Friday, July 31, 2009

Sit on it

If this is just too long for one sitting:

Day 2
Comfort Zone

A few weeks ago, I got this ache just to the right of my lower spine, and it only happened while sitting. Bad for a knitter. Standing is fine. Walking is fine. Getting up off the floor after cleaning up dog mess, not so fine.

My wife had a different back ache, and suggested we try a chiropractor. I've never been.

I don't know why she chose the one she did-- maybe they had a late opening. It used to be a hair and nail salon, but there wasn't a trace of acetone in the air when I walked in.

I filled out documents, chose not to put a lien on my house (really!?!), pointed out on the computer where it hurt, with a 4 on the Pain-in-the-Sphincter scale.

I sat in the little x-ray room (facials used to be in this room, I think), and looked at the anatomy charts. I love anatomical charts, and drawings. I read Gray's Anatomy, but only got through the the first section: the spine! before stopping to look at all the pictures. By reading the chiropractic charts, I figured out one of my lower lumbar vertebrae might be pinching my sciatic nerve.

Dr. P entered, and had me sit and lift each leg while his hand was on my back. My left leg caused a normal back movement, but the right leg lift caused none whatsoever. He said, "One of your lower vertebra may be pinching your sciatic nerve."

I emptied my pockets, and got a front and side x-ray of my pelvis. Then, after laying face-down while electrodes thumped my lower back under a hot pad, and laying face-up on a bread kneading machine, I was asked to come back for the x-ray results.

*** DAY 2 ***

The next day, Dr. P wasn't in, so Dr. D saw me in the ex-foot massage room. He decided to introduce me to the magic of chiropractic.

Dr D asked, "What is the most important part of the body?"

"The heart," I said.

"The brain. Everyone knows that."

"Well, without the heart pumping oxygen to the brain, it would starve and die."

"Yes, but without the brain, the heart wouldn't know to beat."

"Ah, but cells of the heart can actually beat by themselves! I saw it on Discovery, I think. But, this is a cyclical tangent. Let's just suppose the brain is most important," I said.

Dr. D went on. "Well, the brain is connected to nerves spreading out everywhere in your body. So, when an organ has a problem, it sends a signal to the brain it's in trouble, and your innate intelligence sets about to heal it."

"Through a different system, like the lymph nodes?"

"Well, suppose we take an organ?"

"Like the heart?"

"A different one."

"The lung?"

"Sure," he said, "If the lung gets sick, it sends a signal to the brain, through the spinal cord, and the brain sends help. But, if the lung keeps sending the sick signal too much, this causes a vertebra to twist, and pinch off the nerve, and cause greater illness!"

I thought about my back pain, and where it was located-- near my most favoritest, and funnest male organ. Maybe it was having too much fun and it wasn't getting the brain's message to knock it off.

"So, if I breathe in an irritant, it disturbs a lung-nerve. The nerve twists a back bone out of joint?"

"Yep. I can show you where all smokers have an arch in their back."

"A nerve is not a muscle, right? So, you're saying an electrical or chemical impulse traveling down a healthy nerve makes the nerve bulge out of shape, and knock a backbone out of joint? A bone that is held in place like a puzzle piece by many different muscles attached to it."

"Um, no. Not like that," Dr. D said.

"What causes the nerve to twist the vertebrae," I asked.

"Um, I should know that. I know that it does, but I haven't had to explain it for awhile."

"I get that way explaining additive and subtractive color, and color gamuts."

Dr. D showed me my x-rays. "See, here's your back from the back side. See how the pelvis is shifted at an angle? This hip joint is higher than the other, and could indicate a misalignment."

"Or, it could mean I had most my weight on my left leg," I suggested, falling back on my study of artistic anatomy.

Dr. D figured that could very well be, and said I should have stood with even weight distribution. Then, he showed me the side-view x-ray. "See, this bottom end curve of your spine is too shallow. Now that you're older, there are no arteries going into this part of the spine any more. The back, like a spring, flexes when you walk, expelling waste. But, your spine doesn't curve enough down here."

"Expelling waste, how?" Never mind what kind of waste, nor to where.

"By... by... It's called... When something floats through to fill an empty space, kind of."


"That's it." Dr. D stopped. "At work, do you sit leaning forward? Don't, because your brain stem can slip gradually into your C1."

"The axis, right?"

"Hey, that's right! And, this will shorten your life." After an inspiring story of an anonymous spinal adjustment relieving some diabetic symptoms, he said, "Anyway, we'll need to adjust your spine over quite a few visits, so your back can operate properly. Let's get started."

*** Adjustment ***

So, he led me out of the ex-foot massage room, into a room that had never been used by the salon, I reckon. It was designed for torture. The walls were gray and had a bare cement floor so the blood and tears could be hosed off. Sanitary is a very high priority in any medical field. There was a small green half-bench. It looked like a weight bench for an eight-year-old. There was a hole in the main horizontal pad through which I could scream through. Well, at least I didn't have to get undressed.

I laid on my belly. Dr. D pushed on my lumbar a good three times, then went to my upper back.


I snapped up off that bench. "YeOW, man!"

"That was gas escap--"

"That was hurt!"

"It hurt?" Dr. D asked?

"You didn't break it, but it hurt. I guess I'm just not used to this whole chiropractic thing."

He sent me on to the electrodes and kneading machines.

That night, I talked to a lady who had a different chiropractor. He was a chiropractor to the stars-- sports stars. He made her do exercises. Now, that made sense. stretch the muscles. Make them more flexible and stronger. Hmm. I bet with a good muscle relaxant...

So, I Googled, and I Wikied, and learned a load of chiropractic tidbits. It turns out, I'm not the only one who questions whether seemingly unrelated diseases can shift vertebrae. I searched the web, sitting straight up, mind you. At Wikipedia, B J Palmer said about the same thing as Dr. D said about lung disease. B J Palmer, son of the guy who invented Chiropractic in c. 1890, and the guy who gave Ronald Reagan his first broadcasting job, said he could show the same vertebra out of place in small pox patients, realign the spine, and then: no more small pox. Like the whole germ-thing causing illness is a sham. And, though many physicians believe the body has an ability to help heal itself, using the phrase, "innate intelligence" is a uniquely, and now quirky, chiropractic term.

*** Comfort Zone ***

I eventually went to my family MD. She said, yes, yoga would be good for my back, and she prescribed a muscle relaxant. She also discovered a little pebble-hardness at my pain site. I had forgot to mention it to anyone before. No idea what it is. And, she says my pain has more to do with my sacrum area, than with the vertebrae above it.

I'll get to my yoga soon. Really. I've a new goal. I want to do a seated spinal twist. I think it is the most beautiful of all yoga positions. Maybe I should draw it first. That's safer.

Downside, I can't have my Guinness since I'm taking muscle relaxants. I wonder how much Guinness I have to drink to have the same effect?

Well, thanks for reading. If you made it through this post in one sitting, I'm betting your sacrum is pretty sore by now, too.