I am 24 years old. After battling with lower back pain on and off for several months, I finally decided to take my husband’s advice and see a chiropractor. I was in a car accident in 1995 that caused some back pain, but I did not get treatment at that time. I have had back pain on and off since then, usually after exertion at work. For two weeks before my first chiropractic visit, I was in pain daily.
During my first visit, x-rays were taken and the doctor said that I had suffered from whiplash which caused my neck to become straight, with loss of its natural curve. He said I had “degeneration” in my neck and lower back. He also said that I had “subluxations” that were pinching nerves and causing other health problems I am experiencing, such as headaches, stiff neck and shoulders, digestive problems, poor circulation, cold feet, and so on. At that time, this all made sense to me. He did an adjustment and asked me to come in three times before the end of the week.
On my next visit, he explained the difference between “relief care” and “corrective care.” He said that I would feel better after eight to 10 visits, but the underlying health problems would continue to exist unless I continued to be adjusted three times per week at first and the two times per week over the course of a year. In total, he wants me to commit to 70 visits this year. He explained to me that without this treatment my “Phase 1 degeneration” will progress and cause me more pain and permanent damage. If I continued with treatment, however, the degeneration causing my health problems could be permanently reversed.
My husband has been seen by a chiropractor before for work injuries, but only until the pain was gone. He thinks that this guy is just trying to rip us off. The doctor seems to be so genuine and concerned. I am not sure what to do. Should my regular physician be able to help me get the right kind of care?
I think you should be guided by your husband’s impression of this chiropractor and discontinue further treatment. You certainly should not commit yourself to “70 visits this year.” Forget all the “subluxation and Phase 1 degeneration” nonsense. Digestive problems, poor circulation, and digestive problems are not cause by “spinal degeneration” or by “pinched nerves.” Your family physician can handle your health problems and then refer you to an orthopedist or a physical therapist for your back pain. If you need manipulation, your orthopedist might be able to refer you to a good chiropractor who will not string you along with “corrective care” to relieve or prevent health problems.
Don’t worry about having a “straight neck.” Many people do not have a normal neck curve and they get along just fine. I would be suspicious of any chiropractor who x-rays your neck when you have low-back pain.
Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient’s Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic’s history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.
This page was posted on June 30, 2004.