On Chiropractic

I recently received a query from one of my readers regarding my opinions on chiropractic, so I’ll try to briefly address the subject here.

The majority of alternative and traditional medicines, remedies, and practices out there are definitely based on grains of truth. Especially since it has so many adherents who swear by it and/or practice it happily, chiropractic in particular must have some of that truth to it as well. However, having personally had experience with many other similar therapies like Rolfing, Feldenkrist, Alexander Technique, osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, and more general manual therapy, I’ll say that chiropractic is definitely far cruder than most other body manipulation therapies.

As chiropractic revolves around relatively gross adjustments and spinal manipulation, when it does have an impact, it’s a very noticeable and immediate impact for the patient—hence the one area that chiropractic is actually proven to work with is lower back pain. Especially because of the Western public’s Big Media/Big Marketing-brainwashed desire for immediate gratification and sublimation of all pain, many people adhere to chiropractic’s offerings. And, for some types of stresses and injuries, such major adjustments can actually be quite helpful and therapeutic.

In general, however, it’s my view that chiropractic is actually one of the least beneficial therapies when it comes down to overall and longterm health and musculoskeletal fitness. The other techniques I mentioned above, plus many others, including self-administered yoga and even just regular exercise, can all be just as useful in not only relieving pain and curing ills, but also in preventing future issues. Additionally, most other therapies are much more low-impact than chiropractic can be, and since even popping your knuckles too often can lead to lower grip strength and inflammation, cracking one’s back too often, over the long term, can’t be too good.

There is one major caveat here though—as in many other areas, medicine (whether alternative or standard Western) is practiced by people, and even the worst person in a med school class can become a doctor. Therefore a lot of the bad press that many therapies get, including the recent spate of anti-chiropractic news out there, can often be traced back to individual idiots, bad practitioners, mistakes, and ignorance. A great chiropractor might be more knowledgeable and helpful than a bad doctor, and vice versa.

All that being said, as someone who tried a variety of such physical therapies as a child due to severe knock-knees, restricted breathing, and other physical problems, the mode that ended up fixing the issue for me (permanently, I must add), was manual therapy, an offshoot of osteopathy that deals with more minute manipulations of the fascia and other smaller connective tissues. There’s a good description of it here. Combined with a regular low-impact yoga routine, I’ve personally never felt better in my life.

So ultimately it’s up to you, as an individual, to find out what works best for yourself, by finding the best individual practitioners of whatever medical or therapeutic practice makes the most sense for your situation.

The Collarbone Incident

Everything happens for a reason.
Life goes on.
We call our experiences to us.
Life has ups and downs; yin & yang: so go with the flow…

These and sundry other such platitudes kept me all warm and cuddly with positivity over the past week, since I seemed to have gone an’ done broke my collar-bone.

So, I was warming up to practice parkour, which, yes, can be sorta potentially injurious to various parts of the human body. But it’s so much fun! And quite useful, as both exercise and practice for when you might have to outrun bad guys in a race across a city, as you do. And besides, I am fit and healthy, and I stretch, and I warm up. Except the problem this time was the warmup itself—we had just started to practice and things were shaping up nicely (& safely!), when I got distracted, didn’t concentrate on my form when landing a jump, and rolled wrong. I went over my shoulder sideways instead of forward, so all the pressure of the roll went through my collarbone. Live & learn.

It was kinda cool—as I was sitting up out of the roll I heard/felt this visceral *pop*, blacked out for a split second, got lightheaded for a bit, and went into minor shock (hyperventilated and sweat profusely for an hour or so). There was virtually no pain though, neither then nor since. Just discomfiture and the feeling that your shoulder is falling off. Nothing too bad.

It was just really good that I realized/knew right away what had happened, so I didn’t move much, then slowly got up and walked to the ER while supporting my arm (thankfully HUP was only a few blocks away). In that way (by keeping it relatively immobile after it happened) I think I managed to not damage any organs, nerves, muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

The best part is that another friend was filming the action, since that’s what you do when parkour is happening, obviously, so there’s video footage of the break:

You can actually hear the *snap* at 11 seconds in.

Enjoy laughing at my pain and stupidity & wondering at my sanity! I know I would.


Post Script from much later:

Although I was told by the doctors that I could just let it heal as it was (overlapping the bone, which had snapped in half), I eventually opted for surgery. They put a long screw through my shoulder to hold the bone in place as it healed, then another surgery to take the screw out so it could finish healing.

I was given a huge prescription for Percocets or something like ’em, but only ended up taking 3—it just didn’t hurt that much. I later threw the bottle away, and I’ll admit that a part of me wished I had sold the rest of them instead, since that could have taken care of a chunk of my student loans for the semester. Or at least more of the other college essential bills: alcohol and books.

Aside from the hospital copays and the lessons learned (A. Don’t workout when my body’s telling me not to, B. Master the basics before moving on, C. Take it easy when hungover, and D. All of the above applies doubly so when doing parkour), the only other significant consequence was that my running habits were destroyed. I had been training for my second Philly Marathon that year, which went right out the window. I never really ran much again for another 4 years, actually, when I finally got back into it thanks to encountering these things called Tough Mudders. That’s another story.