Thursday, 10 February 2011

The comfort of a chiropractor

I wrote this last year while recovering from a week-long illness. I decided not to publish it then. But due to the recent spate of posts along the lines of "don't call me stupid", exploring why some people might be drawn to alternative medicine, I thought it was timely to post about my experience at the hands of a chiropractor.

I've been ill for a week, so my thoughts have naturally wandered to medicine. My drug of choice has been giant chocolate buttons. Not strictly a medicine, but the bright purple packaging, the crack of each button in my crunching teeth and the sweet sugar rush is so comforting. This reminds me of chiropractic: a questionable treatment, but in my experience, a big comfort.
I was thirteen years old and training for a major ballet exam when I tore my left hamstring. Six months later, I tore the right. Scar tissue formed, the tight muscles resulted in chronic back pain. My dad took me to local chiropractor and family friend, Beth, who had treated his bad back.

Who loves the feeling of making their knuckles pop? This is what spinal adjustment, the technique chiropractors employ, feels like. This kind of immediate relief is very important for a teenager whose dreams of being a ballet dancer have just been ripped apart.
I had no idea that chiropractic was founded on pseudo-science. Why would I? I grew up in a typical Daily Mail household where little was questioned. And would I have cared? Probably not. After weekly sessions of adjustment, massage and ultrasound treatment, I could dance again.

It was possibly, and probably, the more standard techniques of deep tissue massage and ultrasound that healed my aching body. A physio at the nearest hospital could have treated me in the same way. But Beth was a family friend and known in my local community. When my dad took me to a practitioner who had helped him, I felt cared for. My Dad was looking after me. During my sessions with Beth, I chatted about my university plans and she even helped me choose what to study.

Personal recommendation, community spirit and desperation are all reasons why people, including myself, have gone to see the chiropractor. Not because they are stupid, defiant, or even ignorant. Because sometimes it's just where they end up, steered by family, friends and promises. And when those promises turn out to be true, when the treatment seems to work, then the cycle continues.