A collection of thoughts from Dr. Kirstie Griffiths
Who is Dr. Kirstie Griffiths?
Q. Where was your hometown, and what was your favourite thing about it?
A. I spent the first few years of my life in a small town called Tottenham, Ontario. The best thing as a child was that there were many young families in the community so the street I lived on had other kids to make friends with. When I grew older I became eager to move to a large city and dreamed of the day I could set up in Toronto. Many years later, after spending three years studying chiropractic in Toronto, I missed and yearned for all of the things to appreciate about living in a smaller, close-knit community. Guelph is the perfect size for me, and I am so excited to be back here to grow my career!
Q. Why did you enter your field of practice?
A. I studied biomedical science at the University of Guelph knowing I wished to pursue a role in healthcare. In my fourth year, I completed research with Dr. John Srbely, a chiropractor and professor of human health at the university. We were studying pain mechanisms in patients with chronic pain, attempting to find a way to track brain activity to objectively measure the experience of pain. I was so inspired by our work with these patients that I began considering a career in manual therapy. Spending many years as a competitive dancer, I have always held a keen interest in biomechanics and the influence of movement on health. This field of healthcare has so much to offer, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for our profession.
Q. What is the most rewarding experience you have had in your practice?
I have had many meaningful experiences with patients that have left an impression on me. Nearing the completion of my intern year, I expected to feel relieved, excited, and ready to conquer what was coming next. Instead I was met with sadness. Greeting my final patient as a clinical intern, she asked me "so, how does it feel?" and I responded with "conflicting - I can't understand why this feels like sadness right now." And then she said something that served as a reminder that our patients in some ways help to heal us too. "You have spent the last 6 months getting to know your patients. These people aren't just "people" anymore, they are relationships. And how many relationships did you have to end today?" Saying goodbye to my final patient as intern was hard, but it was for exactly this reason that I felt so certain I had taken the first steps on an incredible path. We are invested in people’s lives and well-being and want to know that they are happy, and healthy, and taken care of. I have the privilege of calling my passion my job and that makes each day uniquely rewarding.
Q. What has been the best year of your life so far? why?
A. 2018 was life changing! Last year I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic on a volunteer outreach to treat patients with limited access to care. This was such a rewarding experience and assisted in sharpening my skills as a chiropractic intern. In June, I wrote my last board exam and walked across the stage to graduate with (what my husband and family are probably hoping will be the last one) a degree I worked so hard to achieve. A couple of weeks later I married my university sweet heart, and we took off on a honeymoon to travel Greece and Rome. I returned ready to get geared up to begin practice. 2018 was one of those years when all of the pieces finally come together and it is the most gratifying feeling in the world.
Q. What is your favourite pastime away from the clinic?
A. I have several hobbies that keep me busy when I am not in clinic. I would classify myself as a foodie and make a point of perusing TripAdvisor to try out the newest and best restaurants in town. My husband and I are both in love with our golden retriever Downie (yes, she is named after Gord Downie), and completely spoil her with affection and treats. I teach yoga in several locations around Guelph when I am not in clinic, and really enjoy sharing the bliss that the practice has brought me over the years.
Top 3 Objections to Exercising with Back Pain
Movement is medicine. Yoga has been studied extensively and has incredible success in the management of pain conditions. When my patients and I dialogue this, I see several common themes:
1) Back Pain patients are interested in yoga but they are nervous about exercising; there is uncertainty surrounding their condition and what motion is safe versus harmful
2) Traditional gym/studio settings may not be the right fit; they are not prepared to commit to an annual membership, class sizes are large, and the instruction is too broad and geared toward many levels of fitness
3) They are concerned that their instructors may not possess the knowledge to appropriately modify and offer instruction that reflects their health condition
That is why I have designed a program that combines my expertise and passion for healthcare & yoga. My Yoga for Low Back Pain program is a 12 week program that combines education, movement, and meditation to give you the tools to get out of pain. Space is limited to 10 participants allowing for personalized instruction and the opportunity for hands-on assists.
This program offers much of the education and rehabilitation I offer my patients, but in a small group setting, providing an economical care option to those suffering with back pain.
This Dream Keeps Evolving
I’ve always known two things about my path.
- I want to help people
- I want to be an entrepreneur
My education offered me a foundation to do both as chiropractic has opened so many doors in business for me. Sitting in my interview to chiropractic school, I spoke passionately about how yoga has shaped my life and I wanted to find a way to integrate this practice into healthcare. Something that goes beyond a suggestion of “you should try yoga.”
So I created a therapeutic yoga program for patients with low back pain. I wanted to build a bridge between prescribing yoga and being able to offer it in a clinical, accessible way. I wanted to reframe the utility of yoga, to allow people to feel like they could access the benefits; not only in spite of their pain, but as a way to combat that pain.
It’s been under one year, five sold out sessions, and so many lessons along the way. And now I am ready to take the next step.
With the aid of Rhyze Ventures, I will be embarking on a business mentorship journey to convert this programming to an online format. This is the future of healthcare; exercise is medicine and now this medicine is available to you from the comfort of your own home.
Thank you for all of your support thus far; I can’t wait to share this project with you!
The Yoga Practice Begins From the Moment You Walk Into The Room
It begins even before that; the truth is the practice never really starts or ends.
It is woven into how we live
How we treat one another
How we react
How we show up
But let’s talk in the context of this sacred space.
It is how you open the door
How you walk across the room
And especially how you place down your mat
Every action should be performed being mindful of the bodies around you
The people inside of them
And the vulnerability that comes from lying on the ground in a room full of strangers with your eyes closed
So please, come in
But walk with grace
Roll out your mat carefully
Be aware of where you place your props
Preserve the silence; maybe the only moment of your day that is filled with quiet
And dive into the peace that comes from being intentional and riding the wave of a room full of breath and stillness.
New Year, New Me?
'Tis the season for reflection and resolution.
A time of year where we analyze our current disposition, and create a mental dream board of what we want out of our next 365 days.
This practice while intentionally positive, is something I view cautiously and I’ll tell you why.
I’ve recently started working at a clinic where we see a lot of patients who have been in motor vehicle accidents. Spending time with them, navigating their histories and their traumas has served as a meaningful reminder that life can change or be taken away in an instant. All we have is this moment right here; and isn’t it a miracle that we have it?
So what is it about a clock striking midnight that suddenly transforms us into the people we want to be?
This life is happening right now. It is happening with every breath and every passing minute. It is happening with every success and every failure, every love and every heartbreak, every laugh and every tear.
Don’t wait for 2020 to be a person you love. Be that person right here and now.
Be that person in how you care for yourself
In how you show up for others
In how you face challenge
In how you react to adversity
Basking in the good stuff when it feels good
Riding out the wave when things feel awful
And knowing that you can be this person you dream of;
With or without checking off a list of accomplishments for our next trip around the sun.
Are Sit-ups and Supermans Causing your Back Pain?
One of the things we discuss in the Yoga for Low Back Pain therapy program is The Big Three.
Dr. Stu McGill is a world renowned professor at The University of Waterloo and is a wizard when it comes to spinal mechanics. He integrates the use of three specific core exercises that are particularly useful in the rehabilitation of back pain.
Spinal stability can be improved during postures and movements by isolating the deep abdominal muscles, specifically transverse abdominus and multifidus. These form a myofascial corset around the waist and provide support during spine loading.
The issue with traditional core exercises we employ such as Sit-ups and Supermans is that they produce very high compression levels in the spine that can cause tissue damage.
If you experience back pain, consider swapping out your current ab routine with The Big Three:
1) Bird Dog - This exercise is pictured above and trains transverse abdominus, spinal extensors and multifidus. Emphasis on neutral spinal alignment in this position is key.
2) Modified Curl Up - Effectively trains rectus abdominus but minimizes lumbopelvic flexion compared to full sit ups to reduce the risk of disc herniation.
3) Side Bridge/Plank - Activates quadratus lomborum, obliques and transverse abdominus while minimizing spine loading.
Training for health is different than training for performance, and this is one of the driving factors behind behind the development of my clinical yoga program “Yoga for Low Back Pain”. In the world of rehabilitation, less is often more.
It Begins with Listening
When I was in the third year of my Biomedical Sciences degree, I worked up the courage to apply for medical school. I wrote about it the day I went out to buy the MCAT prep book. “All or those mistakes and wrong turns were worth it, just to experience the satisfaction of scraping the dirt off your flesh, looking the world dead on, and saying ‘maybe I can actually do this.’ Dream big.”
Then life happened, my dreams were redirected and one year ago today, I walked across the stage as Dr. Kirstyn Ross, Doctor of Chiropractic. It’s been a year. One of making mistakes, having uncertainties, feeling like it is impossible to learn as much as I want to, but also one of growing, learning as much as I could, and experiencing a fulfilling bliss that I would not replace for anything.
On the days when I feel the experience the greatest doubt, I remember the oath I took, 365 days ago. “I will at all times stand ready to serve my fellow people, without distinction of race, creed or colour, in my lifelong vocation of preventing and alleviating human suffering, wherever it may be found.”
Some days that means getting the diagnosis right. Other days it means providing a safe space. If there is one thing I have learned for certain, it is that healing takes on many forms and usually begins with listening.
Chiropractic Myth Buster
“I’m not sure if I want to see a chiropractor - I’ve heard once you go, they tell you you have to keep going. Is that true?”
This isn’t the first time I have heard these concerns, oftentimes they come directly from my patients on their first visit.
So here is my truth. I want you to come and see me because you want to be here. Because you value your health and you have some degree of optimism that I can provide guidance in assisting you with your goals. In the report of findings I explain to patients that one of three things tends to happen while you are under care:
1) You don’t respond to treatment - this is rare, but it does happen. We need a few treatments to have enough data to draw conclusions about how things are progressing but if there is no change, I don’t try to convince you to keep coming. I will refer you to someone who may be better able to assist.
2) You improve - this is the majority of cases I have seen in practice. Sometimes it takes one treatment, sometimes it takes many. We check in at the start of each visit and I ask you how things are feeling. We do objective tests so we can track your progress along the way. The path is not a linear trajectory and that is ok as long as it is trending toward recovery.
3) You recover. I am as excited as you are when this happens because I have observed the incredible work you have invested in this journey.
While there are some risks, it is very rare that receiving treatment will make things worse for you. My patients choose to return because treatment feels good and it suits their lifestyle of prioritizing their health. Maintenance care is a perfect way to touch base every once in a while to receive some feel good care, review exercises, and create space to dialog