Why Chiropractic?

In February, Mr. Dormouse and I moved. On top of moving, we were also working our full-time day jobs, working a secondary part-time job, and putting in volunteer hours at our new church. One evening, we got home, and my neck started killing me. I figured I had strained something in the moving and extra hours at work and didn’t think much more of it. The pain wouldn’t go away. In fact, it only got worse, becoming so painful that I was taking doses of ibuprofen about four times a day just to coast by. Even with the pain medication, I felt exhausted and totally out of it.

One of my friends, who works in a chiropractic office, listened to my symptoms and asked if she could do a simple test to see if my spine was off. (I stood up straight, closed my eyes, and nodded forward and back.) She told me that it looked like I needed to be adjusted, so I decided, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt, and isn’t this what chiropractors are for?”

I went in a few days later for an evaluation, where they took X-rays to determine the extent of the damage and we discovered that from the back, my neck was slightly out of alignment, but only by a millimeter off the “normal” range. So that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the normal curvature of my neck was off–pretty significantly off.

See, the vertebrae in your neck form this curve–called the “arc of life” by medical professionals–which acts as a spring for the head. It is supposed to look like the image in figure A. My neck looked like figure B.

Yikes.

The doctor who examined my X-rays said that the injury didn’t look old–probably less than five years–so I attribute it to a fender bender I was in about two and a half years ago which gave me whiplash. I never saw a doctor at the time, and as the pain and stiffness went away in just a couple of days, I didn’t think there was any permanent damage. (Naïve, I know.)

Anyway, since that original visit, I’ve been seeing my chiropractor several times a week to get adjusted, to go through traction, and to do exercises to retrain the muscles and ligaments in my neck to get back to where they ought to be, to regain that “arc of life.” Fortunately, the original pain has gone away, as well as some weird numbness, so now we are focusing solely on correcting that problem that I didn’t even realize was there when I went in.

Image courtesy of spineuniverse.com

During this time, I’ve learned a lot about chiropractic care and the reason why it is such a valuable branch of medicine. The primary reason that it is important is because the spinal column is housed in the vertebrae that run from our skulls down our backs and end at our butts. (Heh, butts.) If the vertebrae are out of alignment, they put pressure on the nerves that spread out from our spinal columns which control all of the other systems in our bodies. A lot of people don’t realize that the point of chiropractic care isn’t just to get rid of pain, but that it’s to maintain proper alignment so as to ensure that all of the systems in our bodies are working properly.

A side benefit of going to see the chiropractor? For me, it means that my twice a month migraines haven’t happened since I started getting adjusted. That’s big, ladies. Another patient who started at the same time as me no longer has to take her thyroid medication–which she had been taking for over a decade–and her digestive system is working regularly.

As I mentioned above, traumatic events like car accidents can mess up our spines. Slips and falls and athletic injuries can also screw with our backs. Something that we don’t necessarily think of in relation to spinal health is birth trauma, but any traumatic birth (forceps, vacuum, even a c-section) can mess up a newborn’s spine, destroying that “arc of life.” The good news is, most babies are born untraumatically, and the other good news is that babies’ spines are easily adjusted, so that problem can be taken care of right away. The bad news is that a lot of people don’t realize how birth trauma can have lasting effects or that it is really easy to fix a baby’s spine if it is “off.” (Note: only a licensed medical professional should adjust a spine!)

So I will end with this: have you ever been to see a chiropractor? If you have, what was your experience? If you haven’t, what do you think about chiropractic care?

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15 Comments Why Chiropractic?

  1. Avatar of [M] QoB[M] QoB

    Given its history and the rationale behind it, I’m very sceptical about chiropractic: the theory is that all disease (all disease! Imagine that!) is because of spinal misalignment. It’s not evidence-based and can be dangerous due to over-use of X-rays and bad adjustments resulting in injury or stroke.

    Also, chiropractors are not medical doctors. It’s frightening that the comments here show that people believe they are.

    1. Avatar of DormouseDormouse

      The chiropractor I go to does not believe that all disease can be remedied by realigning the spine, so this is actually news to me that some chiropractors DO believe that. There are certainly some things that will work better if your spine is aligned properly and all your nerves are able to function the way they are meant to, but he never claimed that what he does can “cure” legit problems. Does that make sense?

      1. Avatar of [M] QoB[M] QoB

        Yes, but I don’t think that’s the majority opinion among chiropractors. Misalignment of the spine causing disease is the basis of chiropractic ‘theory’ as posited by DD Palmer.

        As a form of physical therapy, maybe it has some benefits, but the chiropractic organisations don’t only claim to treat back and neck pain, but also “allergies, asthma, digestive disorders, otitis media (non-suppurative) and other disorders” (American Chiropractic Association), “colds, sore throats, ear infections, fevers, colic, asthma, tonsillitis, allergies, bed-wetting, infections, pains, falls, stomach-aches” in children (International Chiropractic Pediatric Association); period pain, headaches in women, and “asthma, colic, prolonged crying, feeding problems, hyperactivity, bedwetting, frequent infections (particularly in the ears), and learning difficulties” in children (British Chiropractic Association). The science writer Simon Singh wrote a piece pointing out that there was no evidence for these claims by the BCAin 2008; the BCA sued him (instead of, you know, providing good-quality evidence), and lost.

        1. Avatar of DormouseDormouse

          First of all, I appreciate that you pointed out that chiropractors are not “medical doctors” in the traditional sense. They are trained and go to school for several years to specialize in this practice. In my haste to share something that I found worked for me, I may not have been as clear as I should have, and that was my mistake.

          I also appreciate the fact that you didn’t just have an emotional negative response (I’ve received those here before, and they’re not fun!) but that you did your research as well. I looked at each of the links you posted, and I think something that should be pointed out is that it seems that the various chiropractic associations are implying that care “can” help these various problems versus promising that it “will” help them. Similar in some ways to how an oncologist would say that chemotherapy and radiation can cure cancer (but they can’t guarantee that it will).

          Honestly, I hadn’t heard about the possible negative aspects of chiropractic care as mentioned in the Singh article, so thank you for bringing that up as well. I hope that I haven’t caused any damage by eagerly writing about something that’s been life-changing for me but may not be as effective for others.

          1. Avatar of [M] QoB[M] QoB

            Thank you!

            To be fair to oncologists, they have statistics like efficacy rates, % of patients suffering side-effect X, five-year survival rates, etc. to back them up. No, they shouldn’t guarantee a cure for any one person, but they are able to be a lot less vague than ‘can help with’. The only evidence-based institution that has endorsed chiropractic for any condition is the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence, and that only for persistent lower back pain.

            I think it’s very disingenuous of chiropractic associations to imply that they can cure all these disparate and wide-ranging conditions – without stating that outright – and then not be able to supply good data and/or plausible theory to back it up. The BCA’s reaction to Singh’s criticism was not a good sign of a discipline that’s confident in its ability to prove its assertions with good evidence.

            To me the unknown level of risk (probably higher than quoted by the chiropractic associations) of stroke, death, and neck fracture from neck adjustments would be enough to warn me off chiropractic even if I didn’t know anything else about it. I just think you have to be very very careful when recommending a particular procedure or type of treatment to people – your experience may be positive but alone it is only anecdotal.

  2. Avatar of SilverwaneSilverwane

    Is there a lot you have to do in order to be able to go to a chiropractor? My BF and I (especially him!) could probably use some of that. But he lacks health insurance, and I’m doubtful mine would cover it.

    1. Avatar of DormouseDormouse

      I currently don’t have health insurance, so I’m paying out of pocket. Look around and see what some options are in your area!

  3. Avatar of LisLis

    Alas, I can’t go to a chiropractor. There are too many things wrong with my spine and, last time I went to a neurologist, he wouldn’t clear me. And I really don’t want to go to another neurologist. I know a lot of people who have had great results from it.

    If things get worse with my spine, I will probably look into it, since I’ll have to see a neurologist anyway.

  4. Avatar of bluegrayvioletbluegrayviolet

    I’ve never gone and I’ve been skeptical as hell — not because I don’t think spine health and alignment are extremeley valuable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, and I’m afraid of a bad adjustment. Anyone know how common this is? I don’t.  I’ve had my share of opportunites to mess up my back in those slight ways you mention, AND my mom and I both have a small upper hump situation going on. Something to consider, for sure…

  5. Avatar of CherriSpryteCherriSpryte

    Oh I love my chiropractor SO MUCH. As I’ve whined about extensively before, I get tension migraines, due to muscles in my neck freaking the hell out. And I have an intolerance to painkillers.

    The number of times I’ve stumbled into my chiropractor’s office, and he’s immediately turned off the lights (wooohoo light sensitivity) and just FIXED ME is ridiculous. He is beyond a doubt the best doctor I’ve ever been to, incredibly considerate and kind and good and puts me at ease and believe me, that is not easy. I’ve had horrific experiences with a number of doctors, and he’s made all the difference in the world to me.

    …. I should probably tell him all this one of these days.

  6. Avatar of [E] Sally J. Freedman[E] Sally J. Freedman

    I am pro-chiropractor. I started having leg numbness about 5 years ago, and went to a chiropractor as a last resort before back surgery for a herniated disc. I am so glad I went.

    It took months of a pretty intense regimen- 3x per week for an hour at a time (for adjustments, and time for traction & nerve therapy), but I avoided surgery. I now go once a month and always feel better when I’m done!

     

    1. Avatar of DormouseDormouse

      That’s awesome that you avoided surgery! :) I’m going three times a week right now to fix my neck as well as doing exercises at home, but I can tell that there has been improvement–my posture is better and everything!

      1. Avatar of [E] Sally J. Freedman[E] Sally J. Freedman

        That’s fantastic! It’s always a good thing to see improvement. I went 3x per week for probably 6 months, then 2x per week, then eventually weaned down to 1x per month. I can feel when it’s been about 3 weeks or so since my last adjustment.

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