Oh, the places you’ll go! Tales from the road with Dr. Shannon McEwen, chiropractor to the rockstars

Date:  March 13, 2023


A career in healthcare always called to Dr. Shannon McEwen, who found her pathway to chiropractic at a school career fair booth promoting the Southern California University of Health Science chiropractic program. When she graduated top of her class and began practicing in Toronto’s beaches neighborhood, she was comfortable, but it was a call from a former classmate that took her career on a new and unexpected trajectory.

“Two years after graduation, my colleague reached out to say that a music group in town was in need of a chiropractor; he asked if I could I go to the show that night.” Armed with a portable table and consent forms, Dr. McEwen headed backstage to setup her table at the Hall and Oates show. 

“It snowballed from there.”

Getting to experience the literal backbones of what makes a show – the lighting, the rigging, and the physical labour required for a tour of that size – it impressed her. “But I always kept it really professional, and that’s why the promoters and the organizers kept calling.”

For years now, Radiohead has been Dr. McEwen’s main touring group; an opportunity which stemmed from her first tour with Avril Lavigne in 2007. Since then, Dr. McEwan has been on tour with Robert Plant, Sum 41, Lorde, the Smile and many others. On the road, she’s found that maintaining good MSK health can be a challenge, especially with grueling schedules and the demands of traveling for long stretches of time.

“When you’re on tour with an artist and their crew, you have time to build rapport, and understand how treatments fit their needs and requirements as artists. For example, while you don’t want to change a musician’s technique, you can look at the biomechanics and make suggestions with the goal of finding solutions together collaboratively over the duration of a tour. By comparison, if I was just treating an artist for the day, my goal is maintenance, and soft tissue work. At the end of the day, an artist is just like any other patient, with their unique needs and preferences. As chiropractors, we need to be able to adjust our practice and integrate into a one-time performance or a longer tour.”

Reflecting on nearly 20 years practicing on tour with rockstars has led to memories that will last a lifetime; memories like getting the call from the crew over the radio to rush the stage to watch Radiohead surprise a crowd in Rio with a rare performance of ‘Creep’ are amongst her most cherished from the road. “When I started, I didn’t understand how big [the opportunity] was and how amazing it would be – the people I’ve met and working with icons and knowing them personally and having a positive impact on people. I’m so grateful.” Her advice to new grads? “Be open to new opportunities, ask questions and remember to be a team player – you never know where the road will take you.”

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