ChiroFilter: how did this chiropractor cause me so much pain and weakness?
November 9, 2011 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I thought a chiropractor was supposed to make me feel better, but now I feel sick. What's happening?

Lately I've had had to crack my lower back more than normal, so I went in to see a chiropractor. The first visit wasn't too bad, she told me a bunch of stuff I knew already (tense shoulders) and used an alignment gun on me which was weird but not painful or anything. After the initial visit I didn't feel better or worse per say, but she wanted to come see me again so I figured another visit wouldn't hurt.

Well my next visit DID hurt... A LOT!! She put me on the table and started to press on weak muscles on my stomach with *great* force, so much that it would hurt and she would exclaim "my, you have such high pain tolerance!" I figured I would feel better after she applied pressure and aligned my back. However... afterwards I started to feel really light headed and nauseous. My body started feeling incredibly weak and my legs and arms felt incredibly tired (like the feeling when I've been extremely sleep deprived). This chiro visit was during lunchtime, and I felt so sick afterward I left work early. Then I had feverish symptoms and had one of THE WORST nights of sleep I've ever had because my body felt so weak and I started to feel delirious because I would wake what seemed like every 10 minutes and I felt very hot.

Yeah... I don't think I'll be making another appointment with this chiropractor. But really, I'd like to know if there is any explanation for why I was so INCREDIBLY weak and sick. Now it's the afternoon after, and my stomach and lower back feels sore. I thought a chiropractor was supposed to relieve back pain, not intensify it. WTF???
posted by xtine to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
sigh...chiropractors ARE NOT DOCTORS. go see a real doctor, stat! sounds like that quack ruptured something.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2011 [19 favorites]

The moment you started feeling light-headed you should have gone back in to your chiropractor and told them "yo, something's up."

Although, at this point going to a doctor instead is probably best. But go quickly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:19 PM on November 9, 2011

The activator is a small handheld spring-loaded instrument which delivers a small impulse to the spine. It was found to give off no more than 0.3 J of kinetic energy in a 3-millisecond pulse.

Yeah that sounds like something that can mess you up if used improperly. Go to a (real) doctor.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on November 9, 2011

(you got off lucky)

This is not to say that there aren't decent massage therapists or even chiropractors out there that do a lot of good. But it's a flaky profession.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:23 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. I'd be tempted to go to an ER with that much lightheadedness and pain.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:24 PM on November 9, 2011

She might have inadvertently given you an internal injury by pressing very hard against your belly; there are a lot of sensitive organs in there, not to mention blood vessels and other delicate tissues. You should see a doctor and tell them exactly what happened. And go soon!
posted by clockzero at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have seen chiropractors for a long time, and as a massage therapist have worked with chiropractors etc. as well, so I don't share AskMe's general tendency toward chiro-hate. But although it's not uncommon for bodywork to introduce achiness and maybe a light headache sometimes, I've never heard of what you describe. I'd go to an MD w/those symptoms.
posted by headnsouth at 1:28 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

actually, chiropractors ARE DOCTORS. in fact, the first couple years of chiro school are identical to the first couple years of med school. you cannot judge a profession by a handful of idiots. there are medical doctors all over the world who care only about making money, and their poor judgement and inattentiveness cost people their lives. yet for some reason, people don't typically accuse medical doctors of being frauds. same thing with chiros.

You always want to visit a chiro (and any other doctor, therapist, etc etc) that comes with good recommendations from people you trust. Don't just pick someone who is covered by your insurance.

I'm not in your body, so I can't know for sure, but this doesn't sound like something to be too worried about. That deep myofascial massage is actually very good for you, but it can really stir stuff up. it gets the toxins moving in your body (drink lots of water to flush them out) and that will definitely make you feel kinda woozy and ill for a bit. Plus, your muscles aren't used to being worked like that, so of course they're going to be sore. Your lower back is sore because all those abdominal muscles connect through to the lumbar spine. if they're tense, they'll pull the lumbar out of alignment. that's probably why she was working them, to get them to release and allow your spine to hold an adjustment.

yes, the chiro is supposed to make you feel better. but if you've had mild or moderate back pain for a long time, and were just cracking your back yourself, there's a lot of old musculoskeletal patterns built up. it takes a while for your body to re-learn correct posture and alignment, and so occasionally things get a little worse before they get better. that's not a bad thing. it would be bad if there's no change at all. if things are shifting, that means there's hope.

many chiros uses devices such as activators and all sorts of other gadgets in order to save themselves from repetitive stress injuries. I can understand this, but hands-on in my opinion is really the best way for a chiro to assess and address your problem. find a chiro that uses applied kinesiology as a diagnostic tool, adjusts by hand, and spends more than 5 minutes with you. Someone who incorporates myofascial massage and trigger-point therapy is great.

good luck. don't let this experience scare you off from chiropractic. a good chiro can be the only doctor you'll ever need. (unless you're having a baby or something.)
posted by SuperErin at 1:28 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

it gets the toxins moving in your body (drink lots of water to flush them out) and that will definitely make you feel kinda woozy and ill for a bit.

This is utter nonsense and has no basis in reality.

a good chiro can be the only doctor you'll ever need.

This is nonsense as well.

but this doesn't sound like something to be too worried about.

This is unfounded and potentially dangerous advice.

OP, if you continue to feel ill, please make an appointment with a physician. If you feel very ill, please visit the ER or an urgent care clinic.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:34 PM on November 9, 2011 [56 favorites]

I'm seconding headnsouth -- I did have a very good experience with a chiropractor the first time I threw my back out, so no AskMe chiro hate here.

However, also seconding that what you're experiencing is unusual and bad. I did once have a little bit of numbness in my arm as I was leaving my chiro after one visit, and mentioned it in passing to the nurse -- and she dropped everything, brought me back to the chiro again, and he examined me and made sure I was going to be okay. Dizziness after a chiropractic visit is not normal, but it's also something they can treat.

As it's after your appointment now, go to another doctor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:37 PM on November 9, 2011

a good chiro can be the only doctor you'll ever need
Make that "may"

"my, you have such high pain tolerance!"
or "may not" rather.

At the very least it seems like you've had some sort of shock. But if you want to be sure, let yourself be checked. (Jeez, and I'm not even one of the go-to-the-doctor types, but hey. Don't trust those toxins and your high pain tolerance. Taken together they make even less sense than one by one)
posted by Namlit at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2011

My friend is a medical doctor. He says that if someone is fairly young, otherwise healthy, and shows the symptoms of stroke, you can almost guarantee they've been going to a chiropractor. Stay away from chiropractic, which is dangerous and has little basis in medical science, and go to a real doctor.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Forget where I heard this (possibly on MeFi!), but if you want to know that a health practitioner is a quack, any mention of "toxins" which need to be flushed out (except when referring to septicemia or something) is usually a PRETTY GOOD indicator that you should run.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2011 [15 favorites]

it gets the toxins moving in your body (drink lots of water to flush them out)

I'm a biochemist who has actively studied and researched both biochemistry and mammalian physiology for years. This is unscientific bullshit. Run away from any so-called medical professional - or anyone else actually - who tries to sell you this line. So is most of the stuff you chiro was doing. I'm not against physical manipulation for specific musculoskeletal problems when used appropriately, but that isn't what you're describing here.

Your symptoms sound somewhat alarming to me, based on my actual scientific understanding of how the human body works. No massage should leave you feeling that bad for that long afterwards. There are no 'toxins' being worked out and no other reason why it should hurt or make you feel ill. If your muscles are still that sore the next day it's because she's damaged them, something entirely unnecessary for healing. I've had very specific tenderness in the actual muscles being worked for a day or so afterwards, which does make sense given they were tender beforehand, but when you start losing sensations in entire limbs for protracted amounts of time? Yeah, that's not normal and you should be seeing a real doctor if it hasn't completely gone away.
posted by shelleycat at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2011 [26 favorites]

Thanks for the responses everybody. The only other experience I had with a chiropractor was a bit over a year ago. It was an acquaintance I trusted and he actually made me feel better but he was really far and I don't think accepted my insurance. But from a great experience to this horrible one has really shocked me.

What actually really pissed me off was that I was exclaiming "ow" as she pressed into my stomach and she kept going. Umm... aren't you supposed to STOP if the patient feels pain? I'm going to cancel my next appointment and leave a negative Yelp review.

I may just power through this... unless anyone reading this knows of a great doctor in the Los Angeles area that accepts Cigna insurance. Last time I dealt with a doctor I had looked up left me with a doctor that looked and acted exactly like House (including mocking me and staring at my boobs). And after this horrendous experience with this chiro I don't think I'll ever go to a doctor of any sort without any recommendations.

FWIW, she never described any removing of "toxins."
posted by xtine at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you slightly twist your ankle, you walk it off. If you feel like shit after someone pressed really, really hard on your tum, you DON'T walk it off. You seek medical attention.

Also, since you're asking us, I'm guessing that means you suspect something's not quite right. Listen to your brain/body.
posted by heyho at 1:51 PM on November 9, 2011

xtine, the weakness and dizziness you felt are somewhat alarming enough that I'd go to the ER if you're still having them. If that's gone and you just feel "sore" like "I did too many sit-ups," you may be okay, but still consider going to a doctor to be safe.

For the record, back stiffness issues can also be taken care of through massage; I found that to be just as effective the second time my back went out. And cheaper.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on November 9, 2011

I'm only sore in my stomach and lower back. No dizziness or weakness.
posted by xtine at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2011

Your insurance probably has a nurse line on the back of your card.

Call them and tell them what happened.

I am worried about you "powering through" enough dizziness and weakness to put you out of work.

Some problems "feel" better even though they are getting much worse.

Good luck and I am sorry that doctor was such an asshole to you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:54 PM on November 9, 2011

Powering through depends on how you are feeling now. Do you have any remaining symptoms of feeling dizzy/delerious or feeling ill in general? And do you have full feeling back in your limbs when put in all positions? Those two things are taken very seriously by medical professionals trained in physical manipulation and should have been followed up on as soon as they occurred. They are the most concerning to me. Do you feel aches or pains beyond specific pain in the muscles she was working on? Again that's an indication of something that should be checked out. Any feverishness or delirium obviously should be checked too, although it sound like that was maybe linked to sleep deprivation?

Whereas if you just have very sore muscles where she manipulated then it's probably like any other injury where you strain the muscles. She worked them too hard and did more damage, but it should heal pretty quickly as long as you rest the muscles like any thing similar (e.g. like if you overexercised them or something). If it doesn't get better in a couple of days then you should still consider getting checked because that's not normal either.

Generalised lower back pain *isn't* one of the things that shows long term positive benefit from physical manipulation in the medical literature. You're better off seeing a qualified physiotherapist to develop an exercise regime to strengthen weak muscles, work out the tension, and prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. At best, manipulation will provide temporary relief without actually fixing anything (plus chances are high it will do nothing).
posted by shelleycat at 2:03 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Suggest directional non force technique. They do not use any strong force on you. One healed my whiplash after a nasty car accident. There is one near you in Ventura:

David H Caya
3319 Telegraph Rd, Ventura
Directional Non-Force Technique
posted by zia at 2:07 PM on November 9, 2011 reiterate: ruptured intestine: very easy to DIE from. doctor. now.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:45 PM on November 9, 2011

Some of my family members are chiropractors and I want to make a distinction to clarify some of the chiro-hate...

There are different "fields" of chiropractic and some of them are definitely nuts. I had a chiropractor hand me a can of green beans and ask me to hold it out, then he pushed on a muscle on my chest and said "You have a sinus infection!" He was an idiot (and a kinesiogolist, for the record).

But some chiropractors - specifically the ones who solely focus on spinal manipulation and joint/muscle pain - aren't quacks. They go to medical school for four years and study everything a "real" doctor studies (including cadaver work!), and that's only after getting a pre-med undergrad degree. The main difference between this type of DC and an MD is the MD can write prescriptions.

I have scoliosis and whenever I'm in town (I live 2,000 miles away), my family members treat me with adjustments to the neck and back and it has never hurt me. In fact, it has helped a sore back or neck more times than I could count.

Please do your research before seeing a chiropractor, but don't lump them all together and think they're all quacks.

(and bring on the hateful replies...)
posted by tacodave at 3:48 PM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you feel worse, certainly go to urgent care. However, that reaction sounds only slightly worrying to me - heck, I and my friends have gotten dizzy and weak from massages, let alone adjustments. Good bodywork Frequently makes you feel worse before you feel better.

And, yes, the chiro should've checked with you (as a new patient) as to whether your "ow" meant stop or not.
posted by ldthomps at 5:45 PM on November 9, 2011

[Folks - no more pro/cn chiro stuff. Please direct answers to the OP directly and take other stuff up over email please. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:48 PM on November 9, 2011

If you are feeling mostly fine now you shouldn't be in any real danger of anything like intestinal rupture. I'd take Advil or ibuprofen, whichever one is your preferred poison, and not worry too much about it.

"What actually really pissed me off was that I was exclaiming "ow" as she pressed into my stomach and she kept going. Umm... aren't you supposed to STOP if the patient feels pain? I'm going to cancel my next appointment and leave a negative Yelp review."

This is very much not ok in a lot of ways. California licenses chiropractors to keep stupid dangerous shit like this from happening, you can look up your chiropractor here to make sure they have a license and then report them for either practicing without one or abusing the one they have.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:15 PM on November 9, 2011

Blasdelb - thank you for that link. Oh my, I tried looking up the chiropractor I went to and no records were returned, which worries me A LOT.
Currently I feel ok, only my stomach feels sore like I had been working out my abs a lot, but nothing worrying beyond that. Of course if I still feel weirdness I will see a regular doctor tomorrow, but otherwise I think I'm ok. Thanks again for all the comments and suggestions everyone. I will be more careful next time.
posted by xtine at 6:48 PM on November 9, 2011

It sounds like she just managed to bruise a muscle, which sucks, but is thankfully not life threatening.

Please contact these guys, they'll be able to do a lot more than yelp.

Board of Chiropractic Examiners
2525 Natomas Park Drive
Suite 260
Sacramento, CA 95833

Telephone: (916) 263-5355
Fax: (916) 263-5369
CA Relay Service TT/TDD: (800) 735-2929
Consumer Complaint Hotline: (866) 543-1311
posted by Blasdelb at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2011

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