(Editor’s note: This is a different sort of post for Dispatches in that as his patient, Dispatches Media co-founder Cheryl has “vetted” Dr. Anton Stas and Backbone Chiropractic during the past year. Dispatches received no remuneration for this post.)
One of the big advantages of being an expat in Eindhoven is the quality of medical care in the Netherlands.
In a country ranked as having the best healthcare in Europe, there are modern practices here and even a really nice expat-only clinic.
And then there’s Dr. Anton Stas’s new Backbone Chiropractic, which takes both clinic design and treatment to the next level.
Stas is a longtime chiropractor with a more conventional practice – Ruggensteun (Dutch for backbone) – in Valkenswaard, a wealthy enclave just south of Eindhoven.
But with his new unconventional Backbone facility in Eindhoven’s Tongelre district – dedicated to expats – he’s pushing into practice areas and design concepts that would be considered innovative even in wealthy enclaves in the United States where holistic care is common.
In a busy commercial district in the middle of one of Europe’s high-tech centers, Stas has created a quiet oasis dedicated to holistic health. With Backbone, he’s has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to create a spa-like experience in the middle of the city.
There are no sterile treatment areas with hard chairs and hard surfaces.
Instead, his entry area and intake room have a high-concept sensibility with muted, quiet colors and a feng shui minimalism – all designed by his wife Annike, who also works at the practice.
The goal is to create the ambiance of a living room with sofas, not doctor’s office chairs or hard surfaces. “It looks like a living room on purpose,” Stas said; meant to make clients feel at ease so they start decompressing upon arrival.
Based on biophilia
But it’s the Backbone treatment room, which Stas calls the “healing box,” that’s a true departure from the conventional:
“When you see the healing box, I dare to say you’ll be surprised.”
Basically, Stas brings the great outdoors indoors with the treatment room based on biophilia – the hypothesis that humans have an innate tendency to seek nature.
The “walls” are actually huge fabric panels that can be switched out with new scenes. High-res graphics show a New England Forest, a waterfall in Costa Rica, the Dutch seaside and a Dutch wilderness similar to the Groote Heide (Big Heath) south of Eindhoven.
The ceiling has special panels and lighting that simulates blue sky, complete with clouds. Right now, it’s a large section in the middle, but Stas says he aspires to extend the effect throughout the room. It’s an environment so peaceful that clients are encouraged to stay after their adjustments, then leave a bit more energized.
Stas is experimenting with music, waterfall sounds and scents to complete the biophilia effect.
“Yes, it’s artificial. But the science says it works. Research shows faster recovery with access to nature,” he said.
Chiropractors are fairly rare in the Netherlands, where physiotherapists are in the majority.
In the Netherlands, Dr. Stas is a category of one. You kind of get that when you walk in and see a huge graphic on the wall of Backbone Chiropractic that states (in English(, “Going to a chiropractor just for back pain is like going to Starbucks for plain black coffee.”
His new practice – opened in November with an open house set for this weekend – is expat-focused because this is an international city.
Stas notes Eindhoven isn’t a typical Dutch town. It’s a high-tech innovation center with tens of thousands of highly skilled internationals from Europe, Australia, the U.S., Asia and the Middle East.
So, he decided to focus on that population because they’re more likely to use chiropractics and other alternative health solutions. (Stas is an expat himself, a native of Belgium who came to Eindhoven to practice after graduating from the University of Leuven.)
Expats are more open to a holistic approach to health. “Not that I’m anti-medical. My father is a specialist. But we’re not waiting till you get sick. No, you should turn around and be proactive … move a bit more. Eat healthily. Get your sleep.
“The kind of practice I have over here really goes together well with what’s happening in Eindhoven.”
• Once you enter the Backbone offices, the first thing you notice is how quiet it is. That’s because it used to be a bank, and the multi-pane glass is still there, blocking out all the street sounds.
• Though his first clinic in Valkenswaard treats both locals and internationals, the new Backbone is English-oriented, with only one graphic in Dutch (at right).
The website is in English. The patient questionnaires are in English, as is registration. The staff, including the receptionists, is fluent in English.
• Backbone has that most valuable of amenities in Eindhoven: Free parking on the streets behind the clinic.
You can see the space for yourself and meet Dr. Stas this Saturday, January 27, during the open house. The address is Jeroen Boschlaan 2c in Eindhoven.
For more information, see the website, backbonechiropractic.nl or call 040 7117 282.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.