*Chiropractic Care - First Impression*
Is Chiropractic Care for Me?
The problem started nearly fifteen years ago, while I was lifting free weights with some buddies at the local gym. As young twenty-something bucks, we were challenging each other on the squat rack. We were each squatting well over 350 pounds and the testosterone level was high among the group. My best friend had just beaten everyone and my turn was next. I slapped another ten pounds on each end and stepped under the bar. Unfortunately for me, in my enthusiasm to keep up with the pack, I neglected to cinch down my weight belt properly. Fifteen seconds later, at the low point of the squat maneuver, I both felt and heard my lower back give way and POP. The weight bar hit the safety stops on the lifting rack and I went to the floor in pain. Four days and a lot of Icy/Hot later, my back felt better, but I was never able to max-out well on the squat machine again. Over the last fifteen years, my lower back would occasionally "go out" when I turned wrong or lifted something incorrectly. However, Iíve always been active in karate and other sports so my body was limber and able to slip the offending disk back into place within a few days with some stretching and light exercises.
Fast forward to May 2002. My life has changed dramatically in the last five years with a new deskbound job and two kids. And, okay Iíll admit that Iím not in the shape now that I have been most of my life. Then, on a Saturday in May, I spent the day cutting firewood, stacking firewood and hauling firewood. My body was tired and my back was sore. Without thinking, I bent over to heft a good-sized log on my shoulder when my lower back gave way again. I dropped to my knees and was almost in tears trying to get to my feet. For the next three weeks I tried stretching, twisting, rubbing, and bending to get my back to stop hurting, but nothing helped. I simply wasnít limber enough to get it back into place and to get the pain to go away.
Finally, my wife said I should go see a chiropractor. I said no, she said yes, I said no, she said yes. We had an argument is what we hadÖ And, as is often the case, she won. I set up an appointment based on the recommendation of a buddy at work that swears by "his guy".
Now, Iíll pause the story for a minute to explain that Iíve never cared for doctors much. Itís not that I dislike doctors, or shots, or probing medical proceduresÖ I was in the Army after all and you get used to the occasional probing. I simply hate the whole appointment/waiting process. If I make a business appointment, I had better be there and be ready on time. If I make a dinner appointment, I had better be there on time. But, if I make a doctorís appointment, Iíd better bring a bookÖ a long book because I know Iím going to be kept waiting. They actually call it a "waiting room" and they call you a "patient", so it seems the process is doomed to failure from the very start. But I digress.
I had never been to a chiropractor. I had always seen chiropractors as sort of the lunatic fringe of the medical community. I saw them somewhat closer to tarot card readers and psychics than a true medical professional. Iím not saying I was right, that was just my impression.
So, I arrive at my appointment expecting to either wait an hour (like a true medical professional), or be asked to meditate on incense while standing on my head while my aura is analyzed by the resident spirit medium. But, with my back hurting the way it was, I was willing to try anything to make the pain go away, so bring on the voodoo.
I will admit that I was very pleasantly surprised. The "waiting area" was neat and clean and looked like a normal doctorís office without the antiseptic smell. There were also only four chairs and two fairly new magazines, which to me was a good sign that I wouldnít spend much time sitting there. Within just a few minutes, a lady dressed like a nurse appeared and escorted me back to an x-ray room. The technician handed me a gown and said they would be doing some x-rays and some scans to determine what position my spine was in which would help them determine if chiropractic care would benefit me. That surprised me because I expected the doctor to walk in, pop my back and send me home.
They took normal x-rays of my neck and back from various sides and then scanned my spine with an instrument that looked like a small hand-scanner with wheels connected to a computer. After all that was done, the doctor came in and I explained the problem and where the pain was. He had me lay on the table and he pushed and pressed various parts of my back, each time asking if it hurt. He then said that I sounded like a promising candidate for chiropractic treatment but it would take 48 hours for the x-rays to come back for him to be sure. So, I set up a second appointment for two days later.
When I arrived for my second appointment, I was again immediately taken back to the office where the doctor and x-ray technician were waiting. They were actually waiting on me. Pretty cool. He showed me the x-rays and compared them to one that was "normal". He drew on the x-ray with a pencil to show where my spine curved abnormally and how the "normal" one didnít curve in the same spots. I was impressed by his artwork, but just desperately wanted the pain to go away, we could compare drawing styles later. He quickly pinpointed the source of the pain on the film and said he thought chiropractic care could help me.
He went on to explain that normally the first two or three adjustments (the proper term for "popping your back") would be enough to relieve the pain, but that in order to actually solve the underlying problem, we needed to get the spine back into itís proper place, then keep putting it back in the correct position until the muscles re-learned where the spine was supposed to be. He said that over the last fifteen years, the muscles have grown to accept my spine in itís abnormal position, so when he put it back in a few minutes, the muscles would actually work to push it back out of position until they could be re-trained to be in the proper position. This jived with what I had read on the Internet, so it was either true or a standard industry line. He explained that it normally takes about thirty visits over about three months, to get your spine and muscles retrained to the proper position. He said they normally start with three times a week and gradually work to twice a week, then once a week, then once a month. He said that once everything is fine, then many people choose to continue once or twice a month as maintenance to ensure they correct problems before they get out of hand and begin to cause pain.
He then sent me down the hall to the "therapy room" and said he would meet me again in a few minutes for my adjustment. "Therapy" I thought, finally the pain will begin to go away. The nurse met me in the hall and escorted me to a room with two or three slim, firm beds. She explained that I should lie on the bed on my back, fully clothed, and when she turned the bed on, a roller would rise up and massage my back muscles and spine. It actually felt pretty good for the ten minutes or so it was on because I almost went to sleep.
Then came my first adjustment session. The doctor explained that he is a hands-on chiropractor and prefers to manipulate the spine using his hands, patient positioning and leverage. I will admit that Iím not a person that likes a lot of personal physical contact with other people. At least not other grown men. But again, I was willing to try almost anything to get the pain in my lower back to go away.
He said he was going to perform three adjustments on my back. First, my lower back, where the pain was. He had me lay on the low adjustment table on my side. He then had me pulled my top leg up toward my chest. He leaned against my knee and applied force to my belt and hip. I immediately felt my back slip back into place and about 90% of the pain went away instantly. He then had me flip over and he repeated the procedure on the other side. He explained that the spine performs much of the balancing of the overall body, so if your lower back is out of alignment to the left, then your upper back will typically be out of alignment to the right to counter the shifting center of gravity.
He then had me lay face down while he adjusted my middle back between my shoulder blades. I will admit that I have "popped my back" for most of my life, sometime achieving near Nirvana when it pops really well. However, this guy obviously knew exactly what he was doing because I felt an immediate pressure relief after the adjustment. It was great!
Lastly, he had me lay on my back while he adjusted my neck. He basically put pressure on my neck at various points to determine where it needed to move, then he rotated my head and quickly "popped" it on each side. Again, it felt better than Iíve ever been able to "pop" it myself.
As I left, he said it was very important to put ice on my back and neck that night. He said warmth works the muscles and ice works the bones. He also said I would probably be sore for the next couple of days, but to keep faithful with the ice and come back in tomorrow so he could see how much it returned to the misaligned position.
That night I did as I had been told, using ice for fifteen-minute increments, then nothing for fifteen minutes. And, true to his words, my entire back and spine were sore the next morning. The next morning I felt like I had chopped, hand split and stacked two cords of wood, I was so sore. But, I continued my chiropractic treatment and within a week, most of the soreness was gone and all of my back pain was gone.
Iíve gone for "adjustments" three times a week for about two months, and have gradually started working down to twice a week. I am happy to report that I feel great! Iíve spent the last few weekends helping my in-laws move, lifting boxes and furniture, crawling around in the attic and working hard all day and have not felt my back even twinge, much less hurt.
One interesting side affect that I noticed before I realized it might be related to the chiropractic treatment was my overall health and energy level. About three weeks ago, my wife and kids came down with a stomach flu of some kind, but I never got it. While they were all sick, it became my job to keep everyone cared for and yet I always seemed to have a little extra energy to get things done. I casually mentioned this at the doctorís office and he said that chiropractic care often has that effect. He said that all the nerves travel down the spine and then out into the body. He said that a misaligned spine could squeeze some smaller nerves and cause them to function at decreased efficiency. He said that once you begin to relieve the pressure from these nerves, you often increase energy and build up your immune system. Now, is that true? Donít know, but I do know I feel better.
So, if you ever get "down in your back", as my grandmother likes to say, shop around and find a good chiropractor. One that will explain what heís doing and let you ask questions. I have found that "my guy" is a legitimate doctor and truly enjoys helping people feel better.
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