I have never experienced a chiropractic adjustment before — and to be perfectly honest, I’m terrified.
My name is Megan Troutman and I am the marketing director at Advanced Healthcare. I have never experienced the full scope of chiropractic care, so as an employee, I was eager to receive exams and treatments as patients do, to better understand the practice. In this blog series, Meg from Marketing, I will be chronicling my first-time chiropractic experiences to improve the inner workings of my body — starting with my initial exam.
On the day of my first exam, I followed our chiropractic technician, Alyssa, into the exam room with my head held high. I have never had serious low back or neck pain, so I was ready to pass the range of motion tests and frame the x-ray of my perfect spine in my living room. Growing up, I never participated in sports. My passions involved the creative world of music and literature, so in general I was a pretty careful child.
When I was in elementary school, I remember sitting on the floor of my best friend’s bedroom. We were playing chef and her bunk bed was the Eiffel Tower. In a flash, she threw down her plastic croissant and announced she was going to climb the Eiffel Tower. I scoffed, telling her she couldn’t possibly climb the Eiffel Tower and it was probably against Parisian law. But being the rebel she was, she scaled the tower, reached for the unknowingly loose ball pin at the top of the bed frame, and came crashing down on top of her arm. I heard a snap, followed by silence, then her blood-curling scream. Sprinting out of the room, I ran for adult help, explaining in between tears that she never should have climbed the Eiffel Tower.
And in that moment, I decided I would live a careful, risk-free lifestyle.
Fast forward to today, where I have never had a race-to-the-hospital emergency, broken any bones or even been in a whiplash-inducing car accident (knock on wood). So you can see why I was confident going into my range of motion tests, having never climbed the Eiffel Tower.
Alyssa sat me down and we went over my medical history. The only thing I felt the need to point out was an odd bump on my foot that sometimes gives me grief when I work out. I had it x-rayed at my primary care facility a few months ago to see what it was, and the doctor said, “we don’t know what it is, but you’re fine.” So that was great.
Then Alyssa had me stand up for my range of motion tests. She placed a handheld device known as a digital inclinometer, a sort of “digital protractor,” at the base of my neck, and another on the top of my head. Standing tall, I showcased my owl-like neck rotations (cervical rotation), followed by my less-than-par hamstring flexibility (lumbar flexion and extension).
We did a few more tests until she uploaded the data and we moved to the computer to view the results. The digital inclinometer generated small graphs per movement, highlighting how the body’s natural degree of movement aligns with the test results.
To my surprise, I saw that my results favored the left side, as my right had less mobility. Specifically with the cervical rotation test, the average degree of movement is 80 degrees, but my right side measured 64, 16 short of the average.
Before jumping to any conclusions (like there was something fundamentally wrong with my body and my neck was probably falling apart at the seams), we left the exam room and walked across the hall to the x-ray room. I plopped down on the exam table while Alyssa took notes and Doctor Jenessa, our lead chiropractic adjusting doctor, completed a more thorough exam. She went through several motion tests including orthopedic, neurologic, motion palpation and static palpation. In other words, she poked and prodded at my joints and muscles to figure out what was functioning properly and what was dysfunctional.
While my ankle was being rotated in the air, Doctor Jenessa mumbled “first cuneiform and MTP” over her shoulder for Alyssa to scribble down in my file. Whatever it meant, it didn’t sound good.
Doctor Jenessa then told me that the body is like an iceberg. She can look at the surface and see various issues, like how my right hip was tighter than my left — but she would never be able to tell what was really going on until looking underwater (at the x-rays) to determine underlying issues.
After the exam, Alyssa took my x-rays. She had me stand in front of a mounted plate on the wall while the machine whirred behind me, snapping five images: two of my cervical spine (neck), one of my thoracic spine (in between the shoulder blades), and two of my lumbar spine and pelvis (low back and tailbone). Then we shuffled down the hall to Consult 1 where I sat, waiting for my results. I stared back at a poster of a little girl with braces, highlighting the wide range of patient ages who can benefit from chiropractic.
The door opened and Doctor Jenessa came in with my file and logged into the computer to pull up my x-rays. Now here is where things get interesting.
According to the first scan, my neck is not only an early casualty of “Tech Neck,” but is also recovering from whiplash. I wracked my brain to come up with a time I could have gotten whiplash. I was in a car accident last year, but it was a black ice slow-motion-sliding incident in Wisconsin’s dead of winter (my poor Toyota Corolla never had a chance in the Midwest). Doctor Jenessa said the accident was probably sometime in my childhood and could have been anything from a car accident to getting bucked off a horse.
Bingo. My brain flashed backward in time.
The year is 2002. I am six years old, on a family motor home trip in South Dakota. My grandparent’s motor home is set up in an old camping park that had both hookup sites and traditional Lakota teepees. There is also a dark swimming pool full of leaves and dead bugs that I probably will not swim in.
We left our camp for an afternoon to go horseback riding at a dude ranch nearby. I am excited to finally be old enough to ride my own horse. My horse’s name is Rudy.
In the middle of our ride, my horse tried to eat grass, which apparently was the worst thing that could happen. So I yanked at the reins, only to have Rudy step backward into my dad’s horse, who then bit Rudy’s butt and the rest is history — one minute I was on the horse, and the next I was on my tailbone in shock.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, may be the source of my cervical spine issues today.
But that’s not the only thing Doctor Jenessa caught in my x-rays. In the pelvis image, she determined that I have a tilted and rotated pelvis, which can stem from an injury and can cause back pain and muscle stiffness.
Again, I blame Rudy.
Doctor Jenessa also told me that a tilted and rotated pelvis can lead to an imbalance in my legs, hips, low back and pretty much everywhere else. She even told me the nerves in my low back are what control everything from my hips to my toes; and the nerves in my mid-back control my lungs, heart, stomach and everything else that keeps me functioning. Basically, you want to protect the nerves in your back with your life.
We then discussed the treatment plan to get my cervical spine and pelvis back on track, including weekly adjustments, which is something I’m nervous to experience for the first time. It was overwhelming but also nice to know I can start resolving these issues early in life before symptoms appear.
Long story short, even if you have never climbed the Eiffel Tower, I would highly recommend checking out your spine.
Welcome to Meg from Marketing, a blog chronicling first-time chiropractic experiences to improve the inner workings of the body. Check out next week’s blog where Megan starts treatment and realizes she should have been stretching a long time ago.