Thursday, April 19, 2007

Keeping my Chiropractic addiction at bay

When I was young, my parents always told me that Chiropractors where just quacks, and not real doctors. I didn't know much about it, so when my work offered a seminar on it as part of their wellness program a year ago, I was curious to learn about it. I was fascinated by their success stories especially of children and babies, as children are not so influenced by psychosomatic therapies. They brought a bunch of contraptions: a double scale to see your side to side weight distribution, a string alignment grid to chart your posture and a temperature measuring device to detect nervous activity imbalances in your neck. All these hard core measurements appealed to my engineering side. They were very persuasive and "scientific" about their use of these instruments, so I signed up for a free diagnosis and consultation for Doug and myself. I don't actually have any issues, some mild neck and back pain, and some numbness in my fingers if my arms are bent for long periods (knitting or driving a car) which I usually attribute to poor circulation.

During our consultation, Doug and I first got to watch a video about how great chiropractic was. During the evaluation, the doctor kept pushing the free x-ray which we both declined. They started doing the hard sell, "we won't be able to fully diagnose the extent of your subluxations." We really had to be firm to refuse them. During the rest of the evaluation, I could see that my charts showed that my results were extremely bad, where Doug's looked pretty much OK. Which makes no sense since Doug has many back problems where I have none in comparison. I started doubting these so called scientific measurements. We also saw brochures touting chiropractic as a cure for all sorts of ailments including asthma, constipation, immunity to colds as well as the usual back pains. After all, everything is controlled by your nervous system and if the nerves are getting frayed by misalignments in the spine, that is obviously the root of all problems. They also pushed their educational classes and seminars on chiropractic. I started to think that this was looking more like a cult, where they brainwash you with all this persuasive material and suck your money away in "treatments".

I had to return for my results the next week and Doug never went back (I guess he already knew better!). The doctor recommended that I have treatments 3 times a week for 6 weeks, then 2 times a week for 6 to 12 weeks, and then 1 time a week for another 6 to 12 weeks. For what? Mild back pain and occasional numbness in my fingers? Hardly seemed necessary since I had managed to live 39 years without treatment. My first adjustment however, was definitely enlightening. My neck was suddenly so loose, I felt like a bobblehead. Could it be that all these years I really had an abnormally stiff neck? It really felt good! I went back a couple more times and then stopped because I had changed insurance plans and it was no longer a $15 copay per visit, but the full $45 or $55 with the new high deductible plan. What a racket! Two minutes of cracking: crack crack crack, $45 please. No wonder they need to brainwash you to keep coming back. How many adjustments can they push through in an hour? What a great money making machine. The other fluff stuff they do with ultrasonic treatments, back rollers, etc. is probably not much more beneficial than a massage chair, but perhaps people feel better about forking over the money when they spend more than the 2 minutes needed for the adjustment.

The feeling of having my neck cracked reminded me of when I used to obsessively crack my knuckles as a kid. I kept wanting to crack them even though I heard that it would lead to arthritis later in life. I finally quit cracking them obsessively (but the urge returns especially if I'm sick), but I definitely ended up with larger than normal knuckles. I can't imagine that cracking your neck on a regular basis won't do the same kind of damage to those bones and ligaments. But I can see getting hooked on the feeling just like cracking knuckles. When I started suspecting that chiropractic was a bit of a cult, I found this interesting website, Chirobase: Your Skeptical Guide to Chiropractic History, Theories, and Practices, about the myths and truths (albeit probably biased) about chiropractic.

My personal experience after my first few adjustments was that I became hooked on the bobblehead feeling. I would dream about going again looking for my fix and trying to avoid x-rays. However, I just couldn't bring myself to pay for more adjustments. About six months later, I had the urge to go back again, but I needed a re-evaluation. Again, without x-rays, my results were even worse than before, but in actuality, I had no complaints except for an occasional stiff neck. My numbness has seemed to subside as well. I had a different doctor perform the adjustment, and he had a gentler touch and technique which I completely fell in love with, and left me wanting more. I went back one more time and then resisted the urge to return. There is a co-worker that uses another practice which only charges $20 per adjustment that I may check out in the future if I ever get the overwhelming urge. But oh this doctor, his hands are simply amazing! Can you tell I have the addiction bad? No need for brainwashing for me. Even writing this post is making me crave it!


Anonymous said...

You know, here's my two cents. :)

I had my suspicions about chiropractors too for a long time, until about a year and a half ago.

I was getting dressed in the morning, bent over to pick up a pair of socks, and lightning bolts of pain just about crippled me. Having watched my mother experience these issues throughout the years, and this was my second one - and the first one wasn't really that well treated by the regular doctor (Ibuproefen and Muscle Relaxers) I figured I'd give a chiropractor a shot, as my insurance covers them now.

I kid you not, I went on my health insurance directory and started calling offices closest to my work until I found one that could get me in.

I somehow stumbled in to the waiting room, and apparently they take extra special care of you if you can't stand up straight. ;)

The chiropractor I worked with was a younger guy, and I had a really good experience. He didn't try and upsell me on expensive tests or anything, diagnosed my issue as being primarily muscular, and worked with me doing physical therapy exercises and stretches that helped a lot and weren't that different (really at all) from what a normal physical therapist would recommend. Now having said that, he did do the electroshock thingy on my spasming back muscles, and that was weird - but it did help me stand up. He tried to snap crackle and pop me, but I was too tense. ;)

I ended up going back for about 2 1/2 weeks and then was fine - him I would recommend to anybody.

Now having said that, he shared an office with a guy that was definitely of the granola holistic healer variety school of thought. That guy I would have beat feet on in a hurry.

So, who knows? Jury is still out.

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