Once cracked, twice shy: alternatives to chiropract...ory
June 12, 2013 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I've only just discovered the dangers chiropractic neck-cracking; what other options are available?

I've just been to two chiropractors for consultations, and both of them told me there's a lack of curve in my neck. The first one wanted to have me use a pillow at night that he said would help bring the curve back and then he would do adjustments. I have a follow-up appointment with the second one next week to discuss treatment (and another adjustment, but I'm not letting him touch my neck this time.)

I decided to do some research online about this curve issue, and I was shocked to find so many people speak negatively about chiropractors on metafilter. All this talk about strokes and death and paraplegia has gotten me quite shaken up, and I am now strongly considering seeing a physical therapist instead.

My question is, can a physical therapist help with this lack of curve? Is this even a dire issue? I get mixed signals when I research online. My first one made it seem pretty disastrous with talk of eventual disk degeneration, and so far this second one doesn't seem overly concerned and reassured me he could fix it but didn't go into much detail.

My "presenting problem" when I sought out a chiropractor was for weakness in my left hand that is affecting my career, as I use my hands a lot for fine motor movements. First chiropractor used some sort of machine and detected weakened nerve impulses going from my neck to my hand. The second one did reflex tests using that little triangle thing and determined that my reflexes in both hands were fine. Would this be something a physical therapist could help with?

If anyone's got any recommendations in the Bay Area, I'd love to hear them. Accepting Kaiser insurance would be a big plus.

Thank you!
posted by madonna of the unloved to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Doctor of Osteopathy. They are like Chiropractors, but with more rigorous science. (So, they basically study everything that MDs do, and also manipulation of the body.)
posted by bilabial at 4:46 PM on June 12, 2013 [11 favorites]

I would also see about consulting with an Alexander Technique teacher -- Alexander is like non-invasive chiropractics that teaches your body what it feels like to be in alignment without the jerking and cracking of chiropractics. It's extremely gentle and helpful. For me (together with a good neck support pillow), it solved a persistent pinched nerve in my neck that was causing me tremendous pain day and night.

I should have the contact information of my last teacher, who teaches in Berkeley and SF. I'll hunt it down and MeMail it to you.
posted by janey47 at 4:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Please do start with a physician -- "lack of curve" is not a medical diagnosis and may not be a real problem at all, and those machines and tests that chiropractors use are pretty much nonsense. To a chiropractor, whatever your problem is, it can be solved by messing about with your spine, and their tests are all aimed at convincing you of this.

A physician (osteopath or general practitioner or occupational health specialist or whatever) should be able to get a better idea what might be causing your hand weakness. Your physician may refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy may involve several forms of treatment, including exercises and massage -- basically, the good, useful bits of chiropractic.
posted by asperity at 5:22 PM on June 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

There's a write up of the lack of curve in neck thing here. Personally I think the next step is to see an MD about your hand weakness, not about your neck curve.

If you go to a barber, he'll say you need a haircut. If you go to a chiropractor, he will tell you your back is out of alignment. Go to a podiatrist and he'll say you need orthotics.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:25 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Although I can't speak to whether or not your neck curvature issue is a legit problem, I can recommend a Bay-Area Kaiser physical therapist: Alla Shimanovich Yuryev. She is at the Kaiser Geary campus in San Francisco and she is really, really great.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:05 PM on June 12, 2013

The neck curvature problem is called cervical kyphosis or reverse cervical lordosis. I have it and the doctors and physiotherapists I've had all say it's a posture problem and common in people who do jobs where they don't move their heads much (people looking at a computer 8 hours a day, truck drivers, etc.). Online research does make it seem dire! No one has ever said any of those things when talking to me or providing treatment, though, so perhaps there are degrees.

I agree a doctor is a good place to start, but probably a physiotherapist will be the person who can help. I used to see one who would put me in traction for 20 minutes a couple times a week. It was HEAVEN.
posted by looli at 7:14 PM on June 12, 2013

Oh, and I use massage therapy to handle the neck and head pain. It's not so much curative as palliative, but it makes a big difference in my quality of life day-to-day.
posted by looli at 7:16 PM on June 12, 2013

Go see a physical therapist.
posted by radioamy at 7:20 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Structural integration! It works on posture/alignment of the body but only through manipulating soft tissue/fasia/muscles. I had lots of shoulder/neck/chest issues and the SI worked wonders for me. I breath much more deeply and openly, my shoulders dropped *inches* from bring up in my ears, and my neck lengthened and moves freely. I'm on my phone, but I'll attach links when I get home. 12 sessions of SI was seriously the best money I've ever spent on myself. Random people in my life were like, you just look better and happier.
posted by amileighs at 7:27 PM on June 12, 2013

FWIW, earlier this year I had extreme weakness in my right hand (couldn't grip my bike handlebar without pain after a short time, or even grip a sheet of paper effectively) which turned out to be a result of pinched nerves in my shoulder and elbow. While the practitioner I saw is a chiro, he is also a physical therapist and uses active release therapy. He was able to mostly resolve the problem with a couple of sessions, which involved zero chiro adjustments, just ART and physical therapy. Hand strength returned very quickly (could ride my bike after the first one with no pain, just tired/weak after 30 minutes or so, as opposed to a couple of minutes before treatment) and is continuing to improve with the use of a hard foam 'stress' ball which I squeeze for a few minutes a couple of times a day. Personally I would encourage you to see a physical therapist and get your hand problem resolved. Whether you pursue chiro for what they say is a curvature problem up to you, but i would guess it is likely unrelated. (I also have neck issues. A standard chiro in the past made them much worse. Current practitioner has helped significantly, but again using nothing that I would consider standard chiro adjustments.)
posted by valleys at 7:34 PM on June 12, 2013

My question is, can a physical therapist help with this lack of curve?...

My "presenting problem" when I sought out a chiropractor was for weakness in my left hand that is affecting my career

So you are planning to go to a physical therapist and ask for help with your "lack of curve"? It seems like you have seized on this as The Problem That Must Be Solved.

I suggest you return to your original presenting problem of having weakness in your left hand, and seek help with that from a physical therapist or an MD. Frequently you need a referral for insurance to cover the PT.
posted by yohko at 8:47 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

My "presenting problem" when I sought out a chiropractor was for weakness in my left hand that is affecting my career

Neurologist or neurosurgeon; that is a specific problem with several possible causes, most of them treatable or even curable.
posted by TedW at 5:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I were you, I'd forget everything the chiros told me and start anew with a real doctor. I used to work for a chiropractor. He was a scumbag who would tell people they had all kinds of made up problems so he could sell them crap and get them to keep coming in for more "treatments". My understanding is that he was the rule in that profession, rather than the exception.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older Don't want to send my kid sister to jail...   |   Anonymous VPN concerns Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.