Alert readers may have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately. It’s not that I “had too much fun in Vegas”, or “had to go back to work to support a gambling habit”, or “spend all day watching baseball”. Well. At least not entirely.
Fact is, I’ve had a back/hip issue that’s progressively gotten worse over the past several months. During March Madness in Vegas, I slept fitfully, and usually woke my roommate Jacquito early in the morning as I stretched, trying to get loose enough to wander around Vegas and sit in poker rooms.
After getting home, the pain in my hip continued to worsen to the point that I couldn’t even do the stretches. Last fall (when the pain was relatively mild) an orthopedist told me that I’d have to have a hip replacement at some point, but if the pain wasn’t interfering with my daily life there was no immediate need for surgery. Not even being sixty yet, this was hard news to accept. So I decided to try chiropractic.
Now, I know some people swear by this approach to medicine, and it’s apparently helped a lot of people. But I can still hear my parents telling me as a child that Chiropractors were quacks who only went into the field because they weren’t accepted into medical school. I imagined the “doctor” would be some older, hairy-armed guy with halitosis who made bad jokes and sold lifetime memberships in a nudist colony on the side.
But I resolved to keep an open mind. My insurance would pay most of the cost, and I could always quit if it didn’t help. I found a young-ish woman Chiropractor on the south side who accepted my insurance plan and made an appointment.
During the initial exam, she assured me that my problem was a pinched nerve in my back that would benefit from spinal adjustment. I told her what the orthopedist said last fall. She smirked and said, “He didn’t do you any favors by telling you to wait”. She also said that my hip was “tilted” and that my right leg was one and a half inches longer than the left. She recommended a schedule of three adjustments per week for four weeks, then a re-evaluation.
I scheduled the first appointment for the next day. She had me lay on my back, then grabbed my feet – actually, my shoes – and moved my legs around. I then rolled over on my stomach and she asked me to lift each leg as high as possible. I managed only a few inches due to the pain in my hip. She then shifted my back around, popped my neck and spine a couple of times with some kind of clicker, and then shoved my back a few times.
When I got off the table, I actually did feel a little better. I felt like I was looser and walking a bit more freely. Maybe this wasn’t a scam after all.
I continued to come for the adjustments, but couldn’t help but ponder some red flags.
Subsequent appointments were in a larger examination room with four tables. Patients went in four at a time, and the doctor moved around to each one in turn. When you lie onto your stomach, there’s tissue paper on a roll to keep your face from resting directly on the table. In my second appointment after we were done, she asked me to rotate the face paper and throw it away to “Keep my hands clean”. I wondered where the hell she got this paper I was planting my face in that made it even less sanitary than other people’s shoes.
I got to the next appointment early and filled out my daily report about how much pain I’d had since the last adjustment. After I was done I watched a video board that showed commercials for chiropractic treatment, tips on the best positions for sleeping and what a big problem kids’ overloaded backpacks are. As the messages scrolled through, I started noticing spelling and grammar errors on about a third of the slides.
(“You can replace you’re hip, but not your back!”, “You’re never to young for Chiropractic!”)
I also noticed a consistent animus toward traditional medicine. Every time a patient mentioned their family doctor, the chiropractor made a snide comment (“Well, you already knew that”). It struck me as really unprofessional, and probably not in the patient’s best interest.
I felt like I was being scammed. And after the subsequent appointments, the relief was less noticeable. So I cancelled the rest of my adjustments and made an appointment with my family doctor.
I don’t know if my experience is typical. Maybe I just happened on a sub-optimal practitioner. I’d be interested to hear from anybody who’s had different experiences with chiropractors. And I may not be done with alternative medicine. Before any surgery, I might try acupuncture. I just hope I can find one with better hygiene practices. And spell check.