When I first decided to pay a visit to Dr. Seth LaFlamme at Great Works Chiropractic & Wellness in South Berwick, I was doing it to write a Green Alliance profile about the young doctor’s thriving practice – that’s it. At 29, I was certain my relatively healthy, active lifestyle meant my look-over would entail nothing more than a quick exam, a thumb’s up and a gusto-laden “keep it up!”
After studying Philosophy, English, and Humanities at the University of Maine at Farmington, Dr. Seth – his preferred title – chose to follow his now-wife, Briana, to Atlanta, where the latter planned to study Chiropractic at the field-renowned Life University, the largest school of its kind anywhere in the world.
Motivated as much by his own neck and back pain as he was the thrill of something new, eventually LaFlamme decided to give chiropractic a try for himself. He never looked back.
Today, Dr. Seth owns and operates Great Works, located in his native South Berwick’s charming downtown. In attempting to dissuade the masses from the stigma that chiropractic concerns little more than “neck pain, back pain, and headaches,” Dr. Seth has prided himself on a holistic alternative to the prohibitively expensive, symptom-centric medical world.
“Our bodies are inherently regenerative – blood cells are replaced every 120 days; our stomach lining every five days – which makes it all the more important that we stay in tune with its finer workings, functions, and rhythms,” he explains. “So being at our healthiest and best has a direct effect on how we not only interact with one another, but with the planet as a whole.”
All of that had been discussed at great length long before I decided to take Seth up on his offer for a complimentary exam – namely when Great Works joined Green Alliance, and we penned an overall introductory feature on the business.
This time, however, I wanted to see for myself how Dr. Seth’s unique perspective might be put into practice.
When I arrived for my initial consultation, I was feeling pretty good about life. I was active, in good shape, and ate healthy – with a few, minor exceptions (I’m looking at you, Gilley’s!) To start, Dr. Seth sat me down and posed a series of questions about my past – whether I’d ever been in an accident, past health issues, that sort of thing. I mentioned a few past sprained ankles: Intermittent – and decidedly minor – back and shoulder pain, a car accident at 10 years old that had left me (along with everyone else in the car) unscathed – but nothing serious. Just mark me down for an A+, I thought, and send me on my way!
It wasn’t until I was asked to do a handful of basic standing movements (not unlike what one would be asked to do if pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving) that I realized – cued in part by Dr. Seth’s own intensely focused note-taking – that maybe my body wasn’t as well-balanced and indestructible as I thought.
The next step involved laying on a chiropractic adjusting bench – a kind of cross between a weight-lifting station and a patient’s bed – for a quick chiropractic go-over. This is where things got interesting. Displaying an almost preternatural sense for where my weak spots were, Dr. Seth found a succession of five or six consecutive nodes which, when applied with pressure, felt off – pained, even.
To get a better sense of what the quirks were and how they might best be mitigated, Dr. Seth and I scheduled a date with a Somersworth, New Hampshire X-ray machine – located in another office – the following week. In a process that took no longer than 10 or 15 minutes, Dr. Seth took a series of standing x-rays, designed to show what issues – if any – there might be about my person, and my spine in particular.
The week after that, I paid another call to Great Works, this time to look over the x-rays and receive my first real adjustment. What I heard wasn’t shocking, exactly, though it was somewhat surprising: While I was a ways off from having “serious problems,” Dr. Seth pointed out how I was squarely on the road to back issues.
The reasons are as obvious as they are easily ignored: Over time, seemingly benign habits like slouching at your work desk, slumping your shoulders, or even in what position you sleep, slowly but surely crooks the spine in such a way that your brain isn’t able to effectively communicate with the rest of your body – filled as that pathway is with nerves sensitive to even the slightest bump in the road.
“It’s funny, because we live in a world that’s become more dependent on digital information all the time,” Dr. Seth, his customarily engaging manner at once calming and authoritative. “But humans are still hardwired, analog machines. So fixing us is a matter of making sure all those signals and wires are working smoothly and effectively.”
Despite the handful of bends and crooks, Dr. Seth reassured me that, with proper maintenance, none of the now surface-drawn issues would become major problems down the road. But he was also quick to point out that chiropractic isn’t just something you can do a couple times a year – or even once a month. Rather, keeping up with making sure your body is aligned well enough to allow effective communication requires as much attention to detail as diet, exercise, or any other aspect of health and well-being.
“No health care practitioner can guarantee results on anything – no one can promise a cure,” Dr. Seth exclaims. “But what I’m trying to do with chiropractic is to show that feeling better – eliminating the pains, allergies, bowel problems, whatever – is not the same as being better.”
A quick adjustment of cracks and pops – each instant relief – capped off our x-ray review session. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t left the office feeling wholly rejuvenated; a slight but nagging lower back twinge had all but dissipated, and I noticed a bounce about me typically impossible without at least a few cups of coffee.
I’ve been back to Great Works twice since, and both times I left the adjustment – they typically take no longer than seven or eight minutes – with more than a few springs in my step. To be sure, there’s much work to be done, which is itself an admission the indestructible young buck of a month ago would never envision making. All the while, the roots and philosophies of chiropractic – and their dovetailing with philosophies of sustainability and ecological awareness – reflect a tradition coming into its own, and not a moment too soon.
Or, as Dr. Seth himself puts it: “You look at the American lifestyle, you see a lot of living in a way that’s unconscious and wasteful, and that creates a lot of damage and wreckage, and this applies to the medical field,” says Dr. Seth. “Chiropractic is unique because it’s more respectful, it’s less taxing on the earth – it’s a sustainable, conscious life choice.”