Should I have broken up with my chiropractor?
March 25, 2011 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Was I right to break up with my chiropractor? Special snowflake boring details after the break.

After carrying a bag of rock salt I had a nasty sciatica attack, with the standard horrible pain, numb foot, muscle cramps. After 3 weeks on drugs I was starting to walk a bit and went to a chiropractor to see if there was anything he could to to help out. His x-ray showed the disc was very thin and the vertebra had slipped forward a little. He wanted to set me up with many many sessions and simultaneously managed to say "OMG bones almost touching" and "keep coming to us". After a few sessions in which I started getting lower back pain, I asked him for an MRI referral and he griped about it, but eventually sent me on. The MRI showed the disc was degenerated and also herniated.

At this stage my gut skepticism was starting to make noises and so I made an appointment with a back specialist. Chiropractor wanted to know who it was and kept saying "they will cut you up" and that he'd been doing this for 15 years and he could handle it. It was all a bit overbearing and controlling. That combined with the constant upsell of products made me decide to stop going. I see the conventional back guy next week. Honestly, after 8 weeks I'm not in that much pain (just weird muscle cramps and a numb foot), but I'd like to know what's going on in there (could just be typical age related, which would be great), and will ask for a physical therapy referral. The foot thing kind of worries me since it was doing that before the rock salt incident.

The thing is, I can't tell whether I overreacted. On the one hand, I'm kind of a skeptic and mostly think chiropractic is a placebo (and I do believe in the power of placebo!). On the other hand, his practice is set up with regular physical therapy and massage, and he's low on the woo factor (although high on the marketing). So, what do you think? Was it just a bad fit? Is he right and they'll "cut me up"?
posted by media_itoku to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Metafilter will pretty uniformly tell you that breaking up with your chiropractor is always a good idea, regardless of the reason. I myself do not subscribe to this viewpoint and have had fabulous luck with chiros and sciatica, but even *I* would tell you that breaking up with this one was the right choice. Scaremongering is not an attractive quality in a healthcare practitioner.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:50 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Separately from the wisdom of using a chiropractor, any health professional who acts in a controlling or domineering fashion should get the (relationship) death penalty. Don't ever feel bad for walking away from a professional who makes you feel uncomfortable.
posted by fatbird at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Any good doctor, when told that his/her patient is going to get a second opinion, says, "good, get as much information as you can, and don't make any rash decisions; I'll be happy to treat you if you decide to come back to me."

I say this based on having seen a lot of doctors (for second, third(!), fourth(!) opinions), most of whom, thankfully, have been wonderful. They have always been supportive of me gathering as much information as possible. Professional people don't let (or at least don't let on that) their egos get bruised.

Bad doctors get pissy when you say that you're getting a second opinion. You are right for dumping this chiropractor.
posted by phunniemee at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2011 [8 favorites]

My chiropractor is a childhood friend of mine (we're so old that we used to chat on CB radio). He's a terrific guy and has helped me when I've had problems from overuse injuries from running and cycling. With all that said he's tried to sell me on chelation bullshit and other quackery. It's just what they do. In this case it looks like you made the right call.
posted by fixedgear at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2011

If he skeeved you out he wasn't the right practitioner for you. End of story. (There are great chiropractors out there if you're interested in trying someone else.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:03 PM on March 25, 2011

Chiropractor wanted to know who it was and kept saying "they will cut you up"

That comment is highly unprofessional, not to mention kinda creepy. All you did was trust your instincts and make the right decision for you.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:04 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Any good doctor, when told that his/her patient is going to get a second opinion, says, "good, get as much information as you can, and don't make any rash decisions; I'll be happy to treat you if you decide to come back to me."

Totally agreed. And my chiropractor agrees with this wholeheartedly as well. (And she does not subscribe to the quackery woo, either.)
posted by desuetude at 2:16 PM on March 25, 2011

Yeah, regardless of area of expertise, someone who pushes you that way and reacts with hostility to examining other options and educating yourself is not someone to do business with. He could easily have said "those guys tend to want to do surgery which I don't think is always necessary" rather than that blanket scare-mongering.

If you see a positive value in seeing a chiropractor then go find a new one.
posted by phearlez at 2:28 PM on March 25, 2011

Let me just tell you that when they finally "cut up" my ex after years of quacking around with some sweaty dude it was way past high time. She lost at least five years of life quality (and possibly a marriage due to personality warp as a consequence of pain) through his procrastinations.

Before anyone "cuts you up," they actually look whether its really necessary, and you always can take a look yourself and have your say, and even find a second opinion.
posted by Namlit at 2:45 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my experience, chiropractic can be useful as short-term relief for ordinary lower-back pain (though I've always suspected that much of the relief comes from the pre-adjustment massage). Chiropractic is not useful over the long term, or for other ailments (like, say, anything that shows up on an MRI). The fact that this guy wanted you to book a billion appointments also, unfortunately, fits my experience with chiropractic -- if it's "come back next Wednesday" today, I suspect it'll be "come back next Wednesday" two years from now, if you let it.

I think you made the right decision.
posted by vorfeed at 3:13 PM on March 25, 2011

You were a walking boat payment for this guy. Any doctor who gets defensive about you seeing anyone else is seeing dollar signs walking out the door, not caring about you as a patient. You made the right choice.
posted by benzenedream at 3:43 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're definitely not overreacting. You did the right thing.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:10 PM on March 25, 2011

Physical therapy with targeted massage is great for sciatica. Like, instant relief great. Then muscle building exercises to keep it from returning. All sensible stuff. Hope you give that a try! Especially aqua therapy.

And it sounds like you made the right decision. Never feel bad for "breaking up" with a medical or quasi-medical professional. Sometimes the fit is wrong. (Disclosure: I am about as anti-chiro as you can get, for what it's worth.)
posted by clone boulevard at 8:58 PM on March 25, 2011

Chiropractors are not doctors, it's not medicine. There may be some benefits from the massage parts, and they may alert you to some more serious conditions because they handle your spine.... but from a medical point of view:

Chiropractors are up there with homeopathic practitioners on the quackery scale.

Drop the guilt, see real doctors about your very real spine and it's condition, and you can always look for a really good massage therapist as well.
posted by TravellingDen at 9:20 PM on March 25, 2011

Yes, breaking up with this chiropractor was a good idea. You could have a serious condition that may require surgery (I'm not a doctor, and only your real doctor can tell you whether surgery is necessary), and a chiropractor isn't going to fix that. Any good professional should be able to recognize his limits, and it sounds like this guy can't.
posted by lexicakes at 10:27 PM on March 25, 2011

TravellingDen, I've got a vested interest in medicine, but the fact is that physicians don't have a way actually treat chronic back pain. They can only offer painkillers and muscle relaxants or anti-inflamatory medication. None of which are actually meant to treat chronic back pain. Once you're bad enough off that you're losing sleep and mobility, they can then do surgery, which has limited success.

So yeah, I am saying that medical treatment for chronic lower back pain is not unlike quackery sometimes.
posted by desuetude at 10:35 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The practice model for chiropractors and physical therapists is completely different. A physical therapist will see you for a limited period of time. Their goal is to get you feeling better, get you able to manage your own symptoms, an get you out the door. They do not want to see you forever.

Chiropractors need you to keep coming back, over and over again, indefinitely. It's how they make their money. Not all of them are like this, but many, many are.

You were right to break up with your chiropractor. Go find yourself a skilled physical therapist and a right proper MD. If your foot is numb, you've got serious stuff going on. Message me if you'd like help finding a good PT.
posted by jennyjenny at 7:13 AM on March 26, 2011

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