Hiroshi Yamada had a dream.
After graduating from high school, he studied psychology to become a counsellor. “I wanted to work with people,” he says, “and help them to live healthily.”
While in university, he worked at a local shelter in the evenings where he looked after children from challenging backgrounds: some had been abused, some had fallen into juvenile delinquency; others were separated from their family. “It was shocking for me to see these children,” Yamada recounts.“At the same time, I felt like I should offer them more hands-on support.”
When he entered graduate school, he says he expected to learn more practical skills. Instead, it was all academic study and research. “I felt disappointed and powerless, but I kept on with my studies and work at the shelter. I eventually wore myself out, though, and fell into depression.”
Seeing how unhappy Yamada had become, his girlfriend – now his wife -, suggested he consult with her father, a chiropractor, to discuss treatment options. It was then that he was initiated to the art of chiropractic. “After I was treated by my father-in-law, I became very much interested in chiropractic as I saw the potential of this form of alternative medicine.” His recovery from depression, he says, was quick. “I was so impressed with Dr. Kazuhiko’s treatment. I felt that this was what I wanted to do.”
That’s when he decided to make a career change. “I realized that I still wanted to help and support people and enjoy our lives together,” he says. So, he went on to study chiropractic and work alongside Dr. Kaz, his father-in-law, founder and then co-owner of Suto Healing Center, a family-operated clinic in Moto-Azabu.
When asked whether his treatments involve bone cracking, Yamada says he practises a gentler form of chiropractic techniques and massages more akin to what is known as osteopathy in North America, and which includes mild musculoskeletal adjustments, acupressure techniques and physical rehabilitation. “My father-in-law wanted to help mothers and babies, as well as people who weren’t as keen on getting their bones cracked, so he developed his own techniques.”
Yamada’s philosophy is in line with that of his father-in-law. “I perform the type of treatment I would like to receive: relaxing, with no stress during the adjustment, yet effective in relieving symptoms and maintaining good health by balancing the whole body,” he says.
Last year, his father-in-law passed away and so he took over the business’s chiropractic department. As the clinic’s director, he works together with Hisae Suto, his mother-in-law (now the clinic’s sole owner and bioenergy specialist), to help clients improve their general mental and physical wellbeing.
“My main concern is how we can enjoy our lives in a more natural way […] and maintain good mental health,” he says. This includes eating well and exercising, but also coping with technology and the stress resulting from it. “I believe chiropractic can reconnect our body and mind by balancing our nervous system through the spine. No medicine but our hands and heart.”
Suto Healing Center offers a range of treatments for adults, children, pregnant women and babies. “Patients typically come to me with lower back and neck pain (sciatica), but I also treat a variety of problems such as tendinitis, arthritic pain, headaches, breach presentation, etc., and can perform pelvic adjustments during and after pregnancy,” says Yamada.
In addition to chiropractic care, the clinic offers bioenergy healing, a therapy that focuses on the mind and spirit. Bioenergy therapy’s primary aim is to restore the Qi (“life force”, or “energy flow”), which has become stagnant – or blocked-, a condition typically associated with negative thoughts and emotions. When combined with chiropractic treatments, the resulting benefits are manifold.
“In Chinese medicine,” explains Yamada, “there is a system called ‘meridian’, which deals with energy flow. As a chiropractor, I am interested in the meridian system from a myofascial release perspective,” he says, pointing out that recent research supports this idea.
Myofascial release is a form of therapy that is believed to be effective in relieving pain, fibromyalgia symptoms, headaches and restoring body functions. By applying light manual pressure and stretching to the fascia (band or sheet of fibrous connective tissue that surrounds our muscles and other internal organs), the therapist induces a flow of bioenergy throughout the body to loosen up any tension or stiffness.
Yamada says he regularly works together with Hisae, his mother-in-law, to optimize treatment. “Hisae is able to focus more readily on chakras (colour frequencies and vibration) and fully restore the patient’s energy flow following a chiropractic adjustment.”
When asked if he ever has any regrets about the career path he chose to follow, Yamada answers, with a twinkle in his eye: “Actually, chiropractic changed my whole life.”