Amazing humans: Dr. Karyn Marshall

A brief biography of the champion American woman weightlifter - turned - chiropractor

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Abstract

What’s incredibly cool about Karyn Marshall is three things: first, she’s an athlete who became a chiropractic patient and then became a leading practitioner; second, she was the best student or what academics call valedictorian in her class at New York Chiropractic College; third, she did something truly amazing which landed her in the Guinness Book of World Records, among other places. She became world famous. In 1987, she was a world champion weightlifter! This is a work-in-progress article. Reactions? Write comments below. Like it? Add weblinks pointing to it. I’m trying to make this the best article on the web on this topic. Photos by tom sulcer are public domain (indicated by “pd” beneath picture). — tom sulcer April 2011

Overview

After my high school and prep school years, my classmates and I mostly went our separate ways. People moved without updating forwarding addresses. Phone numbers changed. We lost touch. Decades passed.

Then Facebook technology came along in the middle 2000s which re-connected us. We’ve caught up. We’ve done some interesting things. We swap pictures and life stories and jokes. Surprisingly, new friendships have formed. And many of my friends are turning out to be AMAZING HUMANS, particularly Karyn Marshall. It’s pronounced CAR-in, by the way, not CARE-run.

I knew Karyn vaguely from high school when I was too shy to even say hello to any girl. When I found out, via Facebook, about her weightlifting success, I wrote an article about her in Wikipedia. Hundreds of people read it each day. Here is the article: Karyn in Wikipedia. But I wanted to know more. So I visited her and her partner chiropractor Dr. Dennis Cronk in New Jersey, took notes and pictures, and wrote this article which tells more of the story of this amazing human as well as this alternative health care specialty called chiropractic. Like most handymen, I thought it originated in Egypt.

Let’s take this from the beginning.

Early years

She was born in 1956 in a Miami hospital and her family lived in in Coral Gables until she was about a year and a half. On her birth certificate her first name was spelled Karen with an e but her parents used the Norwegian pronunciation of CAR-in, not the American standard pronunciation of CARE-run. When in school, teachers and classmates used the American pronunciation; to handle this, she simply began spelling her name with a y in  Karyn which had the desired effect of prompting persons to ask how to pronounce her name. This was an early instance of asserting direction in her life.

Karyn and her mother and her sister moved first to Yonkers and then to Bronxville, New York, a small one-mile-square suburb of New York City in Westchester County, and lived with her grandparents and aunts. Her Norwegian biological father visited from time to time until Karyn was six. Her first father figure was her grandfather, but when Karyn was nine years old, he died tragically from an accident at work.

When Karyn was twelve, her mother remarried. Her new father became an important influence on her academic and athletic career. He urged Karyn to take up athletics. Karyn was the center on the girls basketball team and the goalie for the field hockey team, playing for junior varsity and varsity school teams. She also played tennis at the village courts in Bronxville.

Here’s Karyn from her high school days:

Karyn’s new father advised her to study Latin and her five-year study proved helpful during her nursing and chiropractic school years. He helped her win entrance to Columbia University. She graduated in 1980 (her first father’s last name was Bastiansen). She tried nursing for a while but switched to being a financial analyst with her father instead, which she did during much of the 1980s.

Weightlifting years

In 1978, while attending Columbia, at 22 years old, she went with a friend to a weightlifting gymnasium in Westchester County in White Plains, New York. Womens’ sports were just starting to come into the forefront, but weightlifting was practically an all-male sport. There were no organized state games for women. There weren’t gyms on every corner like there were ten years later. The White Plains YMCA had just begun to admit women, but practically none of them ventured into the basement weight room. But Karyn did; later, she described it as a “den of male prowess” filled with “big egos” and big muscular guys. There were men weightlifters of varying levels, from lightweights to powerhouses such as Joe Steinfeld. She recalled later feeling somewhat intimidated but didn’t want to appear as an “airhead.” She started lifting weights, and after a few weeks, she found she liked it .

Joe Steinfeld was also a judo expert and became a lifelong friend
 of Karyn’s. He won a world record in the bench press in 1987.

“I got the bug,” she recalled later. She became passionate about it.

Karyn began training seriously to prepare for competitions in White Plains, New York.

Karyn believes a good coach can make a huge difference. She has had excellent coaching by high-caliber talents such as Marc Chasnov, Arthur Drechsler, Mark Cohen, Naum Kelmansky, and others. Coaches, incidentally, are generally not paid, but volunteer to help athletes because of their love of sports. Generally, coaches are paid by such entities as towns or schools where they teach, and help athletes as a sideline. Her coach, Naum Kelmansky was from the former Soviet Union.  He was a national level coach in that country.He emphasized the physics of weightlifting: how power is transferred from hips and legs in a straight path, straight up, imparting force on a dead weight; when barbells reach a zenith, it has a net temporary weight of zero. The idea is to catch the sweet spot when the weight is neither accelerating nor decelerating when it weighs zero. When you’re in that zone, the weights don’t feel heavy.

Training requires extreme discipline. Top athletes walk a thin line between pushing themselves as hard as possible, but not so hard as to cause self-injury. She advised that “you want to train on the razor’s edge” so that you’re almost injured in training. But this is why many athletes do, in fact, become injured, because it is hard to know exactly what that line is. She never needed surgery, but there were times when she had minor wear and tear on joints and tendons; her wrists sometimes flared up and she had some issues with shoulders; but overall she’s been remarkably healthy. She learned that many top weightlifters would regularly have a chiropractic procedure called adjustment to keep their bodies functioning optimally. During peak training periods, she would do exercises intensely for an hour and a half in the morning, and again in the evening, and for four to five days per week. Since during the 1980s she was working in the financial industry, she could work at her job during the daytime hours. She always went to a gym; she never lifted at her own apartment.

Training typically involved cycles, typically of three months duration. When Karyn was coached by Soviet expert Naum Kelmansky, he planned highly specific programs, matching strength training with technique work. At the beginning of a cycle, training was somewhat lighter and more relaxed, but it would become more intense as a competition approached. He always stressed that being an athlete was not just about what you do inside the gym.  What is even more important was what you did outside the gym.   He stressed the importance of proper nutrition, sleep, recuperative things like massage,chiropractic, saunas and relaxation.

Karyn’s parents didn’t really understand the importance of weightlifting in her life. Karyn explained that her parents “couldn’t really relate to why their daughter wanted to lift weights.” Later, when she received serious recognition for her achievements as well as media attention, her parents liked the glory; her sister Jeryl and brother Whit enjoyed her success and have been ardent supporters.

Photo: tom sulcer
(public domain=pd)

Karyn’s first Hall of Fame induction was a trophy from the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame.

The day before a competition usually involves quiet focus and acclimation. Nutritional guidelines for athletes have changed somewhat since the 1980s; suggested diets used to be heavy on carbohydrates such as having a big spaghetti dinner the day before a race or competition, but the current practice is to have a nice healthy meal with a balance of different foods, including proteins, carbohydrates as well as fats. For breakfast before a competition, Karyn may have a scrambled egg, whole wheat toast, and fruit, so it’s easy to digest. In addition, she is a believer in vitamins, of which she takes “mega doses”; she doesn’t take standard adult multivitamins but specific ones in larger does, particularly minerals, anti-oxidants, protein powders, and others. It is important to make sure the body has enough fluids. A good night’s sleep before a competition is vital, and sometimes she wore ear plugs, and even eye patches, when sleeping. And she also had multiple back-up morning alarms, including a wake-up call from the hotel staff, to make sure she arrived at the weigh-in on time; in those days, cell phones had not yet become prevalent.

During the early years, Karyn attended weightlifting events held in Westchester County as well as state-wide tournaments for New York State. The overall problem was that weightlifting was mostly thought of as a man’s sport, although womens’ athletics were becoming increasingly important. The There were no sanctioned events for women. No womens’ state games, national championships , world championships or Olympic events for women in weightlifting when Karyn started.  The first National championships were held in 1981. Karyn attended and won the National championships in her weight class.  The first World championships for women was held in 1987.  She won that as well and became America’s first women’s world champion.  She also lifted the most weigh in any weight class and was crowned the “Strongest Woman in the World”  

Although there were competitions from 1981 onwards, unfortunately; womens’ weightlifting wasn’t taken seriously by the male dominated weightlifting community. Nevertheless, Karyn entered every competition that she could, and won hundreds of medals, and she was United States national champion nine times and won 5 gold medals at the world championships.   She set over 60 world and American records.  She was the first woman in the world to clean and jerk over 300 pounds.  Karyn was determined to prove to the world that women’s weightlifting deserved respect and that she was deserving of being considered a world class athlete. 

Weightlifting competitions are not well understood by the public. Mostly what the public sees is somebody lifting a heavy weight, but there is much more to the sport than that. Contestants must first weigh in, this is to determine which weight class they’ll compete in. If they’re slightly too heavy, it’s possible to lose a few pounds possibly with a visit to a  sauna or steam room, even possibly cutting hair (Karyn had heard of such occurrences) and then returning to the weigh-in. One practice is to activate saliva production by chewing gum, and then spitting, to remove excess fluids from the body. In a few cases, contestants try to gain weight — the easiest way is to drink water, the heaviest substance around, heavier per mass than food. Next, contestants get to choose which weight amount will be their first attempt, for the snatch and clean and jerk events. Contestants can choose any initial weight level; next, weight choices are written on cards which are stacked from lowest to highest weights. And the lowest weight barbell is assembled, and during the competition, the barbells grow heavier as new weights are added to each end. Barbells get increasingly heavier as the competition progresses. Lifters have three attempts to lift any particular weight; if all three attempts fail, it’s called a bomb. In a typical competition, there are different weight classes, with sometimes 30 to 40 entrants in a particular session.

Dr. Cronk’s hand is on left; Karyn’s
hand is on the right.  (pd)

A barbell, technically, is only the long strong metal bar which weights are attached to at the ends. But in common parlance, many people think of the term barbell as the bar with weights attached. But the barbell bars, initially, were designed for men, and weighed 20 kilos and had a fairly thick diameter. Since Karyn has big hands (see photo), this had not been a problem for her, since she could easily wrap her hands around the bar. But in recent years, as women have become more prominent within the sport, the diameter of the barbell-bar has slimmed somewhat, making it easier for women to grab, and it’s weight has slimmed to 15 kilos.

Competitions have particular rules and requirements. There are three judges: one in front and one on each side, looking for infractions. Elbows can’t touch knees. The lift must be a continuous motion; a contestant can’t stop close to the top, and then press out. Judges look for a state of motionlessness when the weight is raised high. The idea is for the lifter to be in one vertical motionless plane. Three judges are needed since a particular judge may not be able to assess whether a vertical plane has been achieved.

A lifter must wait for the down signal from a judge before being allowed to drop the weights. Karyn has seen a contestant raise weights high, but not achieve control, stumbling and wobbling across the platform for almost a minute, waiting for the judge to give the down signal. She’s also seen cases where a judge gave the down signal too quickly when a lifter hadn’t yet achieved motionlessness at the highest position. There have been cases where a lifter ended up facing backwards after the lift, but the lift was still ruled successful by the judges if the other requirements were met. Some dropped barbells have rolled off the platform causing judges to have to jump out of the way, or even rolled where spectators were seated. Most judges pay attention, and are prepared to jump out of the way if necessary. Recently, guard-rail-like bumpers have been added to rein in rolling barbells.

The actual weights in a barbell are not made of metal but of densely packed rubber. They’re heavy but they bounce. The rubber disks come in different weights, from 10 kilos, to 15, 20, 25, and can be added in increments to make specific weights. Smaller weights, however, between a half pound and ten kilos, are typically made of metal. Karyn doesn’t have to bring her own weights to a competition; rather, this is the responsibility of the competition director. Karyn, generally, hasn’t owned her own weights, but uses the ones in gyms, although there was a period when she did own a few of them.

Next, judges score the round. If two of the three judges indicate they like the lift by turning on white lights, then the lift is considered “successful” and a contestant may go to the next round. If there are at least two red lights, it’s unsuccessful.

Lifting requires terrific mental concentration and focus. What does she think about while actually lifting in a competition? She said: the seconds before a lift, she is running a video in her head, a running stream of exactly what she is about to do, and goes on autopilot. “I’m picturing myself successfully completing that lift,” she says. Accordingly, she never wants to imagine a negative outcome; it must be a positive video, and demands total concentration. She looks straight ahead; often, she will have figured out before the match started where she had planned to focus, and she doesn’t look away. It’s like she has blinders on. She was never afraid of dropping a barbell on a toe or foot — never. And she never did.

Lifts place great strain on bodies. She has heard other lifters fart loudly, audibly, embarrassingly. There have been freaky accidents too: a painful dislocated shoulder during a botched lift was caught on a YouTube video. Karyn refused to watch it since she figured that the idea of such an accident might interrupt her future concentration for lifts; she played the YouTube video for me, but then looked away, saying “I can’t watch that,” and added that “if you start letting that stuff in, you will be freaking out”.

Technique is important. Technique means “moving properly through the lift” based on the understanding that perfect form is actually more efficient and easier on the human torso. Karyn suggested that some persons may be better lifters than others because of “sheer brute strength”, but that a weightlifter skilled in technique may be able to outlift them because of training and knowing how to lift efficiently. Technique work typically means lighter weights but more repetitions (lifts); a coach with a good eye can spot an inefficient movement and suggest a corrective course. The idea is to teach the weightlifter the movements and motions to lift easily and smoothly. Today, trainers and coaches take videos to analyze the motions of weightlifting, and sometimes visit (or get help from) the Colorado Springs Center which works with weightlifters.

But technique must be supplemented with strength-training exercises. Heavy weights are lifted; it sometimes means “dead lifts” or pulls, squats, and other resistance-weight exercises. The idea is to make the muscles strong and solid. Ideally, a major lift is broken down into separate sequences, and strength training is used for each separate part. The purpose is to build strength for each phase of a lift.

Does Karyn ever psych out opponents? She said she “doesn’t play games” but wonders if indeed she might have been intimidating to some opponents because of her physical presence. But she has heard of some competitors and coaches using different tactics to try to upset possible opponents. In one instance, a coach walked up to an opponent and wondered whether a platform was tilted — will it interfere with the lift, he wondered — of course, the platform was perfectly straight and solid, but the idea that it might be tilted might have caused anxiety and distraction.

There are restrictions on what competitors can wear in a contest. Initially they had to wear a one-piece suit called a “singlet”, which could not cover anything below the knees or covering the elbows. Why? Judges must be able to see if the elbows, during a lift, are “locking out” properly, and therefore clothing can’t obstruct their view. Back then, there were no clothing manufacturers making any weightlifting-related clothing for women lifters, so women had to wear clothing designed for men, usually not flattering to the female figure. By 1987, a woman weightlifter designed the first singlet; today, firms such as Adidas make a synthetic singlet suit for women weightlifters which looks good and is functional since it offers some compression in the right places.

Karyn was two weeks away from one of the early national championships when suddenly she had horrific pain in her lower back. She could barely walk around. An orthopedist advised her to skip the competition and prescribed bed rest and taking it easy for six weeks along with anti-inflammatory medication. Instead, she went to a second doctor — a chiropractor named Larry Forgacs — who was himself a weightlifter. Karyn had met him because weightlifting has various “circles” of people who know each other. Dr. Larry Forgacs adjusted Karyn’s back, and immediately she felt better. She could walk around. “It allowed my own healing abilities to kick in,” she reported later. She went back for several more treatments and felt well enough to enter the competition, which she entered and won. Her treatment with chiropractic was a transformational moment in her life. It opened her eyes to new possibilities with medical care and prompted her to think seriously about becoming a chiropractor herself. She said “I was amazed by my chiropractic treatment.”

By the mid 1980s, Karyn was in peak physical shape, and had been winning contests regularly, but the problem was that womens’ weightlifting wasn’t officially recognized as an “official” sport. She had a talent but no place to show it off.

But what opened up doors for Karyn was spotting a record held by circus strongwoman Katie Sandwina which had been in the Guinness Book of World Records since being set in 1911 for the “greatest overhead lift by a woman”. So Karyn contacted the Guinness people who advised her to set up a competition with international judges at a health club.

Pressure was on in 1984.

“It was all about me breaking the Guinness record,” she recalled.

She was extremely nervous.

She had never lifted so much weight, ever, even during practice.

It was 289 pounds.

Two hundred, eighty-nine pounds.

But she was ready.

And she did it.

Karyn made the COVER of the Guinness Sports
Record Book. That’s her — lower left.

She beat Sandwina’s 73-year-old record! Later, in April 1985, she lifted 303 pounds and notched the record up fourteen pounds higher. She had officially become the first woman in the the world to clean and jerk over 300 lbs. and it was verified by the Guinness Book.

Soon thereafter, her phone began ringing with media offers. She was interviewed by Sports Illustrated and Glamour Magazine.

The mid to late 1980s were marked by increasing fame and recognition, bolstered by solid performance in national and international competitions.

1985 — She had an interesting experience with the Nippon TV network in Japan. They flew her out to Tokyo with a first-class airline ticket and paid for her to stay at the posh Tokyo Hotel with a Japanese lady interpreter who drove her around, showed her the sights, and even let her stay at the interpreter’s home. At one point she arm-wrestled Japanese kindergartners, gently of course. Then Karyn was on television show called Super People of the World. But Karyn, with a laugh, described it as really being “part of a freak show” considering the line-up of other guests: the lady with the “biggest boobs”; “werewolf boy” (exceptionally hairy young man); a guy with the “longest fingernails”; the “shortest twins”; and then Karyn appeared. Karyn set an American record during the show and had a great experience.

Karyn was an athlete representative for several major corporations at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She went to major events  and helped the executives better understand what they were watching .

In one promotion, publishers felt that “300 pounds” was too abstract of a concept; so they asked Karyn to lift two women on a barbell, to give a sense of how much she was actually lifting. Here’s the picture:

Karyn competed in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, around 1985 only a few months before the war broke out. After the competition, there was a break period where she explored. At one point, she walked into an open door of a mosque, but was rather immediately shooed out by men saying “no! no! no!” since she was a woman, without even wearing a burka. It had looked like a church with an open door and there were no signs saying women were prohibited. She remembers a long drive in a mini-bus through the beautiful mountains to the coastal city of Dubrovnic on the Adriatic Sea. She also traveled to Jakarta in Indonesia, and Manchester in Britain, for competitions during these years.

Karyn attended the Big Apple Sports Festival in Madison Square Garden. She suspected the metal platform wasn’t strong enough to support the plunging weights. The official coordinator disagreed, saying that the metal legs had “supported elephants” from Ringling Brothers circus. Again, Karyn insisted that they wouldn’t hold, arguing that it’s one thing to have a heavy elephant gently climb on a platform, but it’s entirely different to have a 300 pound weight being dropped straight down from six feet high. But officials did not listen. Accordingly, Karyn had a plan about what to do should the platform give way. After her lift, Karyn dropped the barbells and jumped back soon thereafter, because the platform did, indeed, collapse, like she had predicted. Karyn was unhurt. The remainder of the exhibition happened on the solid floor.

In 1986, she entered the national championships but a weird event happened. In her gym bag, she had placed a glass container of Gatorade. When she set the bag down, the container broke inside, making all her gear wet — shoes, belt, clothing and such were soaked. There was no time to dry it out. There were no replacement clothes ready. And she said she “couldn’t calm down” since she had to wear soaking wet clothing. As a result, her concentration was broken, and her anxiety was out of control, and she “bombed” — missed three successive lift attempts, and lost the medal.

In 1987, after advocacy by numerous athletic groups, womens’ weightlifting finally became an official category with championship events scheduled annually. The first official competition was 1987, held in Daytona Beach, Florida. But what weightlifters from the United States and other countries didn’t know was how hard the Chinese athletes had been working at weightlifting. In the lesser seven weight classes, surprisingly, Chinese women athletes were winning all the major medals, and were poised to dominate the entire event. Then, American director Harvey Newton told Karyn, “it’s all up to you.” Pressure was on again. She was so nervous that she almost vomited, she recalled later.

She focused.

She faced the barbell.

She lifted it.

And succeeded.

“It was a magical moment,” she recalled.

She won a gold medal. And not only one medal, but she won three categories, and became the first American to win a world championship in womens’ weightlifting. She was proclaimed official world champion and the strongest woman in the world.

There are two official lifts in Olympic weightlifting:

  • The clean and jerk is a two-stage lift in which the first move is to get the barbell to neck height, and the second one is to get it over the shoulders.This two-stage movement lets a person lift the heaviest weights.

  • The snatch is the more difficult lift, with more continuous motion from the floor to about head height.

Karyn excelled in both events.

In Atlanta, in 1988, she was nominated by the Womens’ Sports Foundation to be a finalist in their 1988 “Sportswoman of the Year” category. She was one of twenty finalists. Flo-Jo won. Pictured: Karyn with Jackie Joyner-Kersee (right).

She met Flo-Jo as well as tennis champion Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova (pictured, right).

After the Guinness Book of World Records, and winning the 1987 world championships, her phone began to ring with offers regarding chances to be on television shows. She was on talk shows hosted by Joan Rivers, Oprah Winfrey, and Regis Philbin, as well as on national news programs.

Chiropractic years

Chiropractic college

Karyn attended New York Chiropractic college for three and a half years in the early 1990s. It is a tough program. Students are forced to memorize the human anatomy, particularly every muscle, vein, organ, nerve, and bone. It’s necessary to know what every structure looks like so a student can visualize it from every direction — “up, down, backwards, forwards, sideways, you name it” she said. There were projects, papers, research topics. Students worked on real cadavers. They studied biochemistry, medical physiology, x-ray physics.

During these years, she would be in study groups, and she met her future chiropractic partner, Dennis Cronk. They would study for national boards by taking review classes. When spells of boredom set in, she once found herself challenged by another chiropractic student, John Fernandez, who was perhaps four to six inches shorter than Karyn, but a strong man who weighed 170 pounds and had been an all-state champion wrestler. He challenged Karyn to wrestle, but Karyn tried to dissuade him by telling him that “if you win, it’s no big deal, but if you lose, your ego won’t be able to handle it, so why challenge me?” He insisted on wrestling anyway. What Dennis Cronk and Karyn remembers is that Fernandez and Marshall wrestled for a considerable time, but that Fernandez couldn’t beat Marshall, and Marshall may have pinned Fernandez to the floor at one point — the “match” was a draw, according to Dr. Cronk’s assessment. One of the odd quirks about being a strong woman is getting such challenges from men. In another instance, a Japanese restauranteur challenged her to arm wrestling in his own restaurant; Karyn beat him soundly.

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Karyn studied hard; while she didn’t try to be the best student in her class, she was elected Valedictorian when she graduated summa cum laude in December of 1993. Her father presented her with a statue of the Greek goddess Hygeia, symbolic, because she was a female goddess who healed people.

Private practice

Dr. Karyn Marshall took and passed the state boards in 1994, and for a few months, worked for another chiropractor to get experience. But she and Dr. Cronk decided against working for other chiropractors, and opened up their own practice in 1994. They focused primarily on the New York City metropolitan area. While they considered possibly opening up a practice in Connecticut or New York, they were drawn to New Jersey because of its proximity to the Jersey shore with its swimable beaches in summertime, and plus the area wasn’t over-developed.

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Soon they were treating patients. They keep medical records in color-coded files like in any medical office.

Chiropractic focuses on three key areas: nerves, muscles, and bones. The neuro-musculo-skeletal system is a finely tuned system which works wonderfully when healthy, but various causes can interfere, such as uneven growth spurts for young people, pregnancies (which can distort a woman’s posture), and the aches and pains associated with aging and muscle decline. She found chiropractic care to be natural and very effective.  Chiropractic is the largest alternative health care profession.  Chiropractors are licensed by their state. It is medical specialty based on empirical evidence and supported by numerous studies showing that chiropractic treatment is highly effective with high levels of patient satisfaction and cost effectiveness.  

Generally Dr. Cronk and Dr. Marshall and other chiropractors emphasize healthy eating, exercise, and staying healthy. While they believe in alternative medicine, they won’t rule out the efficacy of traditional medical doctors. The idea is to eat right and stay fit so there’s less need for medicines and surgery later.

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Even in the waiting room, there are specially built vibrating massage chairs to help patients relax either before or after treatment.

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A chiropractic diagnosis sometimes begins with an x-ray of a person’s neck or spine. When diagnosing a patient, the first task is to figure out what’s painful. Pain can often be traced to a problem with the spine. Sciatica is pain extending down the leg, but there can be pain down the arms as well, or in other parts of the body. That’s why chiropractic students study every nerve coming out of the spinal cord, and know with certainty which vertebra have nerves corresponding to each region of the body. If a spinal vertebrate is out of alignment, it can irritate a nerve and cause different problems in the body, possibly interfering with movement or bending. The term for this is called chiropractic subluxation and the treatment is centered around the chiropractic adjustment.

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The control panel of the x-ray machine.

 

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Here is a table used for treatment.

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Here is a different table, allowing a chiropractor to adjust a patient; there is a special place for a person’s head at the top.

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Spine problems can be problematic. But one well-studied to help with more serious problems is non-surgical spinal decompression.  It applies a gentle controlled traction that allows the spine to “decompress” and involves a gentle negative pressure on the disc allowing it to heal. It has remarkably favorable results that can end chronic pain and even avoid surgery.  In the picture, Dr. Marshall demonstrates the technique on Dr. Cronk who is  strapped in to the table.

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Here are the strong straps that go around the abdomen.

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Underneath the table, a piston gently applies slow but steady pressure, so spine pain is alleviated carefully, safely.

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The machine works slowly on its own while Dr. Marshall supervises.

In 2001, after the terrorism attack of 9/11, Dr. Marshall and Dr. Cronk helped treat rescue workers returning from the disaster zone, and received recognition from then-Senator Jon Corzine (who later became governor).

Her volunteer contributions helping underprivileged kids with sports training were also recognized with a Senate Resolution by the State of New Jersey, which sent this letter mentioning her by name.

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Chiropractors know where every bone, nerve, and muscle come together. They are specially trained to diagnose the source of pain, and apply careful pressure to return the patient to well-being and alignment. Left: Dr. Marshall works on Dr. Cronk’s neck.

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Second stage.

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Third stage.                                           

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Dr. Marshall and Dr. Cronk explained how the spine is made up of vertebrae, and when out of alignment, pressure can be exerted on nerves and cause a whole host of health problems throughout the body. In a tightly packed space, the spine must support the human upper body while allowing movement AND serving as a corridor for blood flow and especially nerve signals in the spinal cord. The spine protects the nerves, but it is possible, after an injury or natural process, for the spine’s discs (yellow, in picture) to become compressed, pinching nerves and causing pain and dysfunction.

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If a diagnosis of back pain is found, then the patient is turned appropriately. This permits the chiropractor to manipulate the vertebrae precisely. Pressure is applied in just the right spot.

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The spine returns to normal.

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Therapy can involve rehabilitative exercises to improve strength, coordination and flexibility. That’s me in the photo doing a rollout on a physioball. Don’t I look graceful? Don’t I look like Drew Carey, without the humorous personality.

Patients of Champion Chiropractic, where Karyn and her partner Dr. Dennis Cronk have a practice in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, often initially don’t know that she was a champion weightlifter. But they often find out eventually, she says, if they ask about all the pictures and medals around the office. When Karyn was training and winning awards, she did not think of it as work-related; rather, it was a hobby. She said “weightlifting is a very private thing” for her. If people ask her about weightlifting, she is happy tell them, but if not, she respects that, too. She doesn’t like living in the past; it’s not like Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days”.  

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The medals line the shelf of her office.

During her chiropractic career, Karyn has  avoided pills and medications as much as possible. At one time, she had learned that she had high cholesterol, which runs in her family.  Her first treatment was to lifestyle modification. She successfully  reduced her cholesterol by exercise, proper nutrition and natural supplements; only if these hadn’t worked would she have used medication to lower cholesterol.
Generally, she doesn’t like running much, although in 2010, she has begun a CrossFit routine which does include some running.
Weightlifting as a sport has really changed over the years. When Karyn was training, there were few other women in the sport; the only times she got to meet other women weightlifters were at annual competitions, and even then, most of her time before the contest was focused not on other people, but on mentally preparing for the heavy lifting. She would isolate herself the day or two before the competition. “It’s an individual sport,” she said. Today, twelve to seventeen year old girls have numerous options; weightlifting is a viable option for them, and there is much more contact between women weightlifters.

Karyn continues to compete in weightlifting competitions, which are adjusted for aging lifters. The title Master Lifter denotes a competitor who is older than 35 years. Karyn has won 3 world and 7 national masters championships. She thinks the age categories are nicely designed to keep older athletes competing. And she has re-established ties with her birth father, who she became re-acquainted with in 2008, in Norway.

Photo credit: Steve Fauer

And awards and honors continue to come. In 2011, she was inducted into the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and  Arnold Schwarzenegger presented her with her plaque, in a ceremony in Columbus, Ohio at the 2011 Arnold Classic. She got to meet and chat with Arnold Schwarzenegger for about five minutes, on stage.

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Back at her office with the award.

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Here’s one from the International Chiropractors Association’s Council on Fitness and Health Science.

Would she do anything differently if she had her life to do over? She has “no regrets” she says, adding that you can’t change the past, just your future.

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