellular matrix biology and developmental neurobiology. Applying to chiropractic college seemed somewhat irrelevant after that. It made no sense at the time how I could study the human body at a micro level and then suddenly move to looking at the body at a macro level. However, things came full circle when I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Mark Erwin. He is a chiropractor who has worked extensively in extracellular matrix biology of the vertebral disc. I was, and still am, in awe of how innovative he is and thankful for the opportunities he gave me. Working with him made me feel proud of what we can accomplish as a profession.
Treatment and Teaching Together
What keeps me engaged in this work is the teaching aspect. To be a doctor is to be a teacher. Like teaching, I’ve always had a keen interest in nutrition and self-healing. So chiropractic was a very attractive profession to me. I love teaching people about their body and how they can take care of themselves in the most conservative way possible.
For example, when I treat a young mom, I break down therapeutic exercises into something she can easily do at home with her kids, even as part of their play. Table talk is a huge part of my practice. Even during treatment, I talk my patient’s ears off about nutrition, sleep quality and mental health.
Chiropractic Care for the South Asian Community and More
When a new patient visits me, it’s usually their first time consulting a chiropractor. So I need to educate them about what this profession does and how it can help them. It’s so important for me to take the time to teach these patients what I’m doing, to thoroughly explain their condition and what type of treatment is best for them.
What’s unique about our clinic is we combine chiropractic care and homeopathy to provide holistic health care for many different conditions. We want to understand what a patient’s diet is like and how they’re sleeping. We need to look at the full person for our treatment to have a significant effect. I’ve also realized that you can aggravate many spine, muscle or joint conditions if you’re overweight or not getting proper nutrition.
Pam Bal, the homeopathic practitioner I work with, sees families and many expecting moms before and after they give birth. She refers these patients to me so I can help co-manage the spine-related issues pregnancy brings. With our combined expertise, we’re well prepared to care for a wide variety of conditions.
I always start with education, explaining to a patient how their injuries or issues relate to their spine. It isn’t just a knee or ankle complaint on its own. Using various resources, from photos to computer animations, I show patients how their body works together. I also explain why injuries can occur in other areas, when your spine or pelvis doesn’t move properly.
I often treat patients with spinal adjustments, which I do manually or with low-force, drop-assisted table adjustments. Sometimes I also use soft tissue techniques, laser or acupuncture, depending on my patient’s condition. For treating neck issues, I use very little rotation and low force, which work well.
And I always make sure to give my patients appropriate lifestyle recommendations, such as nutrition and exercises. When I recommend exercises, I break into simple sequences my patient can easily do at home, without the need for fancy equipment or a gym membership.
Motion is Lotion
To maintain the best flexibility, posture and mobility, I truly wish my patients would stay as active as possible. Patients who are experiencing most scenarios of acute or chronic pain should not be afraid of movement. We shouldn’t sit idly in one position for a long time, on our phones or tablets. We should try to limit the use of our handheld devices and spend more time moving.
Working with Other Health Care Professionals
Many of Pam Bal’s patients come in for pain, which is the first signal to a patient that something is wrong. She identified that in her practice, patients were not receiving an effective solution for pain. Her main concern was that a lot of her acute and chronic pain patients would self-medicate with over the counter pain medications way more than is safe or undergo long term opioid use. She recognized the need for a chiropractor on her team to help co-manage these patients, while maintaining a natural and holistic approach. We work together to identify the cause of the pain and the best plan to treat it.
Outside of the clinic, we collaborate with other health care providers, such as dieticians and psychologists, to give our patients the best care possible. As we’re an all-female team, women are comfortable coming to our clinic for the many facets of female health.
Also, my patients often bring tests and reports from their M.D. In those cases, I write a note back to their M.D., explaining what their patient consulted me about and the types of treatment we’re using. A simple note helps their M.D. know our shared patient is in good hands.
Reaching the South Asian Community
One of the ways to reach and educate the South Asian community is via television broadcasts on “Healthy Living” in their first language. There are two channels dedicated to this community and I voluntarily teach about various health topics for both programs.
I use this opportunity to bring awareness to chiropractic in the South Asian community. But I don’t limit the information I provide to just spine, muscle and joint care. I also discuss nutrition, sleep habits, stress management and more. I explain how our bodies work.
People like to understand why they might have pain or discomfort. This knowledge empowers them to make healthy changes. We are in the middle of uploading these shows on YouTube and other social media for a wider reach.
I often join my husband in his volunteer work delivering meals to senior citizens and others who are less fortunate. To show seniors some spinal mobility and balance exercises they can safely do at home to help them stay independent, I even organized a special event. I will continue to help our senior population because they are often the ones who need spinal care the most.
Chiropractic Care for All
I value making chiropractic care accessible to everyone, from all walks of life. I want to break down social and cultural barriers that might prevent certain populations from receiving this wonderful care. It’s important for me to teach seniors, new immigrants and others that chiropractic care is an effective option for them.
Prospective patients are welcome to book an appointment with me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or at 647-856-2516. Alternatively, if you live outside Brampton or the GTA, use OCA’s Chiropractor locator to find a chiropractor with similar expertise near you.
I’m proud to serve diverse groups of people, including Ontario’s South Asian community. I’m working towards making my profession more accessible to these populations, by sharing valuable information, providing quality chiropractic care and teaching lifestyle tips.