Taking a Crack at It

One day in September of 1895 (or thereabouts), janitor Harvey Lillard was hard at work in the Ryan Building on Brady Street in Davenport, Iowa. He was also hard of hearing, and had been for about seventeen years. In this building was the office of a grocer-turned-magnetic healer by the name of Daniel David Palmer, who decided that he might be able to take a crack at curing Lillard’s partial deafness.

Lillard agreed to an examination. What Palmer found was a bulging disk in the man’s spine. Figuring that may be the root of the problem, Palmer performed what is rumored to be the first ever chiropractic manipulation and birthed a controversial profession that will soon celebrate its 126th anniversary. It also allegedly restored Lillard’s hearing and set right an old, troublesome injury.

In one version of the story, the original injury occurred when Palmer slapped Lillard in the back with a book after a funny joke, and then cured him with an adjustment. That sounds pretty legit to me. Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

Like all great origin stories, there are a few different versions of this one and really, it might be kind of suspect, but then so is the profession it spawned. Or at least it has been throughout much of its history. Rising at the end of the century that brought the world a plethora of dangerous patent medicines, magnetic healing, and early medical colleges that were only beginning to coalesce into something resembling standardization, while still grandfathering medical licenses of those who favored feeding mercury to their patients, chiropractic probably seemed like a light in the darkness.

Then with the twentieth century came the rise of antibiotics and the growing habit of medical professionals using the scientific method to study and treat and cure. Trained, tested, and licensed medical doctors began to know what they were talking about, and attributing all medical maladies to misalignment of the spine began to sound just a little bit nutters.

My 14-year-old son has apologized, as he believes he perhaps stepped on a crack and broke his mother’s back. Because he’s funny. Image by Jean-Pierre Pellissier from Pixabay

Despite the controversy, and decades of almost straight-up warring with the American Medical Association, chiropractic practitioners have persevered. With their natural approach to health that, in addition to frequent spinal manipulation, focuses on nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices, they have probably done a lot of good for some patients. 

I am not one of those patients. But I did, for the first time ever, seek out chiropractic care this past week. I am, in general, a pretty active person, but ever since becoming a mommy quite a few years ago, I occasionally suffer with acute low back pain. I usually muddle through for a few days to about a week or so, and recover fairly well. This time, I haven’t been quite as fortunate.

Is it just me? This is a little weird, right? Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a little shy of two weeks since the onset of my latest struggle with back pain. It’s one of those annoying ones that I can’t totally attribute to any specific moment of injury, which makes it all the more frustrating. So, desperate for some relief, I went to a chiropractor, because my husband who is a healthcare professional of the more scientific method variety, and who has had some experience with sports medicine in which athletes will often use a more combined approach to nursing injuries, said, “Eh, maybe give it a try.”

I did. And what I can say is this: It helped. Maybe. Or maybe it didn’t. Actually, I’m really not sure. I know that following adjustment, I could probably stand up a little straighter for a few minutes and maybe got a little bit of pain relief that allowed slightly more flexibility as I worked through some physical therapy, in which, frankly, I have a lot more faith.

It was also weird. If you are an enthusiastic patient of chiropractic care (and if you love it and it works for you, then that’s great) then having a stranger pull on your arms and basically sit on top of you while you snap crackle and pop might seem totally normal. But if you’re not accustomed to it, well, it’s weird.

My back still hurts, but I am on the mend. Physical therapy and I are getting along much better and I can see past the discomfort now to a near future in which I feel fine again and can do all the things I want. I do, however, think I will probably not be seeking chiropractic adjustment again.

It’s definitely more mainstream than it used to be. It’s regulated and requires training and licensing and all that. A lot of people swear by it. It’s just not for me. But, like its first patient Harvey Lillard and its first practitioner D. D. Palmer, I took a crack at it.

9 thoughts on “Taking a Crack at It

  1. Although I’ve tried it via several different practitioners over the past 3 decades, I can’t say it’s ever done me much good. And in fact, one came dang close to potentially killing me. An indiscriminate pop of my neck without first checking xrays, left me with lifelong and excruciating nerve damage at the base of my head (occipital neuralgia), for which I now have to take medication. And while I’ve seen a few since that fated day, I never, never, did I say NEVER, allow anyone to pop my neck. Period.

    The hubs, on the other hand, goes once a month, and it keeps his “trick” back in check.

  2. The Missus and I have used Chiros for years with great success. Not all of them use the wrestling method but have a device called an actuator that is less traumatic. The site we went to for treatment when we got hit by the truck used Chiropractors and Physical Therapists as well as D.O.s. I don’t see a lot of difference in P.T. and Chiro a lot of times and have been manipulated by a D.O. I have also seen some “Trained, tested, and licensed medical doctors” who were absolute quacks.

      1. There are quacks in every field. I agree that PT and chriropractic seem to have the same goals. They just come at them differently. It really is the pop and crackle that freaks me out. Slowly and steadily (and painfully) retraining my muscles to do what they need to do to keep me functioning well is okay with me. But I can definitely see the advantage of each, or both.

  3. There’s nothing worse than back pain. Ouch! Hope your back is – er – back to normal soon (I know what I said there). I’ve had similar issues for years, ever since a martial arts injury. I got referred to a sports doctor who specialised in backs and with various ‘cracking’ noises came right. I had to keep seeing the guy every few months to make sure things stayed that way though.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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