After my first disappointing experience with a chiropractor, I avoided them for over a decade. Then one day, instead of the usual stiff neck in the morning, I awoke to pain. I thought maybe it was a muscle spasm. But the next night, I woke up several times at night to neck pain. What in the world was going on??
I didn't go see a doctor for two reasons: 1. They would probably just give me pain meds, but more importantly, 2. My health insurance has such a ridiculously high deductible, it's like not having insurance at all. So I decided to give chiropractic another try. However this time I didn't blindly see the first one that came along. I researched which ones were actually producing good results in people with similar conditions, and then I picked one.
First thing they did? They took an x-ray! This was an obvious step that somehow didn't occur to the other chiropractor I used to see. That's how they can confirm what's going on in the spine. The diagnosis: cervical spine degeneration. :-O In other words, the vertebrae in my neck were starting to degrade and form bone spurs. The cause: years and years of working at a computer and unconsciously leaning my head forward. A normal neck has a curvature of 37 degrees. Mine was down to 9. This misalignment caused some of the discs between the vertebrae to bulge and degrade. Once the padding goes, the bone starts to rub against each other and form spurs. Pain can come from pinched nerves or spurs. Based on the x-ray, they were actually surprised I didn't have numbness and tingling going on.
The chiropractor said that this condition takes 7-8 years to get this bad. The daily stiff neck I suffered from so many years ago, which had brought me to a chiropractor in the first place, was a sign of its beginning. Had she been as competent as this guy, I may not be in the condition I am today. Because it took so long to form, it will take about a year to reverse. I won't be able to get my vertebrae un-degraded, but I can at least get the curve back and stop the degeneration from continuing. The difference between this guy and the incompetent swindler, besides the x-ray, is explanation of what's wrong as well as its cause. When you can identify the cause, you can take steps to avoid further damage. His treatment plan includes teaching me exercises to strengthen and regain the important neck curve. Good practitioners will teach you how to heal and maintain yourself. Bad ones merely tell you how often you need to come back.
One final thing before I end this write-up. I finally learned the point of all the pressing and cracking that chiropractors do. I was told that these maneuvers cause micro-tears in the ligaments and connective tissue, allowing them to be healed in a slightly different position. Even if I were to stop the damaging head-forward positions, my neck would still be held at the wrong curvature by all the connective tissue. The combination of the micro-tears and exercises is supposed gradually move my neck back to where it belongs. Now this makes sense to me!