Chiropractor care, help or scam?

by Kat

Debilitating neck and upper back pain at 40 years old.
I have a bunch of bulging disks: C5 - C6 and T2, T4, T5, T6etc (upper back, non of them ruptured yet) for 2 years now.

Ever since I'm aware of it (minor auto accident 2 years ago) things went down hill (way down hill).

I am in a great physical shape female. I used to play various sports: basketball, volleyball, tennis, etc, ever since the incident I feel like I'm a disabled 90 years old, I've been struggling through every day, unable to clean my own house or do my own groceries, not to mention a struggle to work out or stay in shape I'd desire to be or to play sports at all.

I have tried just about anything: Icing, heat therapy, physical therapy (in two different facilities), Epidural injections in cervical spine, multiple steroid trigger point injections, massage, currently on chiropractic care.

I have done 3 chiropractic adjustments in one week. Ever since, I'm in a significant pain, things are a lot worse than before I started chiropractic care.

My question is: Is it to be expected to feel worse (more pain) in the beginning of chiropractic care, or should I stop the treatment as if it aggravates it more in the beginning?

I am concerned and clueless about what to expect, they tell me to to keep going, what do I do?
I'm asking for an honest an unbiased opinion, appreciate any honest response I can get
Thank you.

Hello Kat,
Frankly it's difficult to advise. That car accident obviously wasn't so minor to have given you five bulging discs, though it's more than likely there were previous injuries. My experience is that every MVA leaves its mark.

After manipulation pain is not that uncommon in chronic conditions; what is impossible for me to assess is whether the treatment was too vigorous, too frequent, I rarely treat a patient three times in a week, or simply inept. All are possible.

Did you choose the chiropractor from the yellow pages, or did s/he get a strong recommendation from a friend or colleague? Did you feel you were given a decent examination, and did they take an adequate history? Did you chiropractor makes notes after every treatment and did you at least each time have a brief further examination? What was your gut feel about him or her? Did you 'click'? I know these are very subjective questions, but you've been treated by a lot of people and should have some instinctive feel as to whether you were being treated by someone who out of his depth, inexperienced, lazy or one of the twelve patients an hour charlatans.

When one of my patients experiences a lot of pain after the treatment, I schedule them less frequently, and do less each time; perhaps only one adjustment.

Yes, after treatment pain certainly does happen; to my patients too.

When you have such miserable ongoing pain, give thought also to such factors as when did you last take a holiday, what's your diet like and are you doing daily gentle exercises for your neck and back. A regular massage either from a sport masseuse or spouse never did any harm either.

Are you continuing with a heavy exercise program to keep in shape when you should really be taking it more quietly after so much pain?

I can't answer your questions, but I hope the above gives you some food for thought. Keep in touch.

There are some other forms of chiropractic you might consider too; like chiropractors who use mainly an 'activator'. It's more gentle.

Dr B

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Jul 31, 2016
Frequency of Chiropractic Treatment
by: Garry Anderson

Hi Kat:

I have read your post, and I think I need to make some comments:

Because I am not a registered practitioner, but simply one who has studied a lot, I can dispense advice, opinions, and recommendations without fear of reprimand from the medical profession, so my comments will be more direct. Hope you don't mind.

1. In my experience, not all chiropractors are equally qualified, and finding a good is usually done by referral from friends who have had success.

2. I think you did not get a good chiropractor, in my opinion.

3. After a treatment, you can expect some heating of the adjusted area, and maybe some slight pain, but not for more than a couple of hours. It should be gone overnight.

4. Treatments should be once a week, or longer. I think your treatments are too frequent, not giving your body time to recover.

5. You should not be in a rush to get fixed. It is better to adjust slowly and methodically to make sure no additional problems are created.

6. I went though several chiropractors before I found an expert. If you want to see him, you will need to come to Vancouver British Columbia.

7. I believe that massage needs to be combined with chiropractic treatment because nothing will move if the muscles are in knots.

8. Not all massage therapists are equally qualified. I went though many massage therapists before finding a good one.

9. In my opinion, the "touchy-feeley" massage is useless. If you have knotted muscles, they need to be released by "deep tissue trigger point" massage. Nothing else will break the knot so well. After an accident, muscles can remain knotted for years if not treated and released.

10. If you want to try my massage therapists, you will need to come to Vancouver British Columbia. There is also one excellent massage therapist in Toronto Ontario, Canada, but I don't know of an equally good chiropractor in Toronto, so you will only get half the treatment there.

11. I recommend that you spend some time on the Internet to learn as much as possible about your condition and how the spine, muscles, and nerves work. It is your body and your future, so it is best if you educate yourself so that you don't fall prey to those practitioners who are "in it for the money"

12. In my opinion, you should stay away from surgery and drugs, including cortisone and similar substances, and try to fix the problem with natural remedies first. The other methods should be a last resort.

Dr. Barrie is good, gives good advice, and is helping people by creating this web site and his forum. So, keep corresponding with him, and me, if you like.

Take care.

Dear Garry and Kat,
Thank you for this. I don't go along with everything you say but in general there is much merit.
I routinely treat patients twice a week in the beginning, but more than that only occasionally.

Incidently finding a good surgeon, masseur as you say, attorney, or architect is equally problematic.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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