Toronto chiropractor, Dr. Shannon Dales, discusses her path to chiropractic and the importance of physical activity in daily life
For over 25 years, Dr. Shannon Dales has been a practicing chiropractor in Toronto, Ontario. An alumna of the University of Toronto and Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Dales runs an interdisciplinary clinic that includes chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage therapy, naturopathy and acupuncture. In addition to seeing patients in the downtown core, she is also a national-level competitive athlete, competing for six years on the Canadian Dragon Boat team. We spoke with Dr. Dales about her path to chiropractic and dragon boating – and the convergence of her two passions.
1. Why did you want to become a chiropractor 25 years ago?
My uncle is a chiropractor, so I’ve seen the benefits of chiropractic care my whole life. My family and I were big supporters and beneficiaries of it. When it came time to select a career, it seemed to be the natural choice for me – especially considering my active lifestyle!
2. Is the profession what you expected it to be?
It’s even better than I thought and it’s only getting better! From an early age, I saw the high satisfaction rate from patients, and I really love that no two days are alike. As a chiropractor, I really get to know my clients and their families. Everyday I go into work and think, This is why I chose this profession! It’s been great.
3. What is the biggest challenge in your work as a chiropractor?
For me, staying on top of current research is challenging from a time-management perspective. There’s so much research coming out daily, but I pride myself on staying up to date on new modalities and methodologies so I can help my clients feel good and move well.
As far as the management of patients, the challenging part is really trying to motivate them to get active, to exercise and to know that movement is intrinsically important in their recovery. Chiropractic care is not passive – it’s active. Exercise is part of treatment. But certainly, people are starting to understand this point.
I think what scares a lot of people is the idea that they don’t have time to exercise. As a chiropractor, my job is to reframe time management, so they understand that a 20-minute power walk can be as beneficial as a two-hour workout at the gym. It’s about moving more and using exercise as medicine.
4. In your 25 years in practice, what has been the most rewarding moment for you?
It’s always rewarding when clients refer family members to me because it’s such an honour. You don’t just let anyone work with family members so that’s always a highlight.
A funny moment for me was when I got invited by my daughter and her class to do a presentation on anatomy and my daughter wasn’t embarrassed by me! It was great to get out there and talk to people about chiropractic care.
5. What types of conditions do you treat in your practice?
I work out of downtown Toronto, so I treat a lot of what we call the “downtown back.” Everyone is sitting for long periods of time which causes chronic low back pain. Because I’m so active myself, I also treat a lot of sports injuries, as well as pre and post-natal conditions, acute and chronic conditions, lumbar stenosis and osteoarthritis. I treat a little bit of everything!
6. What is the benefit of working with other healthcare providers?
I’ve been working in a multidisciplinary environment for 21 years now, and it has always been beneficial for the patients. One tool does not fix all – you need a whole toolbox. Additionally, if we’re co-treating a patient together, I can focus on manual adjustments or acupuncture while a massage therapist provides the soft tissue treatments. It maximizes the strength of what we each provide. Patients love it and we can work with their individual preferences to move things along.
7. For someone who has never seen a chiropractor before, what is one thing you wish they knew about chiropractic care?
I think what creates a lot of pause for clients is fear. Our profession has been a little exaggerated in movies but there’s really nothing to be afraid of. As a patient, you’re in control of everything that we do. There’s consent in everything we do and if you’re not comfortable with something, we don’t do it! There is also fear and misconception that once you see a chiropractor you have to see them all the time. It’s not like that at all. It’s important to me to educate my patients on what we do and what we don’t do. People come back because they feel the benefits, not because I tell them to. You’re in charge of when you come in and when you don’t.
8. A large part of chiropractic care is about moving more and getting active. You lead by example as someone who recently competed in the World Dragon Boat Championships in Thailand and won five gold medals! Can you tell me a bit more about this experience?
Early on in my career, one of my clients introduced me to dragon boating – at the time, I had no idea what it was. She invited me to try it with her so I could understand the physical demands on her body. From that point on, I was hooked! I’ve been paddling for 25 years now.
Dragon boating is all about strength, power, efficiency and teamwork. There are a lot of mental and physical challenges but it’s a ton of fun. When I first started, I practiced once or twice a week and it was a great way to meet people and learn a new skill.
Now that I compete on a national level, I do weight training when I’m not paddling. In the springtime, my team travels to warmer climates such as Tampa, Florida, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We spend a week on the water together and get as much mileage as we can to prepare for the upcoming season. It’s a very fun vacation. We’re outdoors, getting some sun. It’s a nice way to take a break, stay fit and get some vitamin D at the same time.
For me, this has been an opportunity to travel to places all around the world. We went to Thailand this year. Two years ago, I was in China on the national team. Before that, I travelled to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau…I even met my husband through dragon boating!
9. Why is physical activity so important?
Physical activity is great for the mind, body and soul. Each one of those elements are important for proper health. Statistics show that the stronger, healthier bodies are living longer and have better quality of life. Little bits of exercise here and there are all cumulative. It’s about grabbing the exercise when you can.
Takeaway #1: As a patient, you’re in control of everything that happens during a chiropractic treatment. There’s consent in everything a chiropractor does, and if you’re not comfortable with something, they don’t do it! People go back because they feel the benefits, not because it’s mandatory. You’re in charge of when you go in and when you don’t.
Takeaway #2: You don’t need to exercise for hours in order to feel the benefits. A 20-minute power walk can be as beneficial as a two-hour workout at the gym. It’s about moving more and using exercise as medicine.
Takeaway #3: Working interprofessionally with other healthcare providers may yield better results for patients. One tool does not fix all – you need a whole toolbox.