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Dynamic Chiropractic – December 15, 1999, Vol. 17, Issue 26

South Seas Chiropractic

By Editorial Staff
Editor's Note Charles Bernhaut,DC, of Grandson, Switzerland, and Peter Walters,DC, of Sydney, Australia, ventured forth on a chiropractic "mission" to Independent Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) in February of this year. The doctors were invited by a Swiss patient of Dr. Bernhaut, Marco Kappenberger, who councils the king of Samoa in diplomatic matters.


The volcanic islands of Independent Samoa lie halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and just to the west of American Samoa. There are two major islands. Upolu is a cocoon-shaped isle that is home to the capital, Apia (on the northern coast). It was near here that Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) built a house and lived from 1889 until his death in 1894. A few kilometers to the northwest is Savai'i, a larger, squarish island. The rest of Independent Samoa is comprised of four small inhabited islands, a number of tiny uninhabited islands and a few lonely atolls. The cumulative square mileage of the island group is slightly larger than Rhode Island.

Independent Samoa has somehow managed to retain much of its Polynesian culture despite centuries of outside interference and exploitation that began with the European explorers, followed by whalers, various sea-fearing riff-raff, missionaries, and power struggles between various European powers.

Upon arrival in Apia, the doctors were received by Misa Telefoni Retzlaff, the Samoan minister of health. The health minister would be a recipient of chiropractic treatment during the doctors' visit, as were several other government dignitaries. Shortly after their arrival, the doctors were interviewed by the local radio and T.V. station and then met with the Olympic Committee of Independent Samoa.

The purpose of the trip was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Gonstead system of chiropractic to the Samoan community. Mr. Allen Grey, general manager of the Aggie Grey1 Hotel, allowed the doctors to set up a clinic in his new gymnasium. Equipment was supplied and paid for by the treating doctors, with help from Dr. Robert Novak of Kansas City. The Gonstead equipment was left in Samoa for future trips.

The majority of conditions treated involved low back, neck, shoulder and knee pain. However, a large number of patients also presented with cervicogenic headaches. All but two of the headache cases responded well to chiropractic.

The doctors noted a number of spectacular successes, among them:

• A patient with 30 years of back and bilateral knee pain was pain free after the second treatment; two other patients with five and four years of back pain, respectively, said their pain was gone after three visits.

• A patient with 10 years of mid-scapular pain was pain free after two visits.

• A patient who had fallen off a horse 18 years ago had not been able to sleep on his side since the accident. After one adjustment, he reported being able to once again sleep on his side.

• A patient's pain from a seven-year-old neck injury was resolved after one visit.

• Several patients with the inability to abduct their shoulders past 60 or 90 degrees had full abduction after two visits.

The doctors treated 167 patients and registered 279 visits, including 15 rugby players and a number of ex-rugby players. Drs. Bernhaut and Walters found the Samoans friendly and engaging during their short but memorable visit.

Health Minister Misa Telefoni corresponded with Dr. Bernhaut upon his return to Switzerland, congratulating the doctors on their great results and noting that a detailed report of their visit had been presented to the government of Samoa. The health minister added that the doctors' "approach to the people and success of treatment will always be welcomed in Samoa."

1. The Aggie Grey Hotel, named after its colorful owner, is believed to be the inspiration for James Michener's character "Bloody Mary" in his novel Tales of the South Pacific, for which he won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for literature. The novel was adapted into a popular Broadway play ("South Pacific") and film; Bloody Mary was memorably characterized in both.

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