Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Sceptic Goes to the Chiropractor


Due to the amount of studying I’ve done since 2009, i.e. sitting at a computer! I’ve developed issues with my neck and shoulders. I suffer with chronic muscle tension and reduced mobility in my neck. As I only have a few months left until I finish my MSc I was going to put up with it but it has become more painful and is affecting my mood. In the past I’ve visited the doctor and have been given an X-ray and physio exercises. Whilst these have helped I felt I needed something to get me through the last part of my studies. The obvious answer is less time at a desk and increased exercise but that isn’t an option until Oct (my deadline).

I decided to visit a chiropractor to see what they could do to help. As a sceptic this is something I have avoided. The practice is not well regarded in some circles, particularly when their claims stretch (get it?) beyond spinal alignment to other vaguer benefits (see Simon Singh in press) and everyone has heard a horror story or two. The placebo effect is well documented but if it provides permanent relief then that’s a positive. The mind can be a powerful treatment for those lucky enough to be susceptible. For example, I’m not hypnotisable. The place I visited was highly recommended and several friends/relatives had been. As the saying goes: I’ll try anything one, twice if I like it! 

I was very nervous beforehand and desperately wanted to cancel. I think the receptionists could see I was anxious as they told me to relax. I’m not normally such as woss. A friend had warned me you have to get undressed so wore my better underwear. You do wear robes! In my case fetching 1970’s paisley. I did find this aspect uncomfortable though. The practitioner knew his stuff and argued he treated patients as individuals and holistically. He asked me to describe my issue without the lens of what others had told me.

I have become so used to keeping my neck straight the diagnostic manipulation was horrible. It wasn’t painful I was just waiting for something to make a horrid noise. It didn’t. Being on the ‘rack’ was a scary experience and the re-alignment itself was terrifying although over in a blink of an eye. I must admit my muscle strength and mobility did seem to be improved immediately after. Apparently I will need another three treatments then there should be a decent improvement, although not a total cure.

Afterwards I was obsessed with whether it had made it better or worse. To the point I barely moved which made it worse. I was a little confused what I should or shouldn’t do with regards to stretches so will have to ask that next time. Whilst the pain is still there is does seem more localised but only time will tell. The jury’s still out on whether it will help. I’ll know more in a few weeks. 

Any ‘complimentary’ treatment is never a substitute for mainstream medicine and I would never have gone without first seeking a doctor’s diagnosis. Always be critical of claims but equally don’t exclude something just because of other’s judgements. Our minds and bodies react differently so what works for some may not for others. I once had an allergic reaction to a medicine that was so rare it didn’t have to be printed on the leaflet!

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