Beyond Chiropractic Adjustments with Dr. Kempe

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Your lifestyle is all about your individuality. Your traits and goals distinguish you from any other person, and we love that. When developing a wellness strategy, it's important that it fits you, and by bringing more voices to the table, we hope to highlight just this. We're teaming up with dietitians, health coaches, trainers, and more to help you discover what wellness means to you.

Dr. Bill Kempe has been a chiropractor at Airrosti in Alexandria, Virginia, since 2012. He also serves as the Sports Therapy and Rehab Director. Dr. Kempe graduated with honors from the University of Delaware with degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition before moving on to graduate with honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida.

Tell us about your background and how you got started with this type of work.
I’ve always been interested in the human body and making oneself fitter, faster, leaner, etc. My professional intent was to help people get out of pain without the use of drugs or surgery. I went to Chiropractic school with the intent of being a traditional Chiropractor in a small clinic. Once I found out about Airrosti from a clinical mentor and their incredibly fast and effective treatment model I know I had to make the switch. After learning about Airrosti’s mission, culture, work environment, etc. I knew this was the place for me. I have been with Airrosti for almost 7 years now and don’t see myself making any career changes anytime soon.

When we think of chiropractic work, we think of back cracking. What other adjustments can you do and how can they improve performance or aid in rehabilitation?
While I was in Chiropractic school I was incredibly invested in becoming a better adjuster. I looked at it as a tool to help relieve spinal and extremity pain. After all, why was I spending all this money to learn how to adjust if it wasn’t going to be my primary tool for fixing pain? While the manipulation and adjustments can be an incredibly effective tool, it needs to be part of a larger arsenal of manual therapy and treatment techniques. After joining Airrosti I went through our 6-week training program to learn how to better assess, diagnose, triage, treat, rehab and educate our patients. I was able to resolve challenging or complex cases with much more efficiency and speed than I could with an adjustment alone. I was sold. The contemporary physician needs to deliver an intervention that is patient specific, not provide a treatment that they’re qualified to deliver regardless of the patient’s needs and goals. This is patient-centered care, and the cornerstone of an evidenced based practice.

What’s the most common injury you see, and do you have any prevention tips?
The most common injury we treat is overuse injuries of the low back and neck. Statistically, you have almost a 100% likelihood of experiencing low back or neck pain at some point in your life. The best advice is to get up and move. Surprisingly, we see a higher incidence of low back and neck pain secondary to inactive and sedentary lifestyles than from weightlifting or acute injuries. Being a desk jockey is in fact very precarious and needs not be taken lightly. Frequent stretches, changes in posture and getting up to move are all excellent preventative measures, but once you’re in pain it’s helpful to see a qualified musculoskeletal specialist to help understand the root cause and resolve the injury quickly and effectively (like here in our office!  I had to get one act of self-aggrandizement in there).

What's your training philosophy?
Variety and frequency are the keys to a well-functioning musculoskeletal system. Humans weren’t designed for high volume repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, repetitive tasks are a requirement for mastery of any sport, skill or physical performance. If your goal is to become a world class athlete, expect to have some bumps and bruises along the way. You cannot find a high caliber athlete who hasn’t had a host of overuse or traumatic injuries in the pursuit of their sport. If your goal is to become a supremely functional human, your training should be varied in volume, intensity, type and scope. For the human body to thrive you should be a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

What's your approach to nutrition?
For the most part I consider food to be a fuel source and something that should help you accomplish a health or wellness goal. Manipulating the quality and quantity of your food can make significant changes to health and wellness and should be the foundation of any well-rounded approach to moving, feeling and functioning optimally.

Tell us about your diet.
I find I am cognitively best with a relatively low carbohydrate diet. Lots of lean and fatty meats, veggies, nuts, dairy, etc. However, when I’m eating less carbs my workouts are empty and flat. I go through periods of moderate carbohydrate intake when my training is a bit more frequent. The weekends are a different story. Saturday and Sunday is a bareknuckle bagel, pizza and beer extravaganza. I eat like a monk during the week, and a cockroach on the weekends.

One food you couldn’t live without?  
Is caffeine a food? If not, I think lamb is my favorite indulgence. My wife doesn’t eat lamb, so I don’t get to enjoy it very often.

How do you handle unhealthy food cravings?
I’ve gotten pretty good at remaining strict during the week knowing I can be more relaxed on the weekends. I have also eaten enough unhealthy food during my lunch break to know that it’s going to train wreck my mood and energy 90 minutes later. Our clinic is a relatively high paced environment, so I can’t afford to be feeling foggy or run down in the afternoons.

What are 3 tips for someone looking to change their fitness and/or nutrition habits?
I only need one: you get one body. One. If you crash your car, you can get a new fender. If you don’t water your lawn and the grass dies, there’s always next spring to spruce things up. If you don’t make the soccer team, better luck next year. If you are reluctant to do the things necessary to maintain your health, wellness and longevity fall into disrepair and you don’t always bounce back from diabetes, heart disease, cancer or musculoskeletal injuries. Once you’ve let yourself slip into a state of metabolic, physiological or mechanical dysfunction it’s very challenging to return to normal, much less optimal, health. The necessary interventions aren’t cool or sexy. Eat a lot of meat and vegetables, drink a lot of water, get a lot of sleep, move well and move often, get some sun when you can. Most of us are mired in the ‘get fit quick’ schemes that don’t pan out over the long term. Look at your health as a lifelong project and attack each day individually. If you string together weeks, months and years of consistent healthy living you’ll be able to move and groove like a youngin’ when you’re 90 years old.

We have to ask. Should we all stop cracking our backs?
I get this question ALL the time. The short answer is, yes. We often display too much movement, or hypermobility, in our neck and low back areas. These structures are meant to prevent lots of movement, not aid in it. Your midback, or thoracic spine, has to remain mobile for the other two to function properly. If you’re going to be performing spinal mobility work, it should be focused only on the midback and thoracic spine. Patients who are chronic and frequent self-adjusters often get into a downward spiral where they will feel temporary relief and rebound tension/pain/discomfort which can only be managed by another self-adjustment. Once you’re in the loop of self-adjusting, it’s difficult to stop.

Favorite quote
“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kempe, contact Airrosti.

Body TherapyEmily Smith