It’s been nearly two weeks since I totalled our beloved Sylvia, and by most accounts the memory is fading on schedule. I haven’t had a nightmare about the collision for three whole nights in a row! Monkey has stopped having nightmares and has sprouted fresh, pink baby-smooth skin to replace the scabby bits that dotted his forehead. Chickadee’s scar is hard to see unless the light is just right, and the bruising has disappeared entirely.
All is well! Right? Right! Well, mostly!
The thing is, my neck and back will get a little bit better and then get worse again. Or I’ll have a day where I think “Oh! All better now!” and then the next morning my neck will refuse to turn to the left. It’s becoming… annoying. Now, I’ve been taking my advil and my muscle relaxers and was sure the “whiplash: take it easy and ice as necessary” diagnosis made sense, but I kind of miss having a body that doesn’t hurt all the time. So. I decided it was time to get help.
Today I went to a chiropractor for the first time.
I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’m very much in favor of more holistic healthcare approaches and do believe that chiropractic and acupuncture and the like can yield great benefits. On the other hand, my regular western medicine docs are the ones who give me drugs. And I’m in favor of drugs. Plus I guess I think it’s easier to be a quack in a non-mainstream practice, because they’re not as well-regulated as traditional medicine.
But I’d gotten a recommendation for this particular chiropractor, and I figured I’d give the whole thing a try.
I arrived at the little office and the first thing I noticed was that the parking areas and walkway were VERY slippery. True, we had an ice storm yesterday. But wouldn’t it just be CONVENIENT if any of his patients happened to fall and hurt their backs on the way in the door? Hmmmm? The resultant business might be enough to buy plenty of sno-melt, after all.
[Hey, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get you.]
Inside looked like every other doctor’s office, complete with burbling aquarium and friendly receptionist. After I checked in I was given a clipboard with a 4-page health questionnaire to fill out. Unlike any other form I’d been asked to complete for a physician before, this one was a scantron–it required little ovals to be filled in with a #2 pencil. Test anxiety set in immediately. (B! No, wait… A!) But I soldiered on, reporting every ache and pain and malady I, my relatives, or the family dog had had in the past 30 years or so.
I handed in my form and read a magazine until I was called. Then I read a magazine in the exam room until the doctor came in. Apparently some things are the same no matter what sort of practitioner you patronize.
When Dr. Chirowitz came in to see me, my initial reactions were:
1) Oh my God; could this man BE more EARNEST? If he is any more earnest, his face will crack from the pressure of all that sincerity and enthusiasm trying to force its way through the skin. Eeek.
2) Chirowitz… that’s a Jewish name. He looks Jewish. But… he’s wearing a really cheesy Christmas tie. The hell?
3) Sandals? Sandals in DECEMBER? With black socks and cuffed dress pants and a button down shirt and TIE? I never even saw that when I lived in California, and I’m pretty sure you could be lynched for that here in New England. Look away! Look away from the exposed sock toes! Ack!
Naturally all of these thoughts coalesced in my brain and when I opened my mouth, out popped my effort to squelch thinking about any of them. “Hi, my neck’s all screwed up.” It’s all about me, baby.
We discussed the car accident–including him dropping his pen on the floor in exaggerated horror when I reported that I hadn’t even been examined at the Emergency Room–and then he gave me the rundown of the hows and why of chiropractic. If I understood him correctly, the basic premise is that the alignment of your spine affects every bodily system as well as the stock market and whether or not Mercury is in retrograde. Any problem with your spinal column is called a “subluxation,” or, in layman’s terms, “something a chiropractor will find and fiddle with when his Jaguar payment comes due.” Addressing these subluxations will relieve various problems from back pain to hearing to world hunger.
In fact, he specifically asked me if I’d been having problems with palpitations since the accident. “Well… uhhh… I have a pre-existing anxiety issue,” I admitted. “I’m definitely having more palpitations now that I’ve driven my car into a large truck, but I don’t think it’s related to my back so much as it’s related to hoping I don’t do anything that stupid again.”
He leaned forward–so very earnestly–and his eyes lit up. “But SEE, that’s JUST the sort of thing!” he declared. I blinked at him. “That’s the sort of thing where you’ll be AMAZED,” he continued. “Because maybe–just MAYBE–you had a misalignment BEFORE the accident that was triggering this anxiety. And in correcting the damage from this recent trauma, you may find that you feel much calmer, in general, than you did before. The anxiety could go away COMPLETELY!” He wanted me to share in his enthusiasm, I could tell. Maybe if he’d scattered a bit of pixie dust at the end there. Or if he was wearing real shoes.
There ensued an awkward silence. Clearly it was my turn to express my awe. “Oh,” I offered. He looked a little bit disappointed, but you could tell he was trying to keep up a brave front.
“Well, we’re going to do a quick assessment to see where you’re at,” he said, taking out a hospital gown. “Please undress from the waist up and put this on, velcro in the back. I’ll be back with you in a minute. And then he was gone, and I was left staring at this gown. Wait, I had to undress? Gah. Oh well; at least I got to keep my pants on. I changed quickly, then got to wait a while because he was seeing someone else. I heard what sounded like a gigantic stapler from the adjoining exam room. CH-CHK it went. Then CH-CHK again. About a dozen times, maybe. I wondered if he was stapling the patient to the table.
He returned to my room and the fun began! First I sat up on the exam table and he pushed really hard on my head a couple of different ways and asked if it hurt. It was weird and annoying, but didn’t hurt. The problems arose when he started giving me directions to turn this way and that, and he scribbled madly on my chart while I provided helpful information like “ow” and “that’s as far as I can go.”
Then he had me lie down on the table and he pulled up one leg, then bent it a couple of ways, then repeated with the other leg. After that, I got to stand up straight on the floor in front of a full-length mirror (which, YAY, nothing I’d rather do in a hospital gown!) while he showed me how much higher one hip is than the other, and how the corresponding shoulder is also higher, but not by as much. This of course prompted a brilliant observation from me: “Wow. That seems… bad.”
Dr. Chirowitz agreed that I had clearly suffered spinal trauma that would need work. After scribbling on my chart some more he said he’d need to take some x-rays before we could proceed with treatment. He told me to remove my jeans and “any other metal below the waist” (which caused me to think of a few really inappropriate things to say, but I restrained myself) and he’d be back after he turned on the x-ray machine.
I took off my jeans and sat down again. I didn’t shave my legs today; it’s not like I knew I’d be waltzing around this office with virtually nothing on. Oh well. I picked up my magazine again and listened through the wall as the giant stapler routine commenced with another patient. CH-CHK! CH-CHK! Turn this way a bit, and… CH-CHK!
The x-rays were uneventful, except for the straight-on neck vertebrae one, which required me to open my mouth as wide as possible so that my teeth wouldn’t be blocking the view of the bones behind. Because it’s not uncomfortable enough to be walking around in a flimsy gown with your butt hanging out, it’s also nice to do a wide-mouthed bass impression at the same time.
After the x-rays Dr. Chirowitz came back to the exam room and explained that he’d be looking over the films and based on what he saw, he’d decide on the best course of treatment. He assured me he’d go over all of the findings with me at my next appointment. Then he explained to me that he uses a special instrument for realignments, and reached into his pocket. At last I met the gigantic stapler, which wasn’t a stapler at all, but more like the lovechild of a pogo stick and a hypodermic. He demonstrated its use on my finger, where it didn’t feel like much. I have to conclude that it’s the tremendously loud sound it makes rather than the pressure it delivers that scares your spine into proper alignment. Anyway, he says he uses that along the spine and it doesn’t hurt a bit but everything will be all better soon. And then we smoked a bowl together.
Kidding. We didn’t smoke anything. Well, I’m not saying HE didn’t, but not that I saw.
I go back Monday morning for my first treatment. I know I’m poking fun, but I do believe this could help with my back. And if one of those CH-CHKs happens to unpinch the “common sense when it comes to dating” nerve, so much the better, right? But I swear to you that if I find myself thinking about wearing my sandals in the snow, I’m not going there again.