Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Notes on Chiropractic

A few years ago I suffered excruciating back pain – a deep, relentless pain of unknown origin. I could almost feel my vertebrae shifting as I walked. It got so bad that one day in a grocery store I had to lean against the shopping cart, and use it like a walker.

So I went to a chiropractor.

I believe in chiropractic care. The spine, after all, is a support beam that bears a heavy load; regular servicing is a must. Sure enough, after just a few appointments my mysterious back pain vanished. I still see this chiropractor for what she calls "maintenance" adjustments.

Yet a part of me remains skeptical about chiropractic. My previous chiropractor, a certain Dr. Quackenbush, is largely to blame for this lingering skepticism.

The first time I went to her I was shown a video extolling the virtues of chiropractic care. It felt like a hard sell, which turned me off. The video included images of a baby's birth, a poor infant being brutally tugged by the neck into this wicked world. The message was clear enough: from the moment we're born, our necks (and spines) are pulled out of whack by the way we live.

Nine visits out of ten Dr. Quackenbush tried to sell me snake oil – herbal treatments of dubious value at extraordinarily inflated prices. At first I fell for it. Then I went on full alert, sensing total chicanery deserving the epithet quack. Finally I wised up and stopped going.

But I like my present chiropractor. I see her every six weeks, and her adjustments help a lot. As an added bonus I'm usually in and out of her highly efficient office in less than ten minutes.

I situate myself face-down on what's called a drop table, a specialized piece of equipment with sections that drop down to aide spinal adjustment. The chiro applies a series of thrusts intended to re-position misaligned vertebrae.

That's my understanding, anyway.

She also uses an instrument called an activator, which gives a series of very precise flicks to the body. I'm skeptical of this device – but it's harmless, so what the hell. It is mostly used on soft tissues. The chiro recently began using an electric activator over the old manual. It gives these rapid-fire flicks, and sounds like a woodpecker.

This must seem like a lukewarm testimonial, and I suppose it is. But I believe in chiropractic care, and am convinced it cured my aching back, along with a few other complaints. It has its limitations, though, which some practitioners exceed.


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