I’ve had back pain for several years now. For at least the last three years that I worked, I had problems climbing all those stairs in my office building but I was too macho to use the elevator. It was even painful walking down the hallway but again when I saw anyone I knew, I would straighten up and act like nothing was going on at all. Since I have retired, I really wanted to get my back pain fixed but I kept putting it off until now!
When I complained to my personal physician about my back problem, he just prescribed more pain medication and muscle relaxants. I’m taking more pills than I can count and if it wasn’t for my Wife being so organized and conscientious about my medicine, I’d probably have overdosed a long time ago! Then again, I usually forget to take my pills if I’m not reminded so I really don’t think I’m in any danger of overdosing. But, I really need to get off so many pain killers and muscle relaxants. They can’t be that good for me.
My doctor did refer me to a back specialist that would treat me with injections of WD40! Well, that’s not really true. He did give me a series of injections in my back with some kind of steroid or cortisone that would lubricate some of the vertebrates mostly in my lower spine/lumbar. These injections did wonders for my back…for a while. And that’s the problem. They were treating the symptoms but not the cause. I wanted something done to permanently make the pain go away.
So, I got a referral to see a neurosurgeon. I kind of thought this was pretty drastic. No one that I’ve seen so far has even really looked at my back and made any kind of diagnosis of the problem. I don’t think I’m ready to have anyone cutting on my back just yet. Somebody needs to tell me what’s wrong first.
I’ve talked to my youngest Son who is a licensed professional plumber. His profession requires him to be physically active so he can’t afford to be laid up with back trouble. He’s had to go to a chiropractor twice to have his back and hip adjusted and both times he’s reported great success. Of course to hear him tell of his visits you would think he went to a wrestling match or was mugged in a back alley! He doesn’t paint his visits to his chiropractor as very painless and more pain isn’t what I’m looking for!
But, I thought I should at least give this “alternative medicine” a try. That’s how my health insurance classifies chiropractic services. Unfortunately, they also don’t cover any of the cost of “alternative medicine” which I just don’t understand. Still, I need to find a chiropractor that isn’t a quack and in the business just to file accident and insurance claims.
So my lovely Wife starts searching the Internet and comes up with a company called Franklin Chiropractic, Inc. They have three offices and one is close to our house. My Wife finds some very good recommendations about a Dr. R. G. We’re also able to make an appointment on-line which I do for Monday, 29 Jun 09. This morning, I called their office and confirmed the appointment for 4:00 PM.
So today is my first visit to a chiropractor. I am a little nervous. I don’t like pain. I currently have enough of it as is so I don’t want this guy to give me more especially if he tries to tell me that it’s good for me! I’ve seen some of the stuff that’s done in a chiropractor’s office. Twisting your neck and pushing on your back; that stuff is supposed make you feel good but to me it looks real painful. But I’m going to give this a try.
We start the office visit by filling out the standard ton of medical paperwork on a clipboard. Once that’s done, the nurse (her name is Nurse Norma) takes me into a small examining room and begins to take my vitals. She does my blood pressure and my pulse, asks me how tall I am and then puts me on a scale. I get my weight and then she asks me to place one foot each on two scales that are next to each other. Not sure what that was for but it’s something no one else has done.
Now she’s going to calculate my BMI (Body Mass Index). I’m familiar with this since it was a constant reminder to me while I was in the Army National Guard of how overweight I always was according to Army regulations. According to the Army, anyone with a BMI over 30 is grossly incapable of doing anything like dying for your country. It doesn’t matter that I could run 2 miles in less than my Army Standard 28 minutes (I did it in 18 minutes and 36 seconds one time! Really!). Nor does it count that I could do 30 push-ups and 30 sit-ups which were more than my Army requirements.
I’ll never admit that I’m a little person. I think I had a BMI over 30 when I was born! I pretty much eat what I want but I don’t feel that I’m all that overweight. Of course, if I lost about 100 lbs I’m sure my back would feel better and so would I; who wouldn’t? But, I’m not going to this chiropractor to lose weight. It took me a while to get this weight on so it’s going to take me a while to get it off but I want the pain to go away first! If he starts telling me that I need to lose weight, I’m walking out the door! Anyway, Norma comes up with my BMI and sure enough, it’s over 30; but I ain’t telling you what it was!
Nurse Norma’s done with the vitals and tells me the doctor will be in next to talk with me and do some initial examinations. She asks if I would like to have my Wife come back here with me and I tell her sure. That’s a nice touch. I always like my Wife to be in on most of my medical stuff because she listens better than I do. Actually, she listens better than I do to everything!
The chiropractor (Dr. G.) comes in and he’s pretty young. He’s also not very big (and I’m a big guy) so I’m thinking this guy couldn’t hurt me much if he tried! He starts asking me about my pain; where it’s at, on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad is it and general stuff like that. He asks me to stand and walk which I do try to do. He tells us about chiropractic medicine and how it helps to get the back straightened out and aligned the way it’s supposed so you can do the normal movements you’re designed to do without pain. He says that when something in your spine gets out of whack then things start hurting. Nerves get pinched and we become reluctant to move and vertebrates start compensating for the lack of movement. Additionally, as we age our disks can become less pliable and more prone to damage. Bulging disk or slipped disks are the results of our spine becoming misaligned. Let’s just say he’s quite knowledgeable in this area of medicine. He says that before he can do any hands on manipulation of my back he’ll need a good set of X-rays. If those don’t tell him enough, then he might need an MRI but that’s only after he’s seen the X-rays. He does tell me that he believes a relative new chiropractic treatment called spinal decompression could help to relieve most, if not all, of my pain.
This spinal decompression sounds interesting. He takes me over to a room with a large blue bed that has two wide belts lying across it and a small machine at its foot. Then Nurse Norma asks me to lie down on the bed so the lower belt is at my waist. This I do with some difficulty. It’s hard for me just to lie down without getting some pain. Still, I get down on the bed and she wraps this belt around my waist fairly tightly. She keeps asking me to hold my stomach in which I am doing the best I can even though it might not appear that way. Next, she wraps a belt around my lower chest. This one is also fairly tight and again, I have to make some effort to suck in my stomach. They can raise the head of the bed which has a nice comfortable pillow to rest on and they place these supports under my knees so I am pretty comfortable all wrapped up on this table. Next she pulls this cable out of the machine which is at the foot of the bed and between my legs. I’m not so sure about a cable running between my legs all the way up to my waist but that’s how this thing is designed to work.
The doctor tells me that the decompression will be done very slowly; so slowly that I might not even notice it. He says the machine will pull on my lower half for a while and then slowly release and then pull again. During a 15 minute treatment, it will cycle through this pull and release action several times. What it is doing is trying to allow my vertebrates and disks a chance to expand to their normal size and shape thereby creating more space for the nerves, muscles and tendons that are trying to share that space. It also allows some fluids to flow back in that get squeezed out over time. I’m sure there are other technical explanations about what it’s doing but remember, I said my Wife was the one that listens to everything, not me!
Once the machine gets going, I can feel the gentle pull. It’s certainly not painful; in fact, it’s starting to feel pretty good. I do kind of wonder when it’s going to stop pulling cause it seems the gap in the table I’m lying on has gotten fairly large! Finally, it does stop pulling and I can feel it releasing a little. I’m wondering how much taller I’ll be after this treatment and ask the doctor if he can stretch me out to about 6’6” but he tells me that’s not going to happen. He doesn’t actually know if the machine has made anyone taller but hasn’t actually measured anyone before and after!
After that session, they take me into another treatment room. I get to meet another nurse, Nurse Diana. She asks me to sit in a chair and lean forward so she can stick some pads like you get during an EKG on my back. To these she attaches some wires and applies a very cold ice pack that’s covered with a cloth. She then turns on a machine which starts a whole lot of tingling on my lower back. This is electro-massage stimulation. It helps the muscles to relax. It does feel really good. When she turns it on, you get to tell her what level of stimulation feels comfortable. I can image this could get really uncomfortable if it was turned up to its maximum but mine is very comfortable. I get this for about 5 minutes. Next, she also give me about three minutes of ultra-sound which feels like someone running an iron on my lower back. It’s very comfortable in that I can barely feel what is being done.
That’s the extent of the treatment. For each session, Doctor G. says that his personal manipulation of my back would be the first thing done, then the electro-massage and ultra-sound and finally the decompression. (Actually, treatments are done in any order.) Most sessions would last for about 30-minutes. After having gone through this first visit, I am surprised at how well I already feel. I can actually walk pretty much pain free right now. The doctor says that’s good but most people don’t respond that quickly but he expects that I will respond very well to his treatment. He says he still needs to see the X-rays before he can really determine if there’s nothing seriously wrong with my back.
So I’m ready to talk cost. I know his services aren’t free but I have no idea what they charge since I’ve never been to a chiropractor. I do know that I’ll have to foot the entire bill since my health insurance covers nothing for chiropractic services. He starts off by saying that he’d like to have me go through 20 sessions with the decompression machine. That alone is $1,700! Wow! I tell him that I probably need an estimate of the total charges including everything else we did today. His final price for everything was just over $2,000. With a 10% discount, it comes to $1,917.
In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting to pay anywhere near that much. But, after just this one session, I do feel better. I can’t imagine how it would feel after 20 visits to be pain free! Later that evening, my back pain comes back just like it had never left!
We decide to pay the price and get this treatment going. Tomorrow I will get up and go get my X-rays. They can be done at a local hospital without appointment and will be paid by my health insurance.
I’ll be writing about each treatment session so you can see if I’m having any positive results. My hope is that anyone else thinking about going to a chiropractor can benefit from my experience. If this works out, then I’ll be one happy camper. But, if it doesn’t; well, let’s not think about that right now!