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The Bryn Cooper Show Featuring Dr. Caroline Long of West U Wellness

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Read the transcript of our interview below:

C: Welcome to another episode of the Bryn Cooper Show! I am super excited that we have Dr. Caroline Long here. Caroline, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Long: Sure. Well, thanks for having me, Dr. Cooper. I’m a chiropractor who’s certified in pregnancy and pediatric chiropractic with West University Wellness and W2 Wellness + Weight Loss Center. I started with my business partner about 16 years ago.

C: We can all aspire. All of us little baby business owners that have been in business five years or less can all aspire to that, Dr. Long.

L: So you think you get to a point where you can just coast and it’s never that way?

C: I have. Well, I’ve even experienced that already a couple times, looking like, oh, I can just get X number of employees or whatever. You think it’s going to be easier. And the thing is, I don’t know if it’s this way for you, but for me, I felt like my goal would then move and then I would go chasing after that one. And it’s it’s just continual thing. It is fun! All right. So we’ll do a couple of icebreakers. One says, “What’s your favorite subject in school? (when you used to go to school.) 

L: So in high school, my favorite subject was psychology. If I could psychoanalyze people and find out what they’re thinking, that would be really cool. And so I majored in psychology in college and it wasn’t as cool as I thought. I liked anthropology in college, so I thought that was really, really neat.

C: So how did you find anthropology and what did you sign up for it randomly? Was there a professor you heard about?

L: I think I had somebody on my floor who was an anthropology major and I was like, OK, now. And I thought that it was fossils and paleontology. And she said that’s a small aspect of it. But there was actually a class called the Anthropology of Food, and I love food. And so that was really fun to find out why we eat certain foods in the order that we do and how it evolved. And then one class was on sugar and how sugar was used as a resource for preserving food. And then sugar meant you were wealthy if you had sugar back in the day and salt too. And that was really fascinating.

C: The India trade. Right, with all the spices. So this is a totally random question, but are there certain cultures that will eat salads before their meal versus other cultures that don’t?

L: So there is a wild green that grows called gentian and there’s other ones too. And now we eat like radicchio and arugula and things like that. The reason that we eat those bitters is because it gets the stomach acid going. So then you’re able to digest that big meat or whatever is coming down because your stomach acid is going. You’ve triggered it to be like, I need to eat, I need you to produce enough acid. But of course, people were like, oh, it’s so bitter over summer and let’s do iceberg lettuce or something that’s more palatable, which does not obviously have the same effect, especially when you drown it in ranch or something like that. So now you see that the trend is going back towards those bitter greens that people are craving. And it’s actually supposed to be better for your digestive system. So I know in Germany they eat half their salad, then they eat half of their meal, then they eat the other half of their salad, then the other half of their meal. I don’t know about the soups, but I did know the salads.

C: And we do see that trend toward bitter coming back, I think.

L: Yes.

C: There are all sorts of food philosophies, but I subscribe to the one where you need sweet and bitter and savory and all those different things serve a purpose.

L: It’s all supposed to stimulate your palate in different ways and then that develops your palate, especially for babies. We want them to have a well developed palate, at least lay the foundation for now.

C: Do you do a lot of nutritional coaching since you had some of that anthropology in your chiropractic practice?

L: So in chiropractic school, chiropractors aren’t allowed to prescribe medication. We take one pharmacology class, but it’s nowhere near in depth compared to some other health disciplines. And so we try and focus on nutrition and using food as medicine and vitamins, so chiropractors get a year worth of nutrition classes, which is more than medical doctors. But then I went and took about three hundred hours extra in nutrition and medicine. And it’s an evolving field. So, the stuff that I learned is already antiquated. So we do try and incorporate that a lot in our office because people are turning to us saying, you know, my doctor just said, take this medication. Is there something I can do in terms of herbs or vitamins or essential oils? So we try and educate ourselves about that.

C: And I think food is starting to seep over into oral health as well. And so that has become an emerging interest of mine as I get further and further into practice and see the interplay. And so I think that’s awesome because I got like I think half a credit in dental school [on nutrition]. Okay, so tell me a little bit about what inspired you to open your own business.

L: My parents are business owners and I thought that was the American dream to be successful and open your own practice and, oh boy, it’s a lot of work, but I felt like I could build a different kind of chiropractic practice than had been seen before. There are a lot of men who built practices and and women seem to get to a certain level as an associate and then go off and have children. And I was like, no, I really want to practice. I really want to build this and I want to build it for women and for people like myself who are coming in and they’re just looking for something different. They don’t like going to the traditional medical counter. And there’s a window and somebody closes the window behind them. They don’t like the traditional fluorescent lights. They don’t like the traditional linoleum floors. I wanted something that was aesthetically pretty, so people can relax. And I think that Cooper Orthodontics has the same philosophy, so we’re very like-minded that way. And I just really care for the patients and really want them to feel better. I tell them that I may not be the world’s best chiropractor. I certainly try my hardest, but I do want to try and be a great resource for them, too.

C: Yeah, that’s so important. So tons of people think chiropractor – oh, I have back pain – that’s why I go there. What are some other reasons people go see a chiropractor? 

L: So, that is the number one reason we’re thought of as back specialists, spine specialist doctors. But a lot of people come in for headaches and neck pain too, especially during COVID-19. Everybody’s taking pictures of you at the desk looking at the device. And so we see younger and younger children coming in for neck and shoulder issues that are causing headaches and other things. But then surprisingly, we have a lot of babies that come in and people are always like, what are the babies here for? They have latch issues and jaw issues, which is how I think we relate to the dental field and orthodontics. And so when you have a baby who can’t even open their mouth wide enough for a bottle, that is not compatible with a good life. So we try and really do some musculoskeletal things and really gentle manipulation and creating a cycle to work on their jaw. And then parents are like, well, they’re really fussy. Well, they might be swallowing a lot of gas, a lot of air is getting in because they can’t latch and seal correctly. So we work on that and then we work on constipation, if that’s an issue. And sometimes they can’t nurse on one breast, they can only nurse on the other. And that’s because they have torticollis and that’s causing plagiocephaly, flatness of the head. So we see a lot of babies for that, which is not traditional chiropractic, but is certainly emerging as parents are wanting the best foundation for their kids.

C: Definitely. Have you seen anything with ear infections in chiropractic adjustment?

L: Yes. So we never say that chiropractic cures anything. We cannot say that. But we definitely are trying to remove any interference in the body. So if the jaw is mispositioned, and the skull is in 44 pieces during the third trimester, and all of those have to fuse. And those pieces all have to fuse and they have to smoosh through the birth canal and then expand open. And it doesn’t always expand. You may have seen friends and adults whose maybe eyes are off, or their chins off, and not realized that, when they’re babies, they could get very gentle adjustments to reposition those bones, so it doesn’t put pressure on their TMJ, so it doesn’t put pressure on their ear canal. And then things can drain properly and they, hopefully, won’t get those ear infections. For babies and young children, especially, who get ear infections a lot, we try and do some chiropractic adjustments for their neck, for their ears, and their cranium to get the flow going.

C: Definitely. Even more gentle than orthodontics when they’re 6 or 7. That’s the type of adjustments. My child had ear infections and we ended up going to a chiropractor and she got adjusted. And she hasn’t had anotehr infection. We can’t say for sure that it cured it. We used antibiotics as well, so I’m not trying to make a statement, but that’s what we did. What about the palatal sutures? A lot of people hear about orthodontic palatal expansion and I’m always explaining there’s this suture in the middle of the roof of your mouth. And when we expand orthodontically, we’re trying to move that apart and have new bone grow. And I’ve also seen an increasing number of cases as the computer thing happens and increasing allergies, it’s affecting people’s teeth. And so what have you seen used in conjunction with different things that have helped people breathe better, have better tooth position, those kinds of things?

L: So that’s how I got into orthodontics and chiropractic. I had TMJ when I was a teenager and then my orthodontist was like, wait, we can’t put braces on you until we fix this TMJ issue. It was great. I had never heard of it before, but I’m so grateful because then in high school and college, I didn’t grind and it didn’t cause me to have headaches. I had a splint. And then I still have my night guard and sleep with that every day to try to prevent headaches. But I do think that for kids who are mouth breathers, who are snoring, or they’re just like, oh, that’s not healthy. And parents don’t know that if they are breathing through their mouth, their nose isn’t filtering all of the bacteria, the dust, the viruses, the pollutants that are in the air. And so then that goes just straight into their lungs, like you said, causing more allergy issues. They can’t get as much oxygen to the brain and then they feel sleepy. They have the bags under their eyes and they’re like, oh, it’s because of allergies. But it could be because they’re a mouth breather and they’re not breathing through their nose. So we try and help the orthodontist and help the dentist and help the lactation consultants to get that palate where it’s supposed to, to help engage the tongue so the tongue can help close the mouth, especially very young babies, if we can do some palate exercises, some desensitization of the palate, so that the tongue can shape the palate like it’s supposed to, that long term makes a huge difference. I have a torus in my palate, a bony donut protrusion, and I thought everyone had that. But I was told in grad school that all of those sutures jammed together and laid down bone because it was too tight. And that’s probably why I had to have some teeth removed and have braces. And this is so cool that our ancestors didn’t have it and we have it now and we’re learning what we can do about it.

C: Yeah, it’s preventative. And I love this whole trend that’s been happening. I definitely feel it in the medical community where we’re trying to do things proactively. We’re trying to ask the right questions. And get the proactive stuff started for children and young adults – and even if you’re older, what’s the cause, how do we help that cause. And chiropractors have been on the forefront of that for longer than some of us dentists. But we live and learn.

L: We certainly try to get the word out there. Sometimes, we’re swimming upstream, an uphill battle, but we try.

C: It’s hard. And definitely, I think we all feel that when we go the proactive route. There are people who repair their car when there’s something wrong and you have the people who take their car in like clockwork and if there’s something minutely wrong, they fix it ahead of time. You have to figure out which belief system your patient, that one particular patient, is falling into and help guide that.

L: A lot of people ask me, so if I go to the chiropractor, can you fix it in one visit or how many visits is it going to take? And then do I have to come for the rest of my life? And I tell them we have lots of options. Certainly if you want to go to the gym and have a six pack, you’re not going to go one time, do abs and be like I have a six pack. That would be amazing. But it does take consistency. It does take repetition for your muscles to develop that strength. And so same thing with chiropractic. If you are really out of alignment and your sciatic nerve has been killing you for four years, it’s not going to get better with one adjustment. It may take several times. We try and put a reasonable treatment plan for our patients, and then say, now you know how great it feels, it would be best to come back on a wellness basis. But if they’re like, no I’m good, then we say great, we’re here for you whenever you need us. A lot of people aren’t addicted to chiropractic, they just know, oh I feel so much better, I sleep so much better, when my body is in alignment, so I want to maintain that feeling. And I think in that way, we’re very much like dentistry, it’s better to maintain than just fix problems that have been building up for years.

C: Do you find that there’s a cumulative effort on people’s bodies, like someone who’s been going to chiropractic for years and been doing exercises versus someone who works at the computer for years? Do you feel like it’s an additive in their life?

L: So to the first part of your question, when I have a patient who’s been to a chiropractor, not me, but I’ve been treated and they’re transferring care to me, they get better so much faster than someone who’s never had that kind of body work. Also, people who are sitting at their computer all day who may be the couch potatoes and not getting that, not exercising, they’re going to have a much tougher time getting better than somebody who has been active, who has been eating well, who has been taking their vitamins. So, yeah, it’s definitely cumulative depending upon what you do.

C: So what are some words of encouragement for somebody who has never been to a chiropractor? What are those first baby steps that I can take that are better than the nothing I’m doing right now?

L: So we always say, especially with something acute, make sure that something is not broken. It’s not serious. But if you are going through traditional treatment and it’s not getting any better, give chiropractic a try. And certainly you need to find somebody who’s qualified. You can’t expect, like you said, one visit by somebody who has the training, who has a lot of experience with the condition you have, is going to give you a better outcome. Look at their credentials, look at their website and see if what they’re saying is reasonable with your lifestyle, but realize that some movement is always going to be involved. You will need to do your part. It’s not just the chiropractor does something to you. And I think a lot of Americans are used to just, oh, I take a pill and then I’ll be fine. It’s like, oh, there is a little bit more that you have to do on your your side.

C: Yeah. And I think that’s becoming more and more true. As we’ve seen some of these like pharmaceuticals go awry, that as a medical community we’re seeing it’s just such a cooperative effort to get our patients and us all the time. What are some telltale signs of a chiropractor could help you other than having back pain?

L: Ok, so we were talking earlier about the babies. And so if you have a baby who has ear infections that just aren’t getting better or constipation, that’s not getting better. You’ve tried all the tried and true approaches. That’s something for older kids. I got into chiropractic because of scoliosis. I was diagnosed with scoliosis and I went to three doctors. I went to my pediatrician, an orthopedist, a chiropractor, and they’re like, are you in pain? No. So, OK, we’ll just live with it. And I’m like to I know you can’t tell sitting, but I wish I was taller and I can swallow if I want to be five. So it wasn’t until I met a chiropractor when I was twenty one past the age of skeletal maturity who said, you know, you couldn’t have been taller if somebody had taken you to the chiropractor regularly. And I thought, “what is this voodoo?” So I definitely wanted to work with teenagers and children who were diagnosed with scoliosis and I didn’t want them to have the kind of back pain that I was having before I got into regular chiropractic care and knew how to take care of myself. Sometimes I’ll come across people who have chronic shoulder issues or have issues or knee problems or wrist issues. And they’re like, well, I didn’t know chiropractic could do something about it, but I’ve exhausted all my options. I’ve been to everybody else. You’re my last resort. And those are the challenging cases that, like, I can do it, I can try and help or be a resource to them if I’m not able to help.

C: Sure. Yeah, because there are limitations to every field. So when should you start taking your child to a chiropractor?

L: So my I love to tell this story. My youngest patient was 17 hours old and people would never think of taking their baby to a chiropractor that young. But what had happened is she was born at home and she was the second baby. And so her mother knew immediately something was off because she couldn’t open her mouth to latch. And the stuff we do is so subtle, so gentle that I was like, I hope this works. And I watched her open her mouth. And much it was amazing. That is certainly the exception more than the rule. But we do have a lot of babies for that reason. I think any time a parent is looking for more natural health care and getting their child started on a good foundation is a good time to come to the chiropractor.

C: What are some of the more serious situations where it’s just a condition that maybe they can’t get rid of? And it is something that they do need to have that ongoing care?

L: So sciatica is the big one that we hear about. And people think, oh, any time my back hurts, it’s sciatica. And I don’t love that diagnosis because the sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in our body. And it can get pinched in the lower back in the side joint piriformis muscle, the hip hamstring. And when I tell that to people, their eyes glaze over because they’re like, I don’t know what that means. And so we try and really identify the cause. Why did you get here? What is the true diagnosis of your sciatic nerve being pinched and how can we help that and then teach you things to keep it healthy, to keep the circulation going? We see a lot of people for lumbar disc issues. They wake up like, oh, I can’t oh, I can’t bend over. Oh, every time a band or pick up something, it hurts. And I’m like, that could be a sign that there’s pressure on your disc that’s building up. And it could have been from being a cheerleader or a football player or golfer when you were younger. And let’s take care of it now so that it doesn’t become a surgical issue later on down the road. So those are the things I think that people often put aside but we should really work on it. And of course, we all are focused on our computers and being at the desk and stuff. Posture is so important across all ages.

C: Yeah, it really is. So what is the number one thing you can think that will help you avoid having some of these habituation issues and needing to seek care?

L: I think the number one thing is move, move, people, move, exercise, get off the couch, set your outlook or your iPhone or your watch to ring every hour and think, oh, I need to go get a glass of water. Oh, I need to do some back stretches. Get out and walk. I had a patient yesterday and she’s like, well my mother in law just wants to take a pill for her back pain. But she can barely walk and she doesn’t want to move. She doesn’t want to do any kind of exercise. I’m like, well, if she has it done anything for so many years, it’s going to hurt that much more. It’s going to be that much more to get her feeling better. But it turns out all of her doctors have been telling her to get up to do physical therapy. I think that’s the best thing that I can tell people to stay healthy and keep your spine as young as possible.

C: Yeah, well, and people don’t realize with NSAIDs, you know, you actually can have a detrimental side effects. They’re not just a completely benign you like if they’re prescribed or you need them. Like I’m not saying don’t use them ever. But have you had some patients where you’re seeing these side effects because they use so much?

L: Oh, yeah, they have problems with their kidney or liver. And then, of course, they may have ulcers in their stomach because they’ve taken so much Tylenol or Advil, ibuprofen, etc..I think just making ourselves more aware of the things that we’re putting in our body and the health benefits versus the health risks.

 C: Is there anything else you want to cover, Caroline?

L: I love orthodontics. Like I said, I got braces. My neighbor was my orthodontist. Still keep in touch with him. I still use my night guard. And when people don’t understand chiropractic, I tell them it really is like braces for your teeth. You know, we’re trying to keep things in alignment. And why is it just purely cosmetic? No, it’s because long term, you want to preserve your teeth. You don’t want to have a complete dental replacement. So when we can do a project just to keep things as aligned, as balanced as possible, then it just helps keep the health of the individual just like orthodontics. And then you have to maintain it, right? And so we say, do your exercises, make sure you’re taking your vitamins, make sure that you’re eating well to stay away from those inflammatory foods that might be bad for you. So that’s I think our fields are very aligned that way.

C: Yeah, no, I definitely feel that way. I think some people maybe don’t realize how preventative both of our fields are really geared towards that which I think is really cool.

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