EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Richard Klingert sees patients of all ages and backgrounds at Klingert Family Chiropractic: athletes, the elderly, new mothers, office workers and, increasingly, children.

"We called it family chiropractic because I always envisioned my family being involved in the business and I think entire families should include chiropractic in their health and wellness," he said.

Klingert, 65, has been practicing chiropractic medicine since 1976. His son Casey and daughters Alisun and Katelin work in the family business on Old Zion Road in Egg Harbor Township.

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Often, people make a first appointment because of a back or hip strain.

"That's what brings most people into a chiropractor's office," he said.

For chronic or acute back pain, doctors typically prescribe a regimen of rest, exercise and painkillers, he said. But chiropractic medicine aims to restore the nerve function of the central nervous system, the body's key to healing, he said.

"Many of my patients are not interested in taking drugs or undergoing surgery. Chiropractic is a good way to deal with cricks, back aches and strains," he said. "We try to take care of people to restore function and prevent injuries from developing in the future."

Injuries can happen when people compensate for their pain by putting more strain on other parts of their body when they hold themselves in unnatural positions while working, walking or resting, he said.

"When you injure a ligament, it's a permanent injury. That weakened area is never restored and never maintained," he said.

Chiropractic medicine treats the body as a whole, he said.

"The fundamental philosophy of chiropractic care is that the body is a self-healing organism. God designed us to be a healing machine," he said.

Stephanie Kennedy, 29, of Egg Harbor Township, started seeing Klingert after she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis, which caused hearing loss and ringing in her ears in addition to the hearing loss.

She recently graduated from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey with a degree in communications.

"I feel good. I feel healthier and sleep better," she said. "The tinnitus I had has gotten a lot better."

Klingert, who recently had hip-replacement surgery, said a chiropractor does not take the place of a family doctor. And it's not a cure-all for disease or illness, he said.

Still, he draws patients from Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May counties.

"Chiropractic is a funny thing. People take ownership of their doctor. 'You've got to see my guy,'" he said.

But when Klingert opened his first chiropractic office in Somers Point in 1976, the medical discipline was not as widely accepted as is today, he said.

"Now it's mainstream, accepted by all health insurance. We're not an afterthought any more. People will come to us first," he said.

Klingert built a new home and office two years later on the wooded and peaceful Old Zion Road in Egg Harbor Township. They have a second office in Mays Landing, where Alisun Klingert is the resident chiropractor.

Klingert said his office has been busier since the recession.

"People aren't getting the insurance they used to, so they have to take a personal, vested interest in their healthcare," he said. "They're looking for something that will give them a better overall health benefit. They're finding chiropractic to be a great tool."

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