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Chiropractor Rethinks Ancient Practice With Addition of Sports Medicine

James Wagner isn’t complacent , and he wasn’t going to let his patients be either.

The 38-year-old chiropractor recently decided to make a philosophical change in his practice. In doing so, he sunk his life savings , $40,000 , into a building in eastern La Mesa.

The goal, says Wagner, who in addition to his doctor of chiropractic has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and certification from the Calabasas-based National Academy of Sports Medicine, is to help his patients get stronger and learn the proper way to exercise so that they aren’t as reliant on chiropractic treatments.

So Wagner is offering traditional chiropractic services at his new, plush, 750-square-foot Center for Manual Medicine, with lessons in balance, strength, energy and motivation. He uses bands and balls, weights and other simple equipment he says people can easily keep in their home to continue what he has taught them. He sees one patient each hour.

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“Running to the chiropractor and taking your pills is not going to solve your problems , you’re only treating your symptoms,” Wagner said. “It’s very important that you contract your muscles where they are supposed to. A muscle is only going to get stronger if you’re working them. People shouldn’t be reliant on chiropractors.”

That tendency to need to return to the chiropractor again and again to feel good and “quack” chiropractors who abuse the art have given chiropractic a questionable reputation at times, said Wagner.

Chiropractors are not allowed to join the San Diego County Medical Society, and chiropractic is seen as an alternative or ancillary treatment in the mainstream medical community, said Tom Gehring, chief executive officer of the Medical Society.


Centuries-Old Practice

Chiropractic has its roots in ancient Greece , and Iowa. Writings from China and Greece written in 2700 B.C. and 1500 B.C. mention spinal manipulation and the maneuvering of the lower extremities to ease low back pain, according to the Arlington, Va.-based American Chiropractic Association. The practice was introduced in the United States in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer, of Davenport, Iowa, where a chiropractic school of his namesake still stands.

Today, chiropractors attend school for four to five years and must have 90 hours of undergraduate science courses behind them before they begin a chiropractic program. Wagner comes from one of 16 accredited chiropractic colleges in the nation, Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles.

“The science of what I do is very valuable,” said Wagner, who was named San Diego’s Best Chiropractor in 2003 by San Diego Magazine. “It’s important to get your spine adjusted, but not six times a week for several weeks. You have to improve your strength through exercise.”

Wagner moved his practice from Mission Valley to La Mesa, where he hopes having a storefront will boost business.

In the last few years, he saw revenues of between $130,000 and $150,000, but he said overhead was so high that his take home pay was about $25,000. Among other expenses, at his old location, he paid a massage therapist.

Wagner takes private insurance or cash only, meaning no Medicare or Medi-Cal.


New Trend

If the vice president of the Sacramento-based California Chiropractic Association, Tracy Cole, is right, Wagner is on the cutting edge of a new trend within the chiropractic industry. Cole said combining chiropractic with another type of wellness program is becoming more popular.

“The industry is in the beginning stages of that,” said Cole, who has a chiropractic practice in Crescent City. “In my own practice, I try to get people to exercise because it helps patients keep their adjustment. It’s not totally the opposite, they actually work together.”

Wagner said his drive for helping people learn how to move properly came early. As a youngster, he and his mother began a summer business in his backyard pool in Pasadena teaching swim lessons.

“I’ve always worked with human beings,” he said. “I could not be in a cubicle.”

For more information on Wagner’s practice, see www.bodywellnesstraining.com.

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