Tzu Chi’s Free Chiropractic Services Help Californians Hold Their Heads up High

Northwest  |  March 31, 2024
Dr. Benjamin Su adjusts a patient’s back at a free chiropractic clinic. Photo/Renee Liu

Written by Renee Liu, Kitty Lu
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

As our lives increasingly revolve around technology, chronic neck and shoulder soreness from looking down at our devices has become more commonplace. This soreness or stiffness from continuously straining the neck muscles while using devices like phones, tablets, and computers is known as “tech neck.”

This matter has led Tzu Chi volunteers in Northern California to hold monthly free chiropractic clinics and lectures. The event combines consultations, remote online sessions, and physical health talks to help people mitigate this concern that can lead to early cervical degeneration.

A postural health lecture at a chiropractic clinic, with people participating in aerobics on site

A health lecture on posture at the spinal neurology clinic commences, with the public participating in fitness exercises on-site. Photo/Renee Liu

To prepare for the 10 AM spinal health lecture, Dr. Wendy Chuang, a chiropractic physician, arrived at 8 AM and set up a large green backdrop. With the help of assistants, the broadcasting equipment was readied to demonstrate exercises, provide explanations with background images, and accommodate both online and in-person attendees together.

Dr. Wendy Chuang personally demonstrates exercises for guests to follow along. Photo/Renee Liu

In the past, I could only teach patients one-on-one. I thought about a better way to conduct a more comprehensive health lecture for a group of patients to participate in together. It is best done through demonstrations, as well as combining remote and in-person courses.

A chiropractor operates the broadcaster, and people at the far end can listen to the lecture through the connection
Dr. Wendy Chuang operates the broadcasting equipment, allowing remote participants to listen to the lecture. Photo/Renee Liu
The doctor's assistant helped control the audio-visual equipment and produced background images on the spot to help the public understand
Dr. Chuang’s assistant manages the audiovisual equipment and displays background images. Photo/Renee Liu

With humorous explanations and personal demonstrations of spinal fitness exercises, Dr. Chuang led participants to relax their tense necks and alleviate discomfort caused by poor posture. Having experienced the benefits of these movements firsthand, participants could continue practicing them at home.

Students follow the explanation and do health exercises together
Participant Annie Yuan (right) follows the instructions for doing the exercises. Photo/Renee Liu

Helping family members is different from taking care of oneself. This doctor addressed our main issues and gave us many opportunities to do these exercises to stretch our bodies.

Doctor explains the posture
Dr. Wendy Chuang explains the exercises. Photo/Renee Liu
Warm interaction between doctors and people at the scene
Dr. Wendy Chuang interacts warmly with participants on-site. Photo/Renee Liu

Dr. Chuang reminded participants that watching health videos online at home may not always capture the essence. Holding this lecture allows interaction with students on-site, addresses their questions, and solves various problems.

Aspiring to Heal & Receiving the Baton

Dr. Wendy Chuang has been a Tzu Chi Medical Association member since 2000 and has over 20 years of volunteer clinic experience. Influenced by her father, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who helped patients in need for free, Dr. Chuang was inspired to pursue medicine. In addition to her work, she actively participates in community service, engaging in many non-profit organizations’ volunteer clinic activities.

Dr.  Wendy Chuang
Having joined the Tzu Chi Medical Association in 2000, Dr. Wendy Chuang has many years of volunteer clinic experience. Photo/Renee Liu

Participants actively participating on-site, coupled with guidance from professional physicians, is a more effective method. Changing one movement can sometimes immediately relieve pain! Seeing their inspired eyes after learning is really heartwarming.

The public can actually participate on site or use the Internet to learn spinal health exercises from doctors.
The doctor demonstrate herself

Attendees can actively participate on-site or follow Dr. Wendy Chuang’s spinal health exercises online. Photo/Renee Liu

Poor posture and constant slouching are common causes of spinal misalignment. However, by changing posture and restoring the spine’s natural position, smooth nerve conduction can be achieved. When the spine is misaligned and interferes with the nervous system, pain and discomfort are likely to occur. 

Growing up in the United States, Dr. Wendy Chuang, although limited in her Chinese proficiency, overcame language barriers to explain the importance of spinal neurology in simple Chinese, hoping to increase understanding of this professional field.

Tzu Chi’s clinics indeed help economically disadvantaged patients, which I cannot achieve in my own clinic. Thanks to Tzu Chi, this health lecture can be attended on-site or remotely via live broadcast. It helps Asian residents and Americans to better utilize spinal neurology.

Straighten the Spine, Lighten the Load

In addition to health lectures, there are also spinal neurology services on-site. Participating Chiropractic Physician Dr. Benjamin Su meticulously treated patients in the consultation room. 

Dr. Su explained that many people in California’s Silicon Valley are engineers who spend long hours working in front of computers, resulting in various postural issues. Persistent pain from “tech neck” is common among these patients.

Dr. Bejnaman Su demonstrates how to use elastic bands for stretching exercises
Dr. Benjamin Su demonstrates using elastic bands for stretching. Photo/Renee Liu

A patient named Wilson Chen came for a consultation and shared that his work involves using computers for long periods, leading to muscle strain due to posture. Although he has medical insurance, it does not cover spinal neurology, so he sought help from Tzu Chi. After two clinic visits, his condition has improved significantly.

Dr. Benjamin Su patiently consults and understands the patient’s symptoms
Dr. Benjamin Su patiently listens to a patient’s symptoms. Photo/Renee Liu
Dr. Benjamin Su helps patients adjust cervical spine problems
Dr. Benjamin Su adjusts neck problems for patient Wilson Chen. Photo/Renee Liu

After the adjustment, I feel much better. Thanks to the doctor and Tzu Chi for correcting my spine. I also learned a lot. The effect has been very good.

Dr. Benjamin Su, a previous member of Tzu Chi’s high school and college youth groups, is not unfamiliar with Tzu Chi. When Dr. Wendy Chuang invited him to participate in the Chiropractic Clinic, he agreed without hesitation, committed to serving the community.

Dr. Benjamin Su instructs patient Wilson Chan to use elastic bands to do exercises.
Dr. Benjamin Su guides patient Wilson Chen in using elastic bands for exercise. Photo/Renee Liu

Being able to help these patients feels great. Clinic volunteering allows me to apply what I’ve learned and relieve their suffering. Patients can clearly feel the difference before and after treatment.

The free chiropractic clinic and posture health lectures at Tzu Chi USA’s Northern California branch are held on the third Wednesday of every month. Community members are encouraged to utilize these opportunities to maintain spinal health and lift up overall wellness.

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