At the Pride festival a few weekends ago, I drunkenly stumbled into the booth of a local chiropractor. The lady operating the booth had such a calming presence that I listened to her pitch and ended up putting down a payment on an appointment. WHOOPS! I had the opportunity to cancel the appointment and refund my money, but I decided to go. $20 included x-rays and a consultation, so I figured I could at least get a clear picture of how my spine was doing. I know I’ve got terrible posture, I know I’ve got too much stress and I know I do experience some nerve pain, including headaches that seem to coincide with a pinched nerve in my neck/shoulder area.
I approach everything with a skeptic’s eye. I studied chiropractic care a bit before my appointment. I was only familiar with the practice as an approach at pain management. What I learned is that a lot of people feel that chunks of the field are bullshit. At the same time, there is proof that chiropractic helps some physical discomforts (headaches, nerve pain, etc.)
What’s the deal? Chiropractic includes general attempts to realign the spine. It also focuses on vertebral subluxation, which is (chiefly) the idea that a misalignment of the spine cuts off nerves that go to organs, thereby causing organ dysfunction and disease. Studies show no definitive relation between a misaligned spine and, say, bowel discomfort, but that’s what many chiropractors (mine included) tout as a real possibility; they never purport to diagnose or cure disease, but for instance, my chiropractor strongly suggested that realigning a child’s spine and that child’s kidney dysfunction ceasing went hand-in-hand. The language of a chiropractor is a subtle one, with many of the statements he’d love to make formed as leading questions. This is typically a red flag for bullshit in my mind, but I also understand the element that they simply can’t make these assertions.
My take on the cloudy, vague concept of subluxation is this: it makes sense to me that if a squished sciatic nerve can cause pain and weakness in my legs, then a squished nerve elsewhere would probably be causing some sort of problems. Do I think that someone suffering from a heart condition should run and see their chiropractor for an adjustment? No. But if someone’s doctor can’t find a cause for their problems and has basically given up–just like the boy with the kidney problems–then a chiropractic evaluation might just turn up some ideas.
My chiropractor asked me, “What do you want to get out of this?” Like all forms of medicine-free healing, that’s the big question. I want my spine–particularly, my neck–to be shaped like it’s supposed to be. I’m doing it for my health down the road, as well as my comfort in the here and now.
Naturally, this means I’ll be updating my blog with my progress. Including, hopefully, x-rays. Because x-rays are metal.