Earlier today I went to my chiropractor appointment. I went to one regularly when I lived in California because of a pain I had in my neck (provide your own joke here, I’ve come up empty). I stopped seeing him when we moved to Oregon, and that turned out to be a very bad decision. Once you stop going to a chiropractor you lose all the progress that you’ve achieved from the earlier treatment. Almost immediately after moving here to Florida, I began to feel familiar sensations in my neck that were letting me know of my error. Adding to those sensations was a new “cracking” sound each time I turned my head. It was if my body was saying, “So, Dude, you want to be retired huh? We’ll, let’s give you a taste of the aging process.”
Once you completely stop chiropractic therapy for any length of time you pretty much have to start all over again. I was lucky to find a good local practitioner and am back on regular appointments.¹ My current regimen is three weekly treatments that will eventually taper down to bi-monthly and then finally quarterly. The goal is to get to the quarterly visits because at that point you reach what is called “maintenance” therapy. It is now a race between my neck healing and my health insurance bearing down with their limited number of visits allowed. Blue Cross only pays for 20 visits a calendar year with a co-pay each time of $25. They also cover just one set of x-rays per year. If the doctor feels I need more than 20 visits, it will have to come completely out of pocket for me. This is yet another reminder for me about the cost of health care while in retirement.
Although the treatment is basically the same as I had before, there are some differences. While my previous chiropractor would have me wear a heated collar prior to his examination, this time around I am hooked up to an electric muscle stimulator that massages my shoulders and lower torso area. They apply the electrodes to me in the waiting area and the process lasts about 10 minutes. I seem to like how it feels a little too much — the last few visits I’ve begun to notice people sitting further and further away from me.
The major difference between now and before, though, is that this particular chiropractor treats his patients in an open area, with only a single cubicle wall separating his working area from those who are waiting for their appointment. Among the many forms I had to sign promising that I wouldn’t sue him, was also one acknowledging that treatments are all done in this open area. There is music playing from overhead speakers at a fairly decent volume that helps muffle conversations taking place between patient and doctor. I personally haven’t heard anything but that might be because I’m in seventh heaven with my “massage.” Nonetheless, I can see where some people might be more comfortable in a private examining room. I personally like this arrangement because it makes for a quicker visit, which I suppose is its intent.
I am conscious of those who view chiropractic treatment with a great deal of skepticism. I have friends and family members who have opinions about my decision to go to one. And, it’s apparent that feelings run strong in the opposite direction too. Chiropractors point fingers at medical doctors for dubious practices involving surgery, drug prescribing, and the all too cozy relationship with drug companies. My new chiropractor, while fairly moderate with his own criticisms of the medical establishment, refers to our nation’s healthcare system as “sickcare” because of its general emphasis on reactive therapy as opposed to a more proactive one that focuses on lifestyle and diet. I hear all of these arguments and nod my head in agreement at much of what is said by all parties.
I do think that medical doctors are too quick to rely on their own “standard of care” guidelines for fear of rocking the boat with insurance companies and medical lawyers. Too many doctors seem to follow rote treatment dicta that are written by a kind of higher authority of executives and non-medical officials. But at the same time, I’m not completely sure chiropractors are on solid ground with all of the non-FDA approved vitamin supplements that they push either. Like my previous chiropractor, my current one has quite a nice selection of over-the-counter supplements available for sale at the receptionist desk. I cast a wary eye on those, particularly after the vegetable concentrate powder he had me try on my first visit gave me a headache!
I am grateful for the fact that a good chiropractor once healed my painful neck with no pills or surgery, and I am absolutely confident that I will again receive the same good treatment going forward with my new provider.
I’m often jealous of rich people who have concierge medical staff that offer a full array of treatment options. Fly to Rome to see a great skin specialist? No problem! Head to Los Angeles for a consult with a famed heart surgeon? Absolutely! But until either Gorgeous gets that TV show on the Lifetime Channel (“The Psychic Gourmet, Tuesdays at 9:00pm!”) or your humble blogger signs a six-figure Doubleday book contract for a novel based on these posts (“Snakes in the Grass: A Steamy Tale of Navel Gazing”), I suspect I will do what all of us do — make the best health decisions I can from those on whose advice I trust. Until I no longer trust them anymore.
¹ For those interested, I used the referral service of the Palmer College of Chiropractic Care. My previous chiropractor had recommend when I moved that I find a Palmer graduate who focuses on soft-tissue therapy as opposed to manipulation only.