Back in August I attended Instructor Appreciation Night at my local Athleta store. They provided healthy snacks, a goodie bag, first glimpse at their new fall line, crowd-free shopping at a discount (I bought the “Cuteness Skort” skort in purple), and coupons to share with our participants. Also on site were reps from a local office offering a free chiropractic assessment and a half-hour massage.
For as long as I can remember, my body has often sounded like a bowl of rice krispies in milk. I’ve even apologized to participants sitting near me in yoga class because I assume the sound of my hip popping or my neck cracking must be distracting if not disturbing.
Add to that getting hit by a car while cycling–twice over the past fifteen odd years–daily punishment from teaching high-impact and weight-bearing fitness classes at the gym, and a free checkup seemed like a good idea. When I realized that one of my best friends, Kim, actually works in that same chiropractic office, I booked an appointment on the spot!
Apparently, getting evaluated by a chiropractor involves more than someone feeling your back. When I first arrived, I was asked to fill out a lengthy health questionnaire and then watch a short video about chiropractic. The video discussed the theory behind the practice: that spinal dysfunction can lie at the root of a whole host of ailments (everything from headaches to allergies); it didn’t mention that the inventor of chiropractic was a grocery store owner and magnetic healer named D. D. Palmer. The video and supplementary handouts contained some gruesome illustrations of spinal subluxation and deterioration; they didn’t mention the fact that spinal subluxation is not necessarily detectable by xray nor has any study been able to prove that there is a relationship between subluxation and disease. In fact, studies have reached quite the opposite conclusion.
So why does it feel so good when to pop a hip, neck, back, or even sternum? Why do people love cracking their knuckles? I’ve always heard that knuckle pops and back cracks are basically “joint farts.” Apparently, when you stretch your knuckles or other joints, the gasses dissolved in synovial fluid form bubbles and eventually burst and cause the “pop.” The surrounding muscles relax as a result of this process, which leads to that feeling of relief. If you want to read more about the whole process (which also reassures you that you aren’t inviting arthritis by cracking your joints), check out this article from HowStuffWorks: What Makes Your Knuckes Pop?
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m actually pretty glad that studies don’t wholly support the subluxation theory. It just strikes me as a pretty bad design flaw if a slight shift in our spines could bring on an onslaught of degenerative wear and disease. Imagine our paleolithic ancestors saying, “Oh sorry, guys, I can’t join the bison hunt today now because I threw out my back working on that cave painting yesterday,” and suddenly our survival as a species seems improbable.
So armed with an arsenal of skepticism, I watched the video, received further information from a “Patient Educator,” stood on two scales so they could measure how I balanced my weight, got my posture photographed for evaluation, and had each vertebra examined by the doctor. I was told at the end of the session to schedule a follow-up, when I would receive the results of my evaluation and a game plan (and could schedule my free massage).
Check back soon to find out what I was told and how I reacted.