Off The Record: Dr. Emily Kiberd, Founder, Urban Wellness Clinic
Dr. Emily Kiberd is the founder of the very successful and highly recognized, Urban Wellness Clinic in New York City - a whole-body wellness clinic that serves everyone from a holistic and individualized point of view. Her passion and drive towards finding wellness alternatives for others was born from a very personal family situation of her own. From there, she was driven to open her own clinic and help direct the narrative in health care. Beyond health and wellness, Dr. Kiberd connects influential women in areas of mind, body and spirit to keep pushing forward the dialogue around women’s health, “bio-hacking” and how the wellness conversation needs to be directed by women for women, instead of the current dialogue that has been filtered through a male point of view throughout modern medicine.
the void: what was the impetus for starting your own wellness clinic?
Dr. Emily Kiberd: when I was about 18 years old, my father was having some physical issues -- he had a frozen shoulder and he was very much married to his work, he was a roofer who has always been really into using his body. He really ties his identity to his work so he was dealing with frozen shoulder issues for months and he just kind of went he went into this dark place. He decided to try and take his life. I’m happy to put that out there, because it’s the true story. Seeing what he went through and where someone can go mentally, can really put someone in a different mindset.
I think part of wellness is giving patients hope and then following through with education -- giving people the tools to empower themselves. Part of the impetus is how do I pull people out of this sick mindset and have them change the story that we tell ourselves about pain, health, wellness, nutrition and how we should be moving. I think when we’re in a chronic pain cycle, we can go that dark place.
My dad was seeing a physical therapist and seeing a chiropractor but they were kind of doing a little more generic run of the mill [techniques] like everyone gets the same thing [treatment]. I was asking “how can I do it better”? One of the people I listen to on a podcast, tom Bilyeu, talks about pulling people out of the physical and mental matrix. How do you pull people out of that story where we are telling ourselves we can’t help ourselves? really we’re going from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, there are tools out there you just have to know where to find them to really take control of your health, so that was really the impetus.
I don’t know if I’ve actually told anyone that [story]? But yeah, that’s why I started my clinic.
CHANGING THE CONVERSATION
the void: We’ve talked a lot about this and I hadn’t even thought of it in this way until you’ve brought it my attention, but why do you think that it’s important for women to hear about women’s issues from a female perspective?
Dr. Kiberd: I think especially with women, not to generalize, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and that personal pressure of like how do we do it all? So women, from a cultural perspective have certain predispositions like we tend to suck our bellies in. That habit alone can cause pelvic floor dysfunction, which can create anxiety because it’s changing how we breathe and the amount of oxygen that gets into the body. For a female that experiences these cultural pressures and norms, going back to the idea of changing the story that we tell ourselves that you don’t have to do [those things].
as Working mothers, we are trying to be present for our children, and we’re like “ok we have to get our workout in.” For women, our hormones work differently and for those women that are trying to do it all start to get thyroid issues. Or a lot of women are doing chronic cardio and not feeding themselves enough because they have that mindset of eat less, workout more equals lose weight and then they start to see a plateau or they see their cortisone levels are off. So I think it’s important for women to educate other women that “hey, I understand you and I understand cultural norms and things that we have told ourselves, but how can we retell that story, because it doesn’t have to be that way.”
there is so much health and wellness information out there and it’s hard to dig through if you’re not in the field, it’s just like sitting around and reading research articles. I just think there is a lot of information out there and like how do you debunk what is relevant and what is science backed. Even just going back to what is scientific research, to publish a study can take 7-17 years! So by the time it’s published it’s already outdated. You want to be relevant and be science backed, but you have to take your clinical practice into account.
the void: I know you work with both men and women, but you really highlight female issues and particularly what you’re doing around these “bio hacks”. Some of what you offer we didn’t even know those were options.
Dr. Kiberd: Yeah, specifically going along the lines of female health -- c-section scars and pelvic floor health -- after you have a child. In Europe, before a woman leaves a hospital, they meet with a pelvic floor therapist, it’s like part of discharge of having a child. Obviously in the states that is not the norm and it’s such an unspoken topic. I can’t tell you have many magazines I’ve pitched like “hey this is such important information”. I’ve had women who have not even looked at their scar in 20 years let alone done some soft tissue work around it. Every single woman after having a child should see a pelvic floor specialist if they have a C-section, get that work done and be taught how to reintegrate that core strength. All those muscles have been stretched out for 9 months and it’s not like they’ve bounced back after that six-week checkup. It takes so much longer. I think there is a very wide divide and the information is out there but you just have to dig through, be a good researcher and know what to look for.
the void: what do you think are the biggest health challenges for women are that we need to start recognizing and start taking charge of?
Dr. Kiberd: Coming from a movement background and going back to the idea that we are being taught to suck in our bellies -- that we find core strength by pulling our bellybuttons to our spine -- that is a myth into itself that I would like to just debunk. We find core stability when we breathe down into our bellies and get a 360 expansion around our torso on the inhale.
we see people with pelvic floor prolapse, basically their uterus is dropping down for people that haven’t even had a baby just from sucking their belly button in from just trying to find core strength. Mentally and emotionally it’s very challenging. We have women that breathe from their chest, so they have been sucking in and can’t get that full expansion of their breathe. they are doing these short shallow breathes all day which it’s putting their nervous system into this fighter flight stress response and then they’re wondering why they’re having chronic anxiety. Breathing is what we do most in our day more than anything else, we breathe 22-25,000 times a day. if we can get people to start expanding, breathing lower and breaking that idea of hey I have to suck in all the time, I will feel better and have less headaches, less neck pain, less low back pain if I just start to breathe down and just create some expansion through my belly and that secondarily starts to give us a better core stability.
TURNING YOUR DREAMS INTO REALITY
the void: So if you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting on their journey and launching their own clinic, their own business, their own career and they’re hitting a roadblock or they’re scared to put one foot in front of the other. What would your advice be?
Dr. Kiberd: Getting really clear on what their dream is or what their vision is for whatever they’re trying to create. More than “I want to make more money” or more than “I want to have more power or status or recognition.” Once you hit a roadblock, money and all those superfluous reasons aren’t going to get you over the hump. But that dream that makes you stay awake at night or that vision that you have for yourself, will help you. I wrote my dream for my vision of my business every day on the train, my 45-minute ride on my way to work and then on the way home I would look at what I wrote and I would self assess how would I change it, how would I make it feel more spine-tingly amazing. I would do it every day for a year. It’s so powerful to write it down, like physically writing and not typing on the phone.