Friday, June 22, 2007

2 weeks and 6 visits later

I'm still waking up extremely stiff from the shoulders up. The chiropractor emphasized the importance of doing the stretches she showed me 2-3 times a day. I'm also endeavoring to find an ideal sleeping position (it would be quite convenient if my head were detachable).

I just got back from one of my visits, and I feel extremely loose and relaxed. It's such a rare feeling for me these days. Too bad it doesn't last more than a day yet.

One thing that I've been experiencing that I did not mention to the chiropractor is a pain I had in my hip. In the last month or so a pain has been developing in the hip joint of my right leg. I would move it a certain direction and a sharp pain would result. I thought maybe it would go away as inexplicably as it appeared, so I didn't bother seeing a doctor about it.

During the course of the treatments that the chiropractor made during my visits, she would sometimes include tapping on my hip bone in a certain direction and checking on the alignment of my feet (to see that they were even with each other). If they were uneven she would make a few more adjustments. Well, believe it or not, that pain is slowly starting to recede. It's not completely gone yet, but it definitely isn't as sharp as it was before I started seeing the chiropractor. Perhaps there is something to the proper alignment of your bones.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The right pillow

I finally did remember to mention my daily stiff neck and if changing pillows would help. She said it was likely my head was at an angle while I was sleeping. If the pillow is too tall, the head could be pushed up too far. If it's too flat, the head could be angled down when I'm on my side. The goal is to maintain a straight neck that is even with the rest of the spine so that the muscles around it can properly rest.

My pillow situation could be easily solved if I would sleep only on my back or only on my side. But the fact is I switch back and forth during the course of the night. What's ideal for back sleeping isn't great for side sleeping, and vice versa. It seems what I need is a pillow that will correctly support my head in the right place regardless of what position I'm sleeping in.

In my case, it needs to be flatter when I'm on my back, and higher when I'm on my side. Can any pillow do that? Not sure, but I'm about to give one a try. I found one called the Mediflow Water Based Pillow. Supposedly it provides continuous support as it adjusts to your movements. You can also set your preferred firmness by adjusting the amount of water inside. Will this actually work for me? No idea, but I will definitely be posting my thoughts about it here once I get it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Starting to have doubts

It's been about a week and a half now, and to be honest, I don't really feel any different. I've been told it's a gradual process, so it may just be too early. Here's what the process is when I go in for treatment:

  • She asks me what levels of pain I am feeling (there isn't usually pain, just a lot of stiffness)
  • She puts these "muscle stimulator" electrodes onto the trouble spots on my back
  • After 10-15 minutes of this, I am sent to another room where a massage therapist works out the numerous knots around my shoulder blades.
  • Finally the chiroprator "aligns" my spine by either manually pressing or using a little device like a hand-held jackhammer (not really a jackhammer, since it's manually operated at a much slower rate). The most alarming part is when she twists my head to either side, usually producing numerous loud cracks.

I'm still trying to think through the logic...

For the past several years (about 10!) I've woken up with a stiff neck and shoulders. It's worse if I try a pillow that is a little more elevated than usual. If a misaligned spine were the cause, wouldn't a couple weeks of treatment start to show at least a tiny bit of gradual improvement in the morning neck stiffness? Wouldn't the rest of my body feel more beat up and stiff, not just my neck?

To be honest, I feel very limber and relaxed after the chiro visit, but I think it's because of the massage. The massage therapist really works hard at the knots, and it's really the muscles that are stiff. If I'm waking up with stiff muscles already, then it means they did not get a chance to rest all night like they were supposed to, which indicates some sort of incorrect sleeping position.

Come to think of it, the chiropractor has never asked me what kind of pillow I use or how I prefer to sleep. She's only recommended rolling up a towel and placing it at the base of my skull and putting a pillow under my knees (or if I'm on my side, between my knees). That towel was really uncomfortable and was not a reasonable solution since I couldn't sleep at all.

I keep forgetting to mention that the towel roll doesn't work, hopefully I'll remember when I see her later today. If she just keeps on doing the same thing, then I'm going to start thinking she's not really dealing with my problem at all. In the meantime, it occurred to me that I might be using the wrong kind of pillow. If certain pillows make my condition worse, then there has to be one that makes me feel better, right?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chiropractors - valid medicine or not?

Because of my daily prolonged computer use at work (and sometimes at home), my shoulders and neck feel like they're constantly tense and tight. My neck has become weak and gets tired easily. I know frequent breaks are the key to not getting repetetive stress injuries, but it's easy to skip when you're in the middle of something, or lots of somethings.

Someone suggested I see a chiropractor before I get some kind of damage from all this. So I went. According to the chiropractor, some damage has already been done. My neck seems to have lost its natural curve and is on its way to further degeneration, which would involve worn out spinal discs and bone spurs. She evaluated my range of motion and indicated that my neck was the most limited, due to my constantly tense muscles. She also said that I had mild scoliosis, which is a sideways curvature of the spine.

This was news to me, but it's possible that that this unnatural curvature was my spine adapting to constant muscle stress. I'm scheduled to see her 3 times a week for a couple of months to realign everything, then I will need to change my habits in order to prevent this from happening again.

Most medical doctors don't recognize chiropractic as a valid form of treatment for health problems. They consider it to be "alternative medicine" like accupuncture, herbalists and homeopathy. Many consider alternative medicine to be nothing more than quackery. I say how pretentious can you be? Such blatant displays of snobbery serve no one, except maybe the medical doctor hoping not to lose patients to other forms of treatment.

I'm willing to give alternative medicine a chance. Standard treatments for scoliosis are back braces and surgery (where they fuse pieces of your vertebrae together). I don't know about you, but these seem very backwards to me. Why not see if manual manipulation has any effect? I'm going to try the chiropractic treatments and see how my neck feels afterwards and post my results here.