Step on my back, break your mother's crack.

Or something like that.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a muscle spasm in between my shoulder blades, up toward my neck, so I went to the doctor. He gave me a prescription for a week's worth of muscle relaxers, and sent me on my way. I took maybe three of them over the course of the next day, and in a few days the spasm was gone. Also, I almost missed work because you do NOT want to wake up in the morning after you take one of those things.
I thought that would be the end of it, but no. For some reason, ever since then, when I hunch over at the computer to type, or extend my left arm while I'm sitting, I get what feels like a tingle in the middle of my back, and it radiates down to the first finger and thumb on my left hand. It's the weirdest thing. I figured it would go away in a day or so, but it didn't. So finally, last week I told my wife I was going to go back to the doctor, and she said, "Why don't you try my chiropractor? He's really good." I was skeptical. I watched as many Two and a half men reruns at dinner time as the next guy, and I'd never really been to a chiropractor, even though I've had friends and relatives swear by it. Me, I've always thought of it as a pseudo-science at best, similar to acupuncture. Maybe there's something to it and maybe not.
So I agreed to give it a shot. I know there are some bone-crackers who get into the kooky-spooky spiritual aspects of things and start talking about your energies and your aura and the color of your poop, but when I had my first appointment, this guy didn't seem like that at all. He seemed to be pretty much focused on the mechanics of your body; your posture, your joints, your spinal curvature, things that made sense to me. It was more like talking to a physical therapist. The other thing I liked about him is he put me on the table with my face nestled in some kind of vinyl butt, looked at my spine, felt around a little bit, and said nothing major was "out," which I think is the highly scientific term chiropractors use when they describe your bones. "Your C5 and C7 are out," they might say. Where they have gone, and what they might be up to while they are out is anybody's guess. Whatever it is, they are apparently not supposed to be doing it. I'm pretty sure it involves a hot-sheet hotel in a seedy part of town.
So he asked me more about the referral pain down my arm, told me to lie facedown on the table, and then hooked me up to electricity. He put contacts on my back and connected wires to them, and then I'm guessing he took the ends of the wires and jammed them straight into a 220 volt socket, because suddenly my shoulder muscles contracted, my arms went straight out and my head tried to pull itself into my ass from the wrong direction. (On second thought, there's probably not really a right direction.) Anyway, this went on for a few seconds until he got it adjusted. After he dialed it back to 11, I was just ever-so-slightly shrugging my shoulders every three seconds, like I just didn't care about something over and over. He put some some sort of moist heat pack over the electrodes and my shoulders, and then left me there for 10 minutes.
When he came back, he worked over the shoulder muscle for a few minutes, rubbed some sort of camphor and menthol goop into my neck, told me he thought my pain and weird tingling fingers were due to a muscular problem, and charged me $65. I didn't feel much different, other than now I smelled like someone rubbed me down with Ben Gay and vodka, so I made another appointment and went home. In my head, I figured I'd give this guy a week or two, and then I'd head to an orthopedic or something.
The next appointment went about the same, and again there wasn't much improvement. He sent me for an X-ray, and what that told him is that due to not having great posture (have you ever seen an X-ray of a drummer's spine?) I had lost some of the "curve" in my neck. There was also some bone spurs in my cervical vertebrae because I'm old as dirt and I guess after you turn 40 your bones start doing weird shit to protect themselves and in another 20 years I'll probably have extra phalanges sprouting out of my coccyx or something.
He said the X-ray wouldn't show a disc problem, so he wanted to get an MRI if my insurance would cover it. Either way, he said he thought I could benefit from a good stretching and decompression. I figured he was going to give me some 5th generation, crooked, copy machine printout of some exercises that featured a faceless figure with an oval head and lots of dotted lines, but instead he brought me into the next room where there was a table that looked like it had recently been vacated by Frankenstein's monster.

I sat back on the table and he put my neck into a vise, and then strapped my head to this sled-like assembly. Attached to the sled was a cable that ran up to the back of the table, and the whole thing was attached to a computer. He programmed it, and after making sure I wasn't too uncomfortable (I wasn't, considering I was strapped to a machine being controlled by what looked like an IBM 486 pc from the early 90's) he turned the lights on low and told me he'd be back in 15 minutes.
The first time it went to 27 pounds of pull, I was pretty sure I was going to be paralyzed from the neck down. I remembered the quality of the graphics on that video screen and prayed it wasn't running Windows Me under the covers, because that OS was so bad it would pull your head off your body just for the fun of watching you die.
After a while though, it started to feel kind of good. It would slowly pull up to 27 pounds, then release to 14 or so. Then back up again. Before I knew it, the 15 minutes were up, and I wanted one of these things for my living room.
I've been on it twice so far and I can't really tell if it does anything or not. It feels pretty good when it stops, but then again, so does stabbing a fork into your eye. I know one thing, I'm going broke in this place. Really what's happening is I'm paying thirty five dollars for someone to give me a half-assed back rub and then pull gently on my head for 15 minutes.*
What I mean to say is, if it's truly muscular like he says, I could probably go to an actual massage therapist and pay about fifteen bucks more for an hour-long massage.
I have the MRI scheduled for Wednesday, so I'm probably not going back to him until I have some pictures of the inside of my spine. Wish me luck.
*That sounds dirty, but I'm leaving it.


  1. I'm sorry you're going through this but for me, I gotta say it was a good laugh.

  2. Anonymous8:38 PM

    "These go to 11."

    [BTW, how 'bout a NSFW warning on that coverage link, eh?]

  3. The photo was classic! I felt a little guilty for laughing so much, after you told the tale of being in pain. So sorry, and hope you get better quickly. Why can't I ever get stuck in a waiting room at the same time as you, instead of a scary dude who is pissed cause he has to leave his gun in the car? Just a suggestion; when you go for the MRI, unless it's an open MRI and you're not freaked out by being strapped to a table and slid into a tube, ask for a valium before you go. (you have to do this in advance) It's still moderately unpleasant, you just won't care as much. Oh, but hey,there's the loud noise-it can be like listening to a really bad band.
    Good luck, I hope you get good results!

  4. Upstate Broad9:52 PM

    Sincerely hope you're feeling better soon. Over the years I have been devoted to my chiropractors and they have helped me beyond measure, but a few years ago I developed problems that even my chiro couldn't help me with. I ended up in PT, but was warned that I was in for a long haul and might never be truly mobile and pain-free again. Within a few weeks I was fine. To this day I have very slight tingly numbness in 2 fingers; that's it. I tell you all this to illustrate the point that no matter how good the chiro treatments feel, if they're not helping, consider PT.

  5. I was going to suggest PT too. About a year ago I had very similar problem in my left shoulder that cause numbness and muscle spasms. My ortho signed me up for the pt and it made a world of difference in just two visits. They did some freaky spine cracking things and ta da... no more pain.
    I hope you feel better soon. It sucks=\

  6. Anonymous2:35 AM

    "I was just ever-so-slightly shrugging my shoulders every three seconds" hahaha I love this! Also, you're kinda pretty in a Johnny Depp kinda way. Hope you feel better soon!


  7. Jeez and I was thinking about a little bone-cracking myself...well, maybe not.

    My old mountain bike cohort is a chiro and insists I should give it a whirl but I've seen what he does to people. He could crush my skull with a couple of fingers and some of the stuff in his office looks like it was invented during the Spanish Inquisition. Call me reluctant.

    The photo doesn't help. Hope you feel better...but if the electro-shrug becomes permanent so you can't type can I have your laptop?

  8. No Name To Keep It Free8:31 AM

    My mom was trained as a chiro, and I have a buddy here in town who is one and treats me for free. I've always liked it and found it helpful, then again I'm not paying anything!

  9. Anonymous11:32 AM

    I was having terrible pain and muscle spasms down my left arm and into my lats, about a year ago. I went to a neurologist who sent me for an MRI and I have degenerative disc disease in my neck, C5-7. The pain eventually went away, but like another commenter, I still have tingling/numbness in two fingers. I went to PT for 4 visits and the main thing that I learned it to correct my posture. I was a compulsive slumper (and still struggle with it). But, I'm more aware now, at least. I would suggest PT just to get some exercises for correcting your posture. Chiropractic was suggested to me by a few people, but really I'm afraid of it. Sounds like yours didn't crack or snap anything though. That's what I'm afraid of.

    Best wishes to you and I hope you get some relief soon!!
    Oh, I didn't find the MRI to be bad at all. Yes, it's loud, but I just kept my eyes closed :)

  10. Anonymous12:39 PM

    I've heard lots of people say they swear by chiropractic, and lots say they're afraid or skeptical about it. I have not, however, heard of anyone who tried it and didn't like it. Kind of like head cheese. Or maybe not.

  11. I have similar problems and the chiropractor I consulted (who did not have any of the "fancy" contraptions you describe) suggested it was due to a pinched nerve in my shoulder and the pinching was caused by muscle contractions. He did some adjustments and deep tissue massage which helped a lot but so does just being conscious of my posture - roll your shoulders back and down. I tend to hunch over my computer and sewing machine and carry tension in my shoulders.

    If you don't like that chiropractor, find one you do like, or try PT as already suggested. Good luck!

  12. Anonymous8:10 AM

    They make home versions of the neck-stretching apparatus - it's basically a harness you strap around your head, attached to a hook that goes over a door. You strap yourself in, and lift your feet until it feels like your head's about to pop off.

  13. Heya,

    This is Dev-the gal you gave e-book instructions to...that hasn't actually used them yet (looking away in admitted shame). First off, I thought your tribute to Paul was lovely. I'm not ashamed to admit that made me well up a lil bit.

    The reason I'm writing though is to offer some personal experience where backs n' necks are concerned. This time last year they (meaning our incredibly astute medical community) finally determined the cause of a lot of pain I'd had for nearly 20 years. Turns out C-5 had turned into neck dust with C-4 and C-6 compressing. That along with a bone spur on one of the Cs had all but cut off the supply of spinal fluid. If I'd have taken a slight fall or been in a car accident, the bone spur could have punctured the spinal cord and rendered me at least partially paralyzed. Obviously surgery was the front-runner of remedies. I now have a dead person's disk in my neck and some awesome hardware that may entitle me to a TSA groping.

    That being said, I sit at a computer a lot too and have compression problems throughout my back on a fairly regular basis...I'm a huncher too. I'm also a big fan of chiropractic care-but all choir crackers are not created equally. One pretty much has to find the one they feel does the best for them. It's like if one comes at me with that stupid acupressure pen, I know he's not the one for me. LoL One thing nearly every chiropractor does agree with (though may not tell you w/o you asking about it) is the use of inversion tables. My husband and I purchased one about 6 years ago and have never regretted it. This is how/why they work:


    This is also the place where we ordered ours. They had the best prices and shipping at the time and they had it to us in about 4 days. Before we got our table, I was in nearly constant pain, couldn't even ride in a car for more than 20 minutes without having my lower back screaming at me. I kid you not, the first time I got on the table (for about 1 minute, maybe less), my pain had almost completely disappeared. I had spent years and thousands of dollars going to numerous chiropractors (that didn't mention inversion therapy), osteopaths, general doctors, sports medicine doctors, had all kinds of therapies, x-rays, cortisone shots (which are nasty for so many reasons) and more for these problems...may of which were alleviated in less than a minute and for less than $300 (unfortunately tables don't fix toasted disks and spurs).

    If you do decide to purchase an inversion table, I do recommend going with the Teeters brand. They're sturdy. Our neighbors bought a cheaper brand to save a few bucks and theirs is so rickety, they're afraid to get on it so it turned out to be a total waste of $...or a nice coat rack if you want to put a positive spin on it. Anyway, you were so kind to help me with your e-book expertise, I thought maybe I could return the favor with some neck/back "expertise" :).

    Hope you and yours are having a happy, merry, pc holiday of your choice...time to break out the pole and air some grievances! Actually, my Xmas tradition is to watch 9 hrs of the LOTR trilogy since I saw every installment in the theaters on Xmas day. Yep, the geek in me strikes again.

    Take Care,

  14. Dude, I'd stay away from chiro care until you get the MRI results! If you have herniated discs (hopefully not plural), you don't want to make things worse by getting pulled and prodded by a non-MD. That's my $.02 after having hundreds of clients with back and neck injuries, anyway.

    Hope it's nothing surgical and that it gets better on its own!


  16. Anonymous10:17 PM

    I had a similar thing for years, and really bad migraines. I went to my local phsyio/sports massage and after a few sessions I was much better.

    I go once every 6 weeks now, I'm in IT too so my posture will never be awesome but it really helped. If you go down the massage path just makes sure it's sports/physio massage.

    Hope you feel better soon.

  17. Wait until you are 55, mate. After 30 years of flying a desk for stupid hours every day, so there was really no time to work out, plus also, the high school football injuries that should have cleared up but instead left gobs of scar tissue in your back and neck and shoulders and wheels. Yeah. That. As for me, I would rather put my head in a stump grinder than go to a chiropractor, thanks to the back breaker I went to at age 14 after compressing a couple of vertebras. Thankfully, in New Zealand, physios are everywhere and they tend to know their shit. So there's that. Hope the treatment didn't kill you or put you in a eye-movement-controlled wheelchair. Because that would suck.