Sometimes Healing Hurts, Pt. 1
“There is no process that does not require time.” — 6th Chiropractic Principle, Ralph W. Stevenson, D.C.
Did I ever tell you how I came to chiropractic? I actually think I have, but I’ll tell you again.
I was a dumb teenage kid and I got into a lot of car accidents. I walked away from them, but my car did not.
Unlike a car, I have the ability to heal. That’s why I took for granted that I was okay.
But I wasn’t okay. I had jolted my spine into misalignment. I just didn’t know it because I didn’t have pain.
High school gave way to college, and college in North Carolina meant that I had to run two miles in twelve minutes in order to graduate.
Two miles in twelve minutes. Running.
That was PE 101. We called it PE run-oh-run.
(I actually just went to my alma mater’s web page to see if this is still the case. Oh my gosh; you kids have it so lucky. You get to do everything from shag dancing to integral yoga to fencing now! https://uncw.edu/shahs/facetofacelabs.html)
In 1984, at 18, I was a pack-a-day smoker who imbibed beer, wine, and double Big Macs and Whoppers on a regular basis. My regular breakfast was Captain Crunch on a pillow of soft-serve ice cream. My idea of a healthy lunch was chicken salad on toasted white bread. My idea of fun was head-banging at the local live rock bar, watching General Hospital and Mighty Mouse, and playing drinking games with the other meatheads like me.
I most certainly didn’t run.
I barely walked. Needless to say, I had a damn hard time moving my rear-end.
Something began happening to me, though. My left leg went numb.
It was the darndest thing. There was no sensation in a section of my left lower leg. I could pinch and punch it, but nothing.
I went to see the doctor about it, who recommended an orthopedist, who recommended a physical therapist.
Wrong target. Wrong therapy.
Three times a week for three months, I received electric stim and ultrasound on my leg. For three months, there was no change.
Then, it was winter break. I went home to New York and all was well.
One day during the trip, I took a bus to the City with my mother. We were going to visit my sister, who managed a Pizzaria Uno on 2nd Avenue at the time.
My back was achy. I remember it getting worse and worse all the way to the City. By the time we got to the restaurant, my pain was so great that I had to go to the bathroom. I was hyperventilating. Then my legs gave out.
I was face down on the black and white tiles of a Pizzaria Uno bathroom in New York City, 1985. That’s when chiropractic came into my life.
When You First Realize How Much You Need A Healthy Spine
My mother gave me some ibuprophin; eventually, I could stand — wobbly — again. My mother brought me to her chiropractor, who took xrays of my spine.
I had something called an L5 spondylolisthesis. Spon-dee-low-lith-s-thees-iss. It most likely began with a pars interarticularis defect that occurred on L5 left lamina earlier in life. A-pars-inter-arti-cu…
Basically, I had a break in one of my low back vertebrae — might have happened when I was a kid — that contributed to an instability in my low back. Eventually, one of my vertebrae moved a bit forward over my other one.
Here’s what a spondylolithesis looks like.
I had that picture on the right.
Because my vertebrae was so far out of alignment, the nerves that come out at that level and go down my legs were impinged. Hence the numbness in my leg that the orthopedist and the physical therapist missed.
The problem wasn’t in my leg. The problem was in my spine.
The break in the vertebrae was an old break. The misalignment occurred over time. My chiropractor let me know that this fix was going to take time.
What kind of time?
Months. Maybe even over a year.
My youth would help me beat it, but I had to clean up my lifestyle if I wanted it to be quicker (unfortunately, I didn’t clean up my lifestyle. It took longer).
Because I was a student in North Carolina, he found a chiropractor for me near the college and referred my case there.
But before I did, because it was scheduled, I went for a follow up to the orthopedist and told him what the chiropractors found. He said, “Chiropractors are quacks. Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re doing. I’m going to set you up for six months of traction.”
Chiropractic adjustments with people who found the cause of my problem or six-months of traction with someone who didn’t even think to look at my spine, who had made no difference at all before I lay face down on a bathroom floor in New York City?
I said TTFN to my orthopedist and began a nine-month journey of 3 times a week care with my chiropractor.
It wasn’t easy. Some days were more painful than others. Some weeks there was no change. Some weeks were all right.
Eventually, I noticed that sensation had returned to my leg. Then my spine got stronger and felt better. I had finally graduated to maintenance care.
Years went by.
Life happened, life happened some more — in fact, 15 years of life happened, and finally I decided that I wanted to be a chiropractor.
That’s a WHOLE other story. More years, more life.
I’ll tell you about it next time.