I'm a hurtin' skeptical wuss.
February 15, 2008 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I finally broke down and went to a chiropractor. Now BOTH sides hurt, and much worse.

I have had a pain in my shoulder blade region for three weeks. Right side, down my arm, tingly fingers. Friends and such kept insisting I go to a chiropractor. I called yesterday and got right in. He was very thorough. I had some heat and electrode-weird shit done to my back. X-rays, lots of stuff. He mentioned pinched nerve, but wouldn't commit to that.

Today I went again and he explained my x-rays (disintegration of the lower cervical spine, bone spurs (?) upper thoracic, advanced arthritis). My hips are messed up, I guess, and more stuff I didn't need to hear. He did some adjustments--the scary cracking stuff,

Now, both arms burn, both shoulders. Is this normal? And what's up with that plunger-looking thing he popped against my neck?

Everyone told me that I'd get "cracked" and feel soooooo much better. This dude has a treatment plan lasting 24 weeks--and that's not including the maintenence therapy.
posted by wafaa to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Tingly fingers = potentially very bad. See a proper doctor.
posted by fatllama at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2008

Um, I am not even one of those chiropractor-hating-guys, but this dude sounds like a rip off artist. 24-week treatment plan? Wtf? Sometimes after adjustments you can feel more sore, or so my mom tells me. But regardless, I would not go back to this guy. If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's probably a quack.
posted by milarepa at 4:06 PM on February 15, 2008

Your extremities are tingling and you're even considering a 24 week treatment plan from a chiropractor? Get thee to an actual doctor.
posted by meerkatty at 4:09 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: You shouldn't get any sort of manipulation if you have a pinched nerve. Go see a real doctor and get a proper diagnosis. He should not have done any work on you if you told him about the tingling. I find it hard to believe you could have "advanced arthritis" all of a sudden.
posted by Lockjaw at 4:18 PM on February 15, 2008

No, it is not normal. You made the big mistake of going to a chiropractor and now you should remedy that mistake by seeing an actual doctor. Soon.
posted by Justinian at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am one of those chiropractor hating guys, and you need to see a real doctor immediately.

Did he make you sign a release form first? If so, get a copy of it.
posted by unSane at 4:20 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Also, get your films, because the docs are going to want to look at that. (If he gives you any crap about it, copies of your films, at the very least, on CD, are your medical record and you have the right to have copies of them.)
posted by cobaltnine at 4:28 PM on February 15, 2008

Get a doctor and new friends.
posted by The Deej at 4:35 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

nthing going to a doctor. I'll also suggest you check out The Egoscue Method. Basically, what they do is take people with whacked-out posture (which is likely one of your issues) and give them stretching routines that put them back into balance. This generally relieves a lot of pain and discomfort.

They have free routines you can check out, but you can also take some pictures of yourself and get a personalized routine for about $50. I've done this and I can't possibly recommend it enough to anyone having physical pain.

I will say that the site and method unfortunately comes off as fairly quack-ish, but has been completely legit in my experience.
posted by PFL at 4:38 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, this guy may not be a quack. I had a nerve that was pinched in my hip area, causing me pain for months. I couldn't sleep. I finally went to a chiropractor (after I had been to other doctors who could do nothing for me except say "it's probably sciatica" and send me on my way). I went to this chiropractor for three times a week for two months, and then once a week for the remainder of the year. I had very good insurance that covered almost the entire cost. The pain went away and never returned -- this was ten years ago. He only did manual adjustments (no heat or electric shocks), and he took X-rays. By the end of the year I felt like I had a new back. You're going be sore after the first few appointments. Of course, you can and should see a normal doctor, too. But just because you are sore and this chiropractor prescribed an intensive treatment does not mean he is a quack, he may be very good.
posted by Eringatang at 4:40 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to not be one of those chiropractor hating gals, until three in a row failed to recognize the signs of what later proved to be a completely ruptured disk. By that time I was losing function in my left leg and was in for surgery + two years of rehab.

Tingly fingers = possible disk problem. An x-ray won't show soft tissue damage; you need an MRI. Make an appointment NOW with a physiatrist. This is a medical doctor with the same general type of training (except much more advanced, obviously) as a physical therapist. He/she will do the proper tests, then refer you to whatever you need next--physical therapist, surgeon, etc.

Also, you might want to make detailed, written notes to yourself about everything the chiropractor did while it's fresh in your mind. Your lawyer might find this useful later on.
posted by Enroute at 4:47 PM on February 15, 2008

There are two styles of chiropractic techniques. Basically, a practitioner tends to gravitate toward the style that works best for them personally. So look closely at their body type. The small, slight weaklings tend to use low stress, low impact methods. The large football-player or smaller wrestler-physique people use a lot of very forceful manipulations. I've never done well with the big manipulations myself.

I'd recommend a Physical or Occupational Therapist, myself. I've never heard of the Egoscue Method, but have tried variations on the Postural Reconstruction method, derived from techniques taught by Fran├žoise Mezieres. There's probably an instructional video of me and my back floating around someplace :-).
posted by Araucaria at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2008

Chiropracters are good for some things, bad for others. I had one do very good work on my back for several years. I was surprised when his treatments started to seem ineffectual. Well, eventually I wound up at a real doctor and found I had a herniated spinal disc. The chiro treatments were just what I did not need.

Go see the doc in the white coat....
posted by zaelic at 4:59 PM on February 15, 2008

The plunger thing is to avoid actually doing the bone cracking thing on your neck. It's supposed to be safer. I mostly just like the sproingy sound they make.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:07 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Sounds like a herniated cervical disc was worsened by the high-velocity manipulation. It's probably crushing your C7 and C8 nerve roots, or maybe impinging on your spinal cord.

See a real doctor pronto. These type of symptoms can indicate an emergency that, left untreated, can lead to permanent paralysis.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:21 PM on February 15, 2008

The bone spurs, at the very least, can't be fixed by manipulation, and if you have a herniated disk that's causing the pinched nerves (like ikkyu2 said, on preview), you need a doctor. Go and get an MRI and a referral to a specialist.
posted by misha at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: I'm a grad student in neuroscience at a major hospital. My adviser is a MD PhD neurologist. Every week, there's a morning case conference where all the neurology attendings and residents get together and present all the new cases that have come in in the past week.

Every single week with little or no exception, one of those cases is someone who died or became a paraplegic due to the actions of a chiropractor.
posted by dmd at 5:37 PM on February 15, 2008 [43 favorites]

DO med student--go see one of us. We can do the manipulations, but also tell you exactly what this is and treat it (yes, we are real doctors, and can do more than an MD to treat things like this). It can lead to permanent problems if you don't get treatment now for it.
posted by uncballzer at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: OK, I'm so freaked. Are y'all serious? I was thinking I'd get an equal mix of "I swear by them" and "They are EVIL".

This can't be good.
posted by wafaa at 6:09 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Every single week with little or no exception, one of those cases is someone who died or became a paraplegic due to the actions of a chiropractor.

My father went into a permanent coma when his chiropractor squashed a cervical tumor that neither knew he had. His physician urged us to "go after" him (in court), but my mother was too emotionally distraught.
posted by davcoo at 6:09 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and any other advice on what I need to document/obtain would be much appreciated. Just in case...
posted by wafaa at 6:17 PM on February 15, 2008

I work for a chiropractor, and the guy you went to shouldn't have adjusted you at all if you have tingling in any extremities. I see people who come through the office with tingling and the chiropractor I work for doesn't adjust them until they've had an MRI, gone through some passive treatment to make the tingling stop. Then he adjusts them.

24 week Treatment plan? That may be good, does it include physical rehab or just adjustments with heat and the e-stem (electrode weird shit)? A good plan always includes rehab, otherwise you're going to end up right back where you started. As for the plunger thing, I'm not really sure what you're talking about. If you do go to a chiropractor again, ask around for a good one. Because there are a lot of weird ones out there.

I would go to another doctor and demand to get an MRI done. Tingling in the fingers is never good and you should have gone in a lot sooner. There are good chiropractors out there, the guy I work for is wonderful (having finally stopped the pain in my legs that no one else could manage to figure out). If you're ever in Austin, I'll hook you up.
posted by Attackpanda at 7:21 PM on February 15, 2008

By the way, do yourself a favour and get hold of Seven Steps to a Pain Free Life. I severely herniated a disk last February and although physio was helpful, McKenzie's book was what actually stopped me going mad from the pain, and gave me tools to prevent the whole thing happening again. It does sound like you may have a bulging or herniated cervical disk.

FWIW a year later I am fitter and more active than I was before the herniation but I do have to listen very carefully to the warning signs my body sends me now and then.
posted by unSane at 7:58 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Please don't assume every chiropractor is a quack. I've had two very good chiros, and one not good one. Honestly, I've had more "real" doctors that were quacks.

That said, you should see a doctor that you trust.
posted by Shecky at 11:24 PM on February 15, 2008

I tried the chiro thing as well. Turns out that no amount of manipulation is going to unherniate a disk or re-hydrate two. And they can't tell you those problems from an x-ray.

The D.O. thing is a good idea for the future. I have found osteopaths to be good physicians, and in my experience (YMMV) they are willing to take more time to figure out what really ails you. But for now, you need an orthopedist and an MRI, and fast.

Also seconding the idea of getting your films and records from the chiro, as well as writing down everything you can remember. He very well may have been extremely negligent, and if that's the case you need to go after him. Hopefully that will get your bills paid, but more importantly if he's indeed "treating" patients that he should not, he needs to be stopped. (While I am no medical expert, "disintegrated cervical spine" is something I would have serious second thoughts about someone twisting around without an expert opinion.)
posted by azpenguin at 11:36 PM on February 15, 2008

While not every chiropractor may not be "a quack," the system they're following is quacky for sure. See a real doctor.
posted by beerbajay at 1:14 AM on February 16, 2008

If I were you I'd stop immediately with this treatment. I once visited a chiropractor too, with lower back pains. She made it much worse. I'm glad I bailed out of her treatment program early. I'd go see a family doctor, and if her/his diagnosis doesn't satisfy you, get a second opinion from another doctor. But stay away from the chiropractor. Good luck!
posted by hz37 at 1:41 AM on February 16, 2008

Best answer: Today I went again and he explained my x-rays (disintegration of the lower cervical spine, bone spurs (?) upper thoracic, advanced arthritis).

Chiropractors are not trained to deal with disintegrating spines or arthritis. Get thee to a doctor or at least a physiotherapist.
posted by outlier at 2:10 AM on February 16, 2008

ALWAYS see a real doctor before considering 'alternative' or 'complementary' therapy.

They're not qualified to nor have the equipment to diagnose/rule out more serious problems that could affect your treatment. He might not be a quack, but he might have assumed that your visit was a last resort after ruling out any medical causes with your doctor, (in fact you may have signed something to that effect?)
posted by missmagenta at 3:55 AM on February 16, 2008

Best answer: Please don't ever go back to that chiropractor.

I worked for a chiropractor and I know all their tricks. He'll tell you all kinds of stuff is wrong with you that isn't, try to sell you hundreds of dollars worth of dubious "supplements", tell you you have to come in every week for the rest of your life...and that's when he's not busy making things worse for you than they already are.

Repeat after me: CHIROPRACTIC IS PSEUDOSCIENCE. The only thing they're good for is seperating innocent people from their hard-earned money.

People will say there are good chiropractors but every chiropractic magazine/journal I've ever seen is just tips on how to make more money. It's as if they're selling Avon, but it's completely inappropriate because they can end up killing people with their little business and have.

Go to a real doctor and don't look back.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2008

Best answer: Link of interest.
posted by The Deej at 12:13 PM on February 16, 2008

Best answer: I don't follow all the chiro-haters out there. I have a great chiro who's saved me a lot of pain in my neck and upper back. I see him when I can, and he helps keep everything in check.

I am a massage therapist myself (definitely not a doctor), and tingly fingers could mean impinged or entrapped nerves in the shoulder area. You don't say anything about your history, and whether you have any idea of what brought this on. If all the things that he claimed are going on with you, I imagine you'd have experienced a lot more pain and dysfunction than you're mentioning.

People talk about "real" doctors, but I've been to my share of overworked doctors who'd rather get you in and out of their office in as little time as possible, who want to write out a prescription to get you out of their hair. Which kind of health professional you see depends on whether your problem is structural (bones) or functional (muscles, tendons, soft tissue).
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:22 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You don't say anything about your history, and whether you have any idea of what brought this on.

I thought that maybe it came on after I hauled 6 plastic bags of groceries up to my third-floor apartment in one trip. I remember thinking "this can't be good for my body". The pain came on about a week later. If it is in the muscle, can massage therapy "untrap" the nerves in my shoulder?
posted by wafaa at 5:35 AM on February 17, 2008

Best answer: A week is a long time for such pain/discomfort to manifest itself. I would imagine that there are other contributing factors.

More info here on thoracic outlet syndrome.

Massage is a great thing, and I say that as someone who's gotten a lot of massage in the past few years, not because I do it for a living. Yes, massage can help with compressed nerves in what's called the thoracic outlet (i.e., the shoulder/base of the neck). However, I would never claim that massage, whether one session or twenty, would cure you, but really, how could it hurt? (This is where I expect to generate posts claiming that people are dying of massage, and that it's a racket. That's a joke, by the way.) At the very least, you'd feel more relaxed and less stressed in a general sense.

There are also a number of things you can be doing to try to open up the area, if that is indeed what's going on. Stretching, hot soaking (with epsom salts), evaluating your posture, strength training any weaker areas in your body, changing your sleeping position, not carrying six bags of groceries in one trip.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:08 PM on February 17, 2008

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