The photo is from 1978. My son, his truck. Behind him, my truck.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Monday, March 17, 1986

It's my first visit to a chiropractor.  I'm skeptical.  You hear all these stories (mostly from doctors) that chiropractors are money-grubbing charlatans. 

Her name is Marcy.  She's pregnant.  Instantly I trust her.  How could you not feel safe with a pregnant chiropractor?  She glances at the clipboard, the form I've just filled out.  "You're in construction?"  She shakes her head.  "Wow." 

"Why wow?"

"You wrote here you've been in constant pain for ten years."

"No I didn't.  I said sometimes it's worse than others."

"Does it ever go away?"


"That's constant.  And what have you done about it?"

"I ignore it.  I'm good at that.  It's a job requirement."

"But now you're here."

She watches me walk from the waiting room to the examining room and says, "How long have you had scoliosis?"

"All my life.
"  I hadn't mentioned the scoliosis on the form.  "So it's obvious?"

"To me it is.  One of your shoulders is higher than the other.  One of your legs is shorter than the other.  Didn't you know that?"

"I just knew I had bad posture."

"Of course you have bad posture.  Your spine is curved.  And it says here you went to an orthopedist.  What did he say?"

"He said my scoliosis isn't a problem.  He said nothing is wrong with me."

"And were you in pain?  Did you tell him?"


"Did he believe you?"

"Apparently not."

Marcy snorts.

After an examination, Marcy determines that I have a loss of nerve sensation in one leg.

I ask, "Why didn't the orthopedist tell me that?"

"Did he look at you?"

"He took an x-ray."

"Did he test your reflexes?"


"Did he touch your legs?"


"Orthopods."  She rolls her eyes.

Marcy asks me to lie down on my stomach.  She says she just wants to do one thing on this first visit.  I've brought my wife along as witness, guardian, interpreter.  Marcy tells my wife that because I'm so "locked up" she wants to start slowly, gently.

Marcy places the heel of one hand and the fingers of the other hand on my lower spine.  I can't see what's going on, but I can feel it. 

Inside my spine there's this sensation of a rusty piston being pulled out of a dirty old
cylinder.  I see stars.  It doesn't hurt.  I simply see stars.

In five minutes, it's over.  I'm lightheaded. 

My wife drives me home.  I feel stoned.  There's no way I could handle a car right now.  I feel ten years younger.

"What did it look like?" I ask.

"Like nothing.  Until I saw how spacey you got, I thought she hadn't done anything."

Twenty-five years later, I still remember that piston unlocking from that cylinder.  I've never felt anything like it again.  I'll never have to because I'll never let it get that bad.  For construction work, part of the job is knowing who to call and when to call them: roofer, concrete crew, backhoe guy.  And a chiropractor.


  1. I too held a very skeptical view of chiropractic. My crazy old grandmother used to prattle on about not trusting doctors, so she relied on chiropractors -- which I came to think of as "quack-o-practors."

    Twelve years into my career as a set light technician -- getting my ass kicked working hundred-hour weeks on low budget movies -- I woke up one day after a job barely able to get out of bed. The pain between my shoulder blades felt like being stabbed with an ice pick wired up with house current. It took me five minutes to roll out of bed, every movement bringing a fresh stab of intense pain.

    Later that day, I walked stiff-legged into a chiropractor's office. My recovery (and subsequent conversion) wasn't nearly as dramatic or rapid as yours -- I had to ice down for several days before receiving my first hands-on adjustment -- but by following her advice (and getting semi-regular adjustments), I have yet to be incapacitated again.

    I would later find that nearly everybody I know in my end of the business sees a chiropractor. Doctors want to prescribe pills, give shots, or refer that bad back to a surgeon -- to cure the symptoms -- but chiropractors keep us going without drugs or a scalpel. The results aren't always perfect, but life at this age is on the far end of the continuum from "perfect" -- and I'll settle for feeling better.

    I guess grandma wasn't so crazy after all...

  2. So your chiro is female, like mine. Occasionally I've tried male chiros and they are always too rough. The men use force; the ladies use finesse. Of course, she sometimes gives me the occasional CRUNCH when I need it.