Bend me, break me

By Mir
December 17, 2005

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.


  1. shannon

    I had my first chiropractic experience just about 4 and a half years ago. Dr. Ott. There was nothing like that instrument you showed us, just the weight of his body cracking mine. I will tell you, after the first session, be prepared to probably hurt a bit. It wasn’t until after the second session that I felt any kind of relief…

    That being said (yeah, sorry for possibly making you more nervous) glad to hear the kids are doing better and things are somewhat back to normal…eeep, didn’t mean any horrible pun what so ever!

  2. Em

    Oh, Mir! I am in love with my chiropractor and not just because he is a cutie. And wears shoes. Granted, I never injured my back, only had tension/cracking (they hate that term “cracking” by the way, ALIGNING is what they like to call it – whatever, its sure sounds like cracking)/achiness. I would go for massages on my birthday, etc. Never any relief. One good ALIGNING and I was on cloud nine. I don’t know if you are a knuckle cracker. If you are, stop, its a disgusing habit. I’m one too and its that same feeling, that release of pressure only along your entire spine. Sweet.

    FYI, I’m NW of Boston, I know you are relatively close. My chiro is affiliated with our local hospital. If that makes you feel better, I would be glad to recommend them to you. Best part, some insurances cover it. My old insurance covered 12 visits per year. Its worth looking into.

    My chiro also never used that tool. Didn’t they used to give polio vaccines with something like that? Yikes! My guy uses his body weight to cracka ma back. Bonus.

    Good Luck with it. Its not for everybody but I love it (for what thats worth ;-)

  3. Amy

    Yeah. I’ve been to a chiropractor once, and the cracking–especially of the neck, made me so nervous I laughed hysterically. I couldn’t stop laughing, for a very very long time, and he had to get a nurse to bring me some water. I think if he’d been a real doctor (oops! did I say that?) he would have given me a tranquilizer.

    That said, I have more sane friends who swear by their chiropractor’s and insist that my bad back is just crying out for a cracking. They are probably right.

    But I still can’t stop cackling at the thought of it.

  4. LatteMan

    I will avoid ranting on this subject except to say the following…

    1. Each CH-CHK of that instrument equals CH-CHING to the quack-o-practor. (Which is why there is so little pressure, it takes 785 separate appointments for your back to “start showing improvement).

    2. I know of no person that has ever been cured of anything by a chiropractor. Oh sure, plenty of people swear by them, but ask anyone of them how long it took to *complete a treatment regiment*, and you will not get an honest answer. Why? You are never done. You *always* re-throw something out of alignment, something else crops up, your *nerves* tense your back in to a pretzel.

    Well, I could go on, but I said I wouldn’t rant.

  5. Jenn

    I started seeing a chiropractor a few months ago because I’d had little nagging pains in my lower back. My husband started at the same time, he had had serious back problems over the summer and one of the things that was cropping up more and more was anxiety. Damn if getting adjustments didn’t help the anxiety go away! It’s still there at times, but not at all like it was.

    But yeah, the whole first experience was kind of weird. My chiropractor is extrememly earnest, but I still, even now as I am wrapping up my treatments, have a hard time buying into the whole naturalistic approach. He wanted us to try this natural antihistamine/inflammatory thing, which costs $60 a bottle (lasts three months) and to me, seems to do squat. (I mentioned this, and his receptionist, who is also a chiropractor, said “well, you might notice it working if you quit taking it.”)

    I’ve just come to accept that we have differing ideas about medicine and drugs and I will take his ideas with a large heaping bunch of salt.

    The lovechild of a pogo stick and a hypodermic? My doctor doesn’t use that. Somehow, I feel cheated. I hope your back is feeling better after your treatments!

  6. DebR

    I had some good experiences with chiropractors helping some of my back and neck problems in a couple of other places I lived, but have never found one around here that I could deal with dealing with. Heh.

    At the largest and most popular practice in town, none of them use their last names. They tell you to call them “Dr. Sally” and “Dr. Joe” and “Dr. Tammy” (names changed to protect the wacky). I just can’t do it. I can call you Sally or I can call you Dr. Smith, but I canNOT refer to someone as Dr. Sally. Not with a straight face anyway.

    I will now, however, give them all bonus points for wearing real shoes. Ahem.

  7. Amy-GO

    You got further than I would’ve. The shoes would’ve been it for me!

  8. Bob

    Good luck w/the treatments. I have had periodic problems with my neck & upper back that have me doing a frankenstein imitation. I tried chiropractic and it was non-determinative. I hope it helps, neck pain is a real pain in the…

  9. shannon

    …my chiropractor told me to only call him if/when I felt the need. I have only ever gone twice…My back doesn’t need me to go back (it’s combination of the two visits and the clogs I wear). :)

  10. Marvo

    Sandals, eh? Well, if his back was like Quasimodo’s, I think you might be in trouble.

  11. holly

    I’ve tried chiro several times and each time I’ve reverted back to physical therapists instead. I heart physical therapists. They’ve done magic on me after car accidents, broken ankles, and ergonomic owies.

  12. Christy

    I’ve tried chiropractic a time or two for specific incidents, such as after a car accident or nasty racquetball wall-smashing moment. Both times with great success. But when they start giving you the “chiropractic will also solve everything else in your life” lecture, I just glaze over and refuse to play along. Even after you’re better from the wreck, this guy is going to try to convince you that you need to come back every week for the rest of your life, to “stay in proper alignment” and all. It took me a while to learn that I can say no to the idea of being owned by my chiropractor for the rest of forever without worrying about seeming obstinant or non-compliant. I just don’t care.

  13. trusty getto

    Longtime lurker, couldn’t resist commenting on this post :)

    We dinosaurs in the medical malpractice plaintiff’s biz have a saying when evaluating chiropractic cases:

    “The patient is at least 50% contributorily negligent just for going to see the chiropractor in the first place.”

    Longtime lurker, couldn’t resist commenting on this post :)

    We dinosaurs in the medical malpractice plaintiff’s biz have a saying when evaluating chiropractic cases:

    “The patient is at least 50% contributorily negligent just for going to see the chiropractor in the first place.”

  14. trusty getto

    My winking elf at the end of the last comment disappeared, so here’s another try: My winking elf at the end of the last comment disappeared, so here’s another try:

  15. Brenda

    I’ve seen several different chiropractors during my life due to multiple auto accidents and no relief from regular medicine.

    I prefer the ones with the ch-chk device. It works on the same principle as acupressure. It’s used on the nerve loci in areas where you’re having problems. The good thing is you won’t be as sore the next day as a regular chiropractic treatment could make you. You should find that your neck and back start “popping” into place over the next 24 hours. You don’t run the risk of possible spinal damage from a physical adjustment.

    My next to last chiro was the best. He approached his position in medicine as being a part of the system, not a cure all. Also, he was definitely the “only come in when you need to” doctor.

    Recently, I was referred to a physical therapist/chiropractor by one of the top physical medicine doctors in the country for a persistent problem.

    You just need to find the right doctor.

    Also, physical muscle tension from neck problems can make you feel more stressed.

  16. Cele

    I have been having a onesided love affair with my chiropracter – St. Gregory (aptly named by another client of his for his steel thumbs – hense S.T.) This man is a modern miracle and he tells you straight up don’t comeback unless you need. I’ve never – ever to this date needed more than one visit to fix what ailed me. He is covered by my insurance, he works inconjunction with our hospital and has been recommended to me more than once by my doctor. And has never once used a tool on my, just his wonderful body – er I mean his wonderful body cracking ability, which er means – well if you’ve been there you know.

    I agree with Em, Brenda, and Shannon I hope you feel oddles better Mir, if not keep looking for a chiropracter who works for YOU.

  17. HomefrontSix

    I’ll be the exception to LatteMan’s rule. My freshman year in college I developed a NASTY case of sciatica. None of the docs I saw could do much for it other than prescribe painkillers and muscle relaxants (I was my own fraternity party!). Went to see a chiropractor and within 3 visits the pain had subsided tremendously. Within 6, it was gone completely.

    The only times it has come back is during my pregnancies but once the baby is born, the pain goes away. (didn’t have access to a decent chiropractor where we were stationed both of those times).

    Good luck – I hope you find some relief soon! And I’m glad your babies are doing well!!!

    – hfs

  18. Jenrigg

    Well I’m not sure about the sandals-in-winter thing… but I used to go to a chiropractor and it was ok – temporarily. I now SWEAR by my osteopath. Actually, I’ve tried a few (I move house a lot LOL) and they have all been fantastic. My back used to seize up all the time, but since the osteopath(s) it doesn’t. It’s a very holistic approach – not just the spine alignment but all kinds of other things, and it’s fantastic. If Mr. Funny Sandals doesn’t do it for you, try and find an osteopath. :)

  19. rose

    I have had back issues for years, some times worse than others I have found that getting to the gym and keeping my supporting muscles strong, keeps the pain managable. But, I had a pain in my upper back, so I went to the chiro. The treatments helped my upper AND lower back-it felt better than i ever did. One commenter was correct-it’s never beter forever. Gardening, sleeping in a bad bed, they’ll all throw it out of whack again. But, one or two visits fixes it.
    Keep an open mind.

  20. Angel

    Um, your mileage may vary but…I’m 0 for 2 with chiros, and I got the same “shoulder and hip higher” speech. I’m sure there are some very good ones out there, but I personally stay away from them.

    I hope get relief soon, whiplash sucks.

  21. Jenny

    I have had many chiropractors throughout my life. The one I have now has been my chiropractor for the last 24 years! (I’m not that old, honest!) He is a “Straight” chiropracter, which means that he doesn’t do all those xrays and mumbo jumbo crap like others I have experienced. But he does do the CH-CHK thing. I have had him work on my back, neck, hips, wrists (for carpal tunnel) and my right foot for a pinched nerve (it saved me from having surgery on the foot). I have even had him massage my sinuses!! Anything I think he could possible help with, I ask him if he can, and he does. I found him when I was pregnant with baby #2. He UNDERSTOOD how milk-filled breasts can put your back out!!! My kids have all gone to him at various times. Way back when I was still a teenager, I went to a chiropracter who was in his 80’s and super strong!! It was amazing.As you can tell, I could go on and on….I have been in a couple of car accidents myself, and the one put my hip out of place. I actually walked with a limp until someone (I think it was my aunt) suggested a chiropracter. Voila!! No more limp after a couple of adjustments!

  22. Tiny Coconut

    Well, Latteman, I have to disagree. My chiropractor saw me once a week for about four months, and got rid of some lower back/hip pain that’d been plaguing me for about four years. He then told me that I should only come back if I felt the need.

    Now, my psychiatrist on the other hand…

  23. Leanne

    I must admit, I wore sandals and woolies at work almost every day one winter…but then, I was in the third trimester of my pregnancy, and after struggling out of my Sorels in the morning, I wasn’t about to do any more bending right away to get more complicated footwear on!

    This does not excuse your chiroquactor. But I hope it excuses me :-)


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