Balqis Lim looks at how technology is being used to improve musculoskeletal health
A SPINE and joint clinic can easily be mistaken for an outlet that offers only chiropractic treatment or physiotherapy, commonly referred to as manual therapy (physical manipulation).
Such a clinic actually offers a suite of treatments with the use of evidence-based therapies to accelerate the healing and rehabilitative care of patients, in addition to providing manual therapy.
Up until 20 years ago, the most advanced technology in healthcare was the innovation behind the X-ray and CT scan.
These were passive technologies meant to provide more information for health practitioners to support their medical diagnosis.
“If you’re a cardiologist today, you cannot survive without a 128-slice CT scan machine because it will tell you very quickly if there is a problem with the heart, for example. Technology continues to drive innovations in medicine and healthcare. So too in chiropractic and physiotherapy fields.
“And we cannot rely on only traditional methods of treatments from the past 50 years. It’s important that we can complement our manual treatments with the proper technology,” says Spine and Joint CEO Datuk Dr Nick Boden.
Dr Boden started Spine and Joint in 2012 and currently has clinics in Sri Hartamas, GE Mall Ampang, Taman Desa in Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, Sarawak.
Spine and Joint offers services including chiropractic, physiotherapy, Japanese acupuncture and osteopathy.
There’s a growing demand for alternative treatments for people with various musculoskeletal conditions including back pain, joint pain, sports injuries and physical disabilities.
“Traditionally, in Malaysia, you’ll likely visit an orthopaedic doctor for mild to chronic cases but there are a lot of things that you can do before you need to undergo surgery. Most of the conditions don’t require surgery. Only 10 to 20 per cent require surgical intervention or injections.
MAINTAINING MUSCULOSKELETAL HEALTH
Spine and Joint treats conditions related to the muscles, skeleton and nerves called neuromusculoskeletal.
It is vital to maintain adequate musculoskeletal health because the nervous system connects the entire body to give strength and mobility so that we can carry on with an active lifestyle.
“That’s why when people have a stroke, they cannot walk because the part of the brain that controls the nervous system is not working correctly or is damaged,” says Dr Boden.
At Spine and Joint, its focus is not to give medication, injections or surgery but to treat patients holistically and to stimulate their bodies to heal naturally.
“We are non-invasive and do not prescribe medication. We take a very conservative approach. Too many painkillers may cause kidney problems.
“We invest in advanced equipment to give you better results. You benefit from the precision of the treatment courtesy of modern technology,” says Dr Boden.
But for some conditions such as heel spur, manual therapy may not be suitable.
“For that, we have an FDA-approved shockwave therapy treatment which takes four minutes each session. You only have to do once a week for five sessions, as opposed to going for a massage three times a week.
“There’s no evidence to show that rubbing your foot is going to fix your heel spur as some people commonly assume. But there’s strong evidence to show that shockwave therapy is ideal for treating heel spur,” he adds.
“Pain is subjective for everyone, so every treatment is tailor-made for the individual. A 70-year-old is not given the same manipulation as someone who is 20. We have other treatment options to give patients precisely what they need to help them get better.”
In a modern clinic, it is common to receive advanced treatments such as electro therapy or spinal decompression therapy.
Spine and Joint has recently invested in more technology to meet the needs of patients. For example, it offers a Food and Drug Administration-approved extracorporeal shockwave therapy to treat specific conditions related to the joints causing shoulder pain, elbow pain or heel pain (tendonitis and bone spur).
Spine and Joint, in collaboration with 3D Feet, has also invested in a proprietary 3D printing lab to produce custom-designed insoles mapped to the foot arch of individual patients.
These customised insoles fit into a person’s shoes to support their natural arch from the bottom up, serving a beneficial function to improve movement by ensuring that the forces acting on a person’s skeletal structure even out on both of their feet when they walk or run.
Dr Boden says he collaborated with 3D Feet because customised insoles in the market were either too expensive because they had to be imported from Australia or patients had to buy a system that comes with the shoes but had limited design options.
“We make insoles using 3D printers which takes 2½ hours instead of four weeks. It’s very quick and cheaper, half the price of conventional products and we pass on the savings to patients,” he adds.
Next year, Spine and Joint will invest in anti-gravity treadmills which Dr Boden describes as an experience akin to “walking on the moon”.
These are specialised treatments to help elite athletes as well as patients with chronic spine or knee conditions to advance their rehabilitative therapy sessions so that they can recover faster.
PUSH FOR BETTER HEALTHCARE ENFORCEMENT
Dr Boden says that the people should get good quality care in terms of access to the healthcare system.
“As someone who has been in the country for 16 years, I think the biggest issue is enforcement. We need to have much stricter enforcement, not just for chiropractic treatments, but also for medicine and alternative treatments.
“For example, it’s alarming to be able to go into a local beauty salon and get a Botox injection from unlicensed operators. We need much stricter enforcement of standards so that patients don’t get into trouble due to negligence.
“You should not be able to call yourself a chiropractor without proper qualification and without a certificate from the government to allow you to practise.
“If someone gets seriously injured, then that’s going to affect not only my professional practice but also other reputable establishments that are compliant with the Ministry of Health. My profession is going to get a bad name because of some charlatans.”