Nhon Lam DC and adjunct professor of massage, Interview
I was a student of Dr. Nhon Lam at De Anza College. I had decided to get back into the field and needed to add some hours before I could test for the California Massage certificate. I was pleased to find such an affordable program for getting an associates degree in massage as well as a knowledgeable teacher like Dr. Lam.
Mostly soft tissue work and few adjustments
I was fascinated with Dr. Lam’s approach to treating his patients. He does not make a lot of chiropractic adjustments in his practice and used soft tissue work more frequently than other chiropractors. So I decided to pick his brain and find out why he was so unique.
The first chiropractor in his family
“I’m a science geek, but I was inspired to be a chiropractor because of my father. My father was a mechanic and suffered a horrific low back injury. He was about to go under the knife when someone recommended he visits a chiropractor. The rest is history; I became the first chiropractor in my family.”
From massage to chiropractic
Dr. Lam graduated from Palmer Chiropractic College West in 2003. He has a Chiropractic practice in San Jose California called Advantage Chiropractic. Lam got his degree at Palmer Chiropractic College. He did his internship with a chiropractor who had been a massage therapist for many years before becoming a chiropractor. That was where Lam learned the power of massage, myofascial work, and especially Swedish movements in treating patient injuries.
The chiropractor Dr. Lam interned with had gone to chiropractic school to broaden his scope of practice to be able to diagnose. The scope of massage therapy is a lot more limited than chiropractic.
“It’s the touch that matters most.”
Dr. Lam uses more Swedish and soft tissue work than deep massage or chiropractic manipulation. The reason for more Swedish movements and more gentle work is because neurologically speaking; patients respond better. “It’s the touch that matters most.” He says. “if you go in deep right away and the patient tenses up the treatment is over right then and there.”
How often should you get chiropractic treatments?
I asked if people should try to go for regular weekly treatments or have a maintenance chiropractic treatment schedule for patient visits. But Dr. Lam said that his goal is to treat people once, or only as much as is needed for the best results.
“If you see a patient five times, and they are not happy with the outcome, they will not refer you. Whereas, if you see a patient once, and that is all they need, they will send people to you because you are honest and ethical.” Said Lam,
“Even with people who have acute and sub-acute injuries, I will see them only 4 or 5 times, even if there is still pain on their last visit. We know the condition is improving, and they know what exercises to continue with. It’s all about the homework. They are empowered to continue on their own without coming back to me.”
“If you are ethical and do good work, people refer others to you. Some people have never been to a chiropractor their whole lives and have been fine!” He says. “I have treated patients who are in their 90s or even up to 100 years old, and it is their first time coming to a chiropractor. They were just fine for the first 99 years without a chiropractor, so not everyone needs chiropractic treatment or massage therapy for that matter regularly. If you truly educate people so that they go away and get good outcomes, they will send more people to you.”
I asked Dr. Lam what kind of screening he does. Dr. Lam screens patients by doing a postural assessment. He looks at the alignment of neck shoulders, ribcage, hips knees and feet, testing muscles for tightness, weaknesses or imbalances. He also feels muscle tone, passively, and actively stretches joints the way he showed the students in our intermediate massage class at De Anza College. Dr. Lam does not routinely do X-rays or other imaging scans unless there is a red flag that tells him it is necessary.
Keep it simple to get people to do homework
Dr. Lam works with athletes and active people, for the most part. But even athletes are not as compliant as he would like with homework. “The world is full of non-compliant people. There are a lot of lazy athletes out there!” he laments.
He finds that giving a few simple directions works better than giving people tons of information and homework. If people are overwhelmed, they tend to give up and not do any of the suggested homework. But he works with fit people who are a bit more motivated than the average person.
What Exercise Does Lam Recommend?
I asked him what ratio of stretching to weights to cardio he recommends for patients, and he said that he recommends walking for everyone. “You can’t go wrong with walking. It is one of the fundamental movements of human beings. People complain that walking is going to hurt their joints. But in truth, the more you walk and get that gentle weight-bearing exercise, the better your joints are going to be.”
He suggests that if you are not injured to start with half an hour of walking per day and work your way up to an hour a day. “Don’t even talk to me about barbell technique or other exercises until you have your daily walking down.”
To learn more about Dr. Lam’s chiropractic practice, check out his reviews on yelp of or give them a call.
To learn about his classes at De Anza College in Cupertino, go to my article on the best massage program in Silicon Valley.