Power of healing hands

Dr Praveena Maharaj is a practising chiropractor and clinical director of the Reservoir Hills Chiropractic Clinic in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. She is a member of the national executive council of the Chiropractic Association of South Africa and was recently featured in the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans of 2012. She received the prestigious national Milani internship award in 2009 after she treated a record number of patients during her internship at the Chiropractic Day Clinic in Durban.
She graduated top of her chiropractic class at the Durban University of Technology in 2009. At the time she was the youngest qualified chiropractor in South Africa. Maharaj now serves as a master’s level chiropractic research supervisor, assisting chiropractic students with the completion of their master’s level theses at the university, where she lectures part-time in anatomy and physiology.

What is chiropractic and what does it entail?

The term chiropractic literally means “done by hand”. It is a cost-effective natural, complementary or alternative, hands-on, drug-free and surgery-free approach to health. Being a chiropractor entails working with people of different ages, shapes and forms: infants, young children, pregnant women, sportsmen, senior citizens and post-operative patients. A chiropractor requires compassion and a sincere interest in patients suffering from medical conditions affecting the nerves, muscles, bones and joints of the body. Some conditions treated are headaches, including migraines, whiplash injuries and neck pain, mid-back pain, lower-back pain, hip and leg pain, pinched nerves, slipped discs, knee and foot disorders, shoulder and elbow disorders, including tennis elbow, arthritis, muscle pain and spasms, pregnancy-related discomfort, sports injuries, recreational and work-related injuries, the prevention of injuries, rehabilitation and so much more. As a chiropractor one would implement treatment protocols that include techniques such as massage, trigger-point therapy, ultrasound and electrotherapies, heat or cold therapy, hydrotherapy, traction, acupuncture and acupressure, muscle stretches, rehabilitative and strengthening exercises, as well as specialised chiropractic adjustments of specific joints.

How long have you been working as a chiropractor?

Full time for three years in private practice.

How did you find out about chiropractic?

The growing need in our society for treatment of pain at its actual source and not as an attempt to mask it is what drew me to research the profession of chiropractic. With its drug-free and surgery-free approach to the treatment of pain, applying for the chiropractic course was a no-brainer for me. Having earned the “doctor” title after completing the chiropractic course, I can now proudly say I have no regrets.

What subjects are required for one to become a chiropractor?

Applicants must be over the age of 17, physically fit and have a senior certificate with matriculation exemption. Subjects must include mathematics, physical science and/or biology.

What do you like most about your career?

I do not see it as my “job”. Working with the patients I see keeps me mentally and physically fit and the relationships built with my patients are priceless. Every day is different because every patient is different. There is always room for growth and learning in this profession and effecting such a positive change in the lives of my patients and subsequently of their families adds purpose to my day.

What are the job prospects like?

Most chiropractors open up a private practice of their own but you could become an associate or partner in an existing practice, or serve as a locum practitioner for chiropractors away on leave. You could also join the academic staff of one of the two learning institutions in South Africa that offer courses in chiropractic, the Durban University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg, and lecture on a full-time or part-time basis. You could also serve as a supervisory clinician on duty for fifth-year students treating patients at the clinics at one of these institutions. You could contribute to the research wing of the profession by supervising the master’s level research dissertations of chiropractic students. If you have a taste for travel, you might like to work at chiropractic clinics located throughout the world. Some countries require South African-qualified chiropractors to write board exams.

Which institutions offer training in South Africa?

Currently it is only the Durban University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg. Both programmes award an MTech  chiropractic qualification after six years.

How do you relax when you are not working?

I enjoy the odd round of golf and socialising with friends over a braai or at live theatre productions. I thoroughly revel in exploring the outdoors and travelling and I must admit that watching Teletubbies with my precious one-year-old niece is now growing on me!

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala

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