Taking a break from the otherwise hum-drum world of painfree living, I injure my lower back and enter the Land of Oz where I meet the Wizard, his lovely assistant Dr. Kim and his still-searching-for-a-brain heavy, Juan. In their delightful wonderland of chiropractic treatment, I discover the joys and benefits of this pseudo-medical care. No longer branded “complete nincompoops” by the American Medical Association, these chiropractic practioners revel in their “partial nincompoop” status. Analysis by the gurney-load in a surrealistic, pain-marred dreamscape. Knock it back with pills. Note the nifty pun in the title.
As regular readers of the News section know, I recently had the opportunity to visit a chiropractor for the first time. Please, ladies and gentlemen, no duck calls from the audience. I assure you I was just as skeptical.
Day One: Dunk Rejected by the Net God
It was Tuesday morning basketball with the guys, in the midst of my patented 360- degree triple-pump whammy-bar slam dunk when I first felt a twinge of pain in the lumbar region of my back. I remember thinking, “Hmm…that felt strange,” though I believe my precise words ran more along the lines of “Sweet Moses! What have I done to myself!?!” This was, of course, accompanied by a general moaning and a rolling about on the hardwood floor.
Upon the completion of the game (I may be stupid, but I’m no quitter), I applied the biggest bag of ice I could find directly to the effected area (my lower back, not my head) and went home. After a 20 to 30 minute icing period, I took a hot shower and put some Ben-Gay ointment on my back in an attempt to heat the area and relax the ever-tightening muscles.
Unfortunately, I felt the urge to use the toilet before washing the Ben-Gay off my hands. I’m sure you can imagine my dread as I realized that I had just applied an atomic balm to a very sensitive area. Maintaining the calm, cool, James Bondian demeanor for which I’m known, my initial gasp of surprise was quickly followed by total panic, as I waved my arms and ran about the room yelling and screaming. Thankfully, I hit my head on the door and lost consciousness before I could injure myself further.
Now it was after this quite unfunny occurrence that I finally, unable to either sit or walk in manner befitting a homo sapian, gave in to the pain, picked up the Yellow Pages and dialed a chiropractor. I would like to tell you that I researched my decision with the care and detail I’d give buying a car, but the truth is that I opted for the guy with the most initials after his name. What does AFAM stand for, anyway?
Since my call was unexpected and my pain considerable, I had to set up what was termed an “emergency” appointment. I hesitated to call my situation an “emergency,” but as that was the only way to see a chiropractor same day, I figured I’d go for it. As an “emergency” appointment was the only way they could charge me double, I’m sure they figured they’d go for it too.
After a very adventurous drive to the office, I was surprised to be greeted by a young, pretty, woman doctor of chiropractic who I’ll call “Kimberly,” since that was her name. I confess that I’ve never been treated by a female doctor, but Kimberly put me right ease with her professional manner and questioning about bathing habits, flat-bed trucks and penis size.
After a brief series of exercises to determine my range of motion (or lack thereof), I was laid face-down on the soon-to-be-much-hated therapy table. In virtually no time at all Dr. Kimberly had finished applying ice to my back and was busying herself by jumping up and down on my spine with gusto, exerting a force rarely seen outside of the Women of Professional Wrestling. The thrilling denouement to this incredible party ride was my first ever “adjustment,” an event which concluded with a painfully resounding “pop!” in my back and Dr. Kimberly reminding me to make an appointment for tomorrow.
On my way out, Dr. Kimberly handed me her business card (“Give it to a friend,” she said. “I’ll give it to my worst enemy,” I thought) and that of a “Dr. John,” who she said would be my permanent chiropractic physician.
Day Two: Torture is Easier As a Team
I awoke the next morning having slept quite well. I remember that I dreamt of a burning highrise building in dense, forested landscape. Despite this Freudian reminder of the previous day’s follies, I felt rested and ready to go.
The speed with which this changed was truly startling. The nanosecond I sat up, pain shot through my lower back. Even with the solid night’s sleep, I continued to be in sorry physical condition. My chiropractic appointment wasn’t until 12:15, and time couldn’t pass quickly enough. How I made it through the morning without the aid of alcoholic beverages, I will never know.
Nevertheless, I once again travelled the roadways to the chiropractic office. After my check-in with the receptionist, I was greeted by Dr. John, his Hispanic assistant Juan and the ever-cheery Dr. Kimberly. Dr. Kim, it turns out, was just checking in to see if I was still capable of walking. I assured her I was, and she departed miffed, I’m sure, at her apparent inability to cause me permanent injury.
Once again I was laid face-down on the therapy table and ice was applied to my lower back. After a good 20 minutes of this fun, my new-found friend Juan entered the room, took the ice pack off my back and began to work.
Despite his somewhat broken English, Juan was very up-front about his massage technique. “Let me know if there’s too much pain,” he said, “because I’m going to hurt you.” Sometimes it’s possible to have too much candor, and this very well may have been one of those times. Happily, the therapy table muffled most, if not all, of my screams.
After my workout with Juan, I heard him discussing my situation with Dr. John in the corridor outside my room.
“How’s our patient?” asked Dr. John.
“Very tight,” replied Juan.
“Muscle-spasmingly tight?” asked Dr. John.
“Oh si,” replied Juan, and they walked into the room.
“I’m going to do a spinal adjustment,” announced Dr. John.
“Like the kind Grandma used to make?” I asked weakly, still dizzy from my experience with Juan.
“Better,” he said malevolently.
So how exactly does a spinal adjustment work? A brochure I picked up at the clinic describes the procedure like this: “After locating any misaligned vertebrae in your spine, your chiropractor manually applies gentle pressure and repositions the vertebrae.”
All of which may be true, if your definition of “gentle pressure” includes using enough force to turn coal into diamond. And, by the way, that cracking sound you hear is your bones being reduced to a worthless pile of kindling.
“All done,” Dr. John smiled. “I’ll see you Friday.”
In a daze, I went out to the receptionist, scheduled my next appointment and settled my bill. By the time I’d driven home, the fog in my head had lifted. Maybe it was just the endorphins from Juan’s beating or maybe it really was Dr. John’s adjustment. But you know what? I feel a lot better.