Having been a perfectly fit and healthy 26-year-old I was suddenly struck at the beginning of this year by terrible back pain which over the course of a couple of months spread to other joins - neck, hips, ankles etc. I tried several different GP's who could offer no advice whatsoever (see separate review of NHS!), but by mid-April was pretty desperate to find someone who'd take it seriously.
I've always been very open to treatments which are beyond the 'norm', so trying a chiropractor wasn't any problem for me, though I know a lot of people are sceptical.
There are many chiropractic clinics around, and some are inevitably better than others. I chose mine as it was recommended by a friend; the chiropractor was well-qualified and registered, so I felt I was in safe and knowledgeable hands.
I initially attended for a 45 minute assessment in which the chiropractor did much prodding and poking around, as well as measuring my movement ability - for example, neck rotation (then only about 30 degrees) etc. It was all very thorough, and she took plenty of time to get to know me and understand holistically where I was in terms of my medical needs. Whilst prices vary, the cost of this initial assessment was £62, though I have seen them advertised for as little as £40. The chiropractor indicated I needed a couple of x-rays doing (another £70) and for this I had to travel to the sister clinic in the next town where they had the facilities to do these on-site.
After the initial assessments had taken place, the treatment began, initially twice-weekly, with this reducing to weekly visits after a month, and then 10 days between sessions etc. The cost of the sessions was £32 each for 15 minutes, so it's not cheap. As I said previously there's great variation in the fees charged, though I've never seen anyone offering treatment for under £30. Some clinics do offer discount schemes where you pay for so many treatments up front.
The treatment varied, but in general consisted of a tension-relieving massage followed by manipulation of the back and neck. I can see that some people might be quite frightened of the latter as there is much popping and clicking, particularly in the neck which gets 'snapped' to one side then the other. It didn't bother me, and although she tried to distract me when she did it, I wouldn't have minded, and in the end, told her not to bother distracting me!
This particular chiropractor also used acupuncture, though this was optional. To be honest, you don't really feel anything except a tiny tiny scratch when the needle goes in, but nothing like having a needle stuck in your arm to get blood out!
After nearly six months, I've noticed an enormous improvement in mobility. She reminded me the other day that when I first went the pain was 8/10 on an almost constant basis; now it's just 3/10 some days, and zero on other days. The rotation of my neck has increased from a painful 30 degrees, to almost the full 90 degrees which is an enormous improvement.
I think that often people don't stick at it - it's not a quick fix by any means, and you have to keep going regularly so that the chiropractor can plan treatment effectively. In the early stages, if I missed a session, or ended up going longer than the recommended time, I'd really notice a difference - definitely a backward step.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that it's not cheap, but then with the NHS offering noting tangible apart from pills for seasickness, one doesn't have any other options!
Imagine this if you will.....
You're cutting up tomatoes and th knife slips, nicking the tip of your finger and it starts to bleed..... you stem the bleeding, maybe put a plaster on it and carry on regardless....
After a few days, what has happened to your cut, the bleeding has stopped, and the skin is pulling back together and the cut is healing.
Did you tell it to do that? Did you say to your finger whilst putting a plaster on, "now you heal in 4 days, and I'll treat you to a new cream".... No.
Why not? Because you dont need to. The human body has this wonderful ability know as innate intelligence, the ability to heal itself from within.
Theese innate intelligence messages are sent from the brain, down through the spinal cord out through the nerves to all the organs and body parts. When there is an interference in these messages being received, it can cause pain sickness and disease.
So what could cause this interference? Whats stopping my body from healing? Quite simply it's restraints in the spine, slowing down or cutting off the flow of nerve messages. This is what chiropractors refer to as subluxations.
The chiropractors root principle is to restore this flow of nerve energy, not to heal you but to allow the body to heal itself.
Chiropractic is the largest drug free profession in the world!
Headaches are not caused by a lack of paracetamol in the body, and back pain is not caused by a delay in an epidural injection.
Pain is often the last symptom of a bigger problem. Yet we only begin to pay attention to our bodies when its flags up these warning signs that things have gone on too long!
So in my opinion I believe we should be treating our bodies to heal itself, removing the blockages to the messages so we can do what we are intended to do, and that is to live well.
I only wish all Dr's prescribed to the Wellness Movement, where the cause of the problem is corrected, and not patched over with drugs. I wish we could teach our children that putting foreign toxins into the body in the way of painkillers and medicatiion is not what we should aim for to improve our lives. I wish we could each take responsibility, and stand up to the government and the Nationa Sickcare Service, and say No, I want to be healthy, and I want to live well, I dont want to be "patched up" and sent on my way.
Now my experience of chiropractic is still new, and I'm just starting on my journey toward wellness after having a thorough exam and x-rays, which I saw in great detail, and had lengthy discussion with my Dr about. To look at me I thought hey no problems here, Im not in pain, I feel ok. But why do we measure our health by how we feel? It should be based on how we are functionning. Optimal health is optimal function. Its as simple as that.
I had postural photographs taken, and my weight distribution calculated. I carry over 1st more on my right than my left, explaining a constant ache in my right now that I have had since my teens!All that extra weight!!
Now my x-rays should a lot, my spine was not straight when looking at it front on, in fact it curve off to the right, and then I had been trying to compensate by starting to lean over to the left, so I had 2 curves when there shouldnt be any! This was further demonstrated on my postural photographs where I could clearly seen I lean to the right!
The great thing was (well I say great) I was at levels 1-2, and so it could be corrected. I had my first adjustment that day, and yes I heard a noise, but it wasnt a cracking, popping or any other crazy sound people seem to think that you will lear at a chiropractors. As the Dr explained to me, its actually just a release of trapped air in the areas of subluxation, and they shouldnt be there, so the noise is simply the sound of pushing that air out.
It didnt hurt at all and was done within 3 minutes, so noone in this life has any excuse for not taking care of their spine... even the busiest people in life can spare 3 minutes, twice a week.....
You've only got one spine, take care of it, and it will take care of you xx
Following from AJ's comment (thanks AJ), I hadnt discussed my fee because where I've gone it is all dependant on the individual. My examination fee,consultation and any necessary x-rays were just £45, and then the Dr has analysed my results and produced a care plan specific to my situation. I didn't want to list my fee was just shy of £1.5k in case others go and due to their spinal degeneration they are paying upward of £5k!
But from my own personal point of view I would gladly pay the price because of what I am getting for that fee, but it will all be dependant on the chiropratic office you visit.
Some chiropractors work in a slightly different way to where I am going, as I am on a monthly payment scheme, others charge per visit. The important thing is that you find somewhere who aren't hard sellers, work with the body to achieve correction and maintainence, rather than patch up jobs...
The important thing for me was that there wasnt just a standard price for care, I am treated as a complete individual, even down to the days and times of my adjustments!
Thanks for the comment AJ and I hope this addition to my review helps
One of the most debilitating pains you can have is back pain, be it either a nagging ache that never seems to go away or a sharp pain when you try to do the normal things in life. I am not sure that it is accurate to describe Chiropractors as being alternative therapists these days as they are becoming more and more acceptable and many private health insurance companies will pay for treatment by a Chiropractor.
I first came across them over twenty years ago. My then husband was a professional squash player and one day during a particularly challenging match he 'put his back out' and was unable to straighten up properly after a drop shot! As always happens on these occasions there were numerous people in the changing rooms only too willing to offer advice and one of them suggested he went to a local Chiropractor. He analysed the options and figured as his GP was likely to advise him to rest for a couple of weeks, which as he was self employed he couldn't afford to do, and which would put him out of action he reasoned he had little to lose by trying the Chiropractor. The outcome was amazing - his pain went away and he was playing in a competitive match the following day which he won!
Basically a Chiropractor specialises in treating problems related to the spine. Because the central nervous system travels through the spinal cord which runs down the centre of the spine there can be problems which appear to relate to other parts of the body which are actually rooted in the spine. Chiropractors focus on the links between the spine and nervous system. Corrections of spinal imbalance are believed to help restore the nervous system and improve internal organ function.
The first time you see a chiropractor you should expect to be there for about an hour as they will need to take a full history and perform a physical examination. Reflexes may be tested with a reflex hammer, and blood pressure may be measured. Some chiropractors also use X-rays and other conventional medical tests to help them make a diagnosis. Later sessions will usually take about 30 minutes. The number of treatments you will need will depend on the problem. Personally I am a firm believer that the earlier you go for treatment the quicker the problem can get resolved. The bones of the spine all interlock and if one or more goes slightly out of alignment you will experience pain, I believe that the longer they are out of alignment the longer it will take to get them to stay in realignment so if I feel the need for treatment I go as soon as I possibly can and it has worked for me.
Treatment is usually carried out with the patient lying down. The practices I have visited generally have a couch for you to lie on for treatment. At one practice I just had to stand on a footplate, lean back on to the bed which has been made vertical and relax whilst the practitioner moved it into the horizontal - thus I didn't even have to climb on to the couch! The couches are usually sectional so that the chiropractor can move one section out of the way if necessary to get better access to a part of your back. Chiropractors mainly use a manipulative technique on the spinal column and pelvic area. These are designed to realign and mobilise the spine, and may result in an audible sound - a clicking similar to knuckles being stretched.
About six months after my husband had been for treatment I put my neck out and started to experience stiffness and pain in my neck and shoulders. I went to the same chiropractor my husband had visited and outlined the problem but also said I was worried that the treatment would be painful. He explained to me that my spine was slightly out of alignment at the top and that he could put it back into alignment if I wanted without the necessity for me to experience pain. To my surprise that is exactly what he did, I lay on his couch, he took my head gently between his hands and rotated it. There was no pain or discomfort just relief of my pain. He explained that many patients like the satisfying 'click' when the bones realign but if I didn't want that then I merely needed to advise them of that and they could gently achieve the same aim!
Since then I have visited them occasionally from time to time either for my neck problem or for a problem with my sacroiliac joint (where the pelvis meets the spine). I was given an exercise by them for the latter problem which enables me to relax and open up the joint (especially useful before a squash match) which has meant that the problem has not recurred.
There is a theory expressed from time to time that this sort of treatment is effective only in the mind of the recipient and so I shall relate a tale where this was clearly not the case. Some years ago we used to breed Great Danes and had a problem with one who developed a limp and restricted movement. We took her to the vet and an x-ray revealed a small sliver of bone had detached from an area at the end of one of the long bones in her leg so our vet referred us to a Doncaster vet who specialised in treating racing greyhounds. At the consultation the vet advised us that the sliver of bone was in fact something of a red herring - the problem our dog had was that her spine was out of alignment which was what was causing her problem. He felt that the movement problem may have caused her to chip the bone but that the bone fragment was not a significant factor. We must have looked surprised because he then decided to give us a demonstration to illustrate that it was a spinal alignment issue. He turned her head to one side and as he did so she lifted up one front leg, he turned her head to the other side and she lifted up the other leg. He explained that normally this would not happen but that it only did so because of a spinal problem. She was anaesthetised and he proceeded to manipulate her spine gently clicking all of the bones back into place. When she came around from the anaesthetic she was like a different dog, her movement was free and easy and she was able to jump back into our van without help whereas previously she had need assistance. She needed no further treatment and was fine thereafter - this sealed my conviction that manipulation can work effectively.
It is quite possible for Chiropractors to treat long standing problems but they are likely to take a longer time and more treatment to resolve and you will be unlikely to get the instant relief which I have had. I believe that they are most effective if you visit soon after you recognise the problem. The best way to find a good Chiropractor in your area is by recommendation and one of the best sources of recommendation is sports people who are likely to have had a need for the service from time to time. It is worth noting who gets the thumbs up locally so that if you do ever have a problem you will have a good idea where to go. In my area treatment costs around £25 per session with the initial 'double session' when you first register costing twice as much.
As you will have gathered I am a great advocate of Chiropractic treatment - it has worked for me and would be my first port of call for any spinal problem. Treatment does not have to be painful and has proved very effective for me and my family.
© Laramax 2007
So what do you do when you have been suffering from a bad back for ten years, to no avail, I guess most of us would keep trying to find something which will prevent another relapse, which is exactly what I have been doing. It is no exaggeration to say that following a car accident at 17, I have episodes of excruciating and immobilizing back pain. Anyone who has been through this will know the pattern, everything is fine for months, then out of the blue a slight twinge which turns into oh no I really can't move. Well I am pleased to say after trying every pill and potion, every therapy from the long established medical solution to alternative solutions to no avail. Regular as clockwork every March, May and October comes a week unable to move. That was until two years ago when I first tried Chiropractors, after a reluctant stubborn me came across a desperate attempt by my boyfriend to get me fixed once and for all. Some of you reading this will be exactly the same as me, who having tried everything has got to the stage where you believe there is no solution, but all I can say is read on and try it, it worked for me so it may well work for you.
Who should try them?
Anyone who has problems with knees, back or neck, however minor. They also recommend that people with headaches should try them out, as this can also be due to a nervous system problem and as they work on re-aligning your body through checking your nervous system this may well provide a solution.
What will they do to me?
Each Chiropractor will initially require a diagnostic initial appointment before beginning any form of treatment. This generally seems to entail a 30-40 minute appointment where the chiropractor will take you through a process of questions and answers to establish the case history. They are likely to ask anything from when you think the problem started, to where you generally feel the pain to what kind of food you eat and exercise you do. At this appointment the Chiropractor is trying to establish all of your history along with working out who you are. Part of this initial appointment will also entail a physical examination where you are requested to stand while they take notes as to your physical alignment. Now, I have heard rumours that at this point you are requested to strip to your underwear, however in my case this was not true, and to be honest if you are requested I wouldn't panic its not something untoward (they are at this point trying to establish your alignment), but if you don't feel comfortable then just request that you stay dressed. At this stage most Chiropractors will also take an x ray (unless you are pregnant) but again if you don't really agree with being x rayed its something you can opt out of and isn't vital for diagnostic but is an aid.
By the time you leave this initial appointment, the Chiropractor will have made full notes of your own particular situation and will have already made a form of diagnostic as to how to treat you. The majority of Chiropractors will not start any treatment at this point, but wait until your next appointment.
All appointments following this one will entail treatment and will lead a similar path. When you come in the chiropractor asks how you are if you have any changes since they last saw you then ask you to lie down on their bed. The bed is similar to a massage bed, with a paper towel laid over for hygiene and hole cut for your face to ensure that you are lying completely flat.
Initially you will be asked to lie on your back and told to relax. The chiropractor then asks you to raise your arm and push against his as it tries to lower your arm. This is an important part of their diagnostic so it is vital that you do continually try to push against their force. While you are pushing against their force the chiropractor is pressing gently on different pressure points throughout your body. Each time they press a point which is corresponding with an area which needs their attention regardless of how hard you try, believe me your arm will drop. It really is the strangest sensation! This is all working on their theory that the nervous system reflects where problems with alignment are in your body. Once they have found the problem areas, they work on fixing the problem.
Following this the treatment begins, which regardless of how I try to describe I'm sure it will sound much more horrific than how it actually feels. You lie on your back and relax, the chiropractor then takes a hold of a part of you and asks you to breathe in and as you breathe out they put their bodyweight onto that area and you will feel (and sometimes hear) a click. Believe me there is no pain, it is actually quite relaxing in a strange way!.
After working your way around your body with exactly the same format, you are free to leave. After every appointment you are generally advised to take a short walk around the block to 'set' the re-alignment they have carried out.
I have to admit the most alarming part of the process has to be when they are working on your neck, probably because its such a vulnerable part of your body which can rarely be repaired if it is broken! Although my problem has always been my lower back, I often having a dull ache in my neck, which is what the Chiropractor has been working on alongside. To re-align your neck and head the chiropractor takes hold of your head and puts it to one side, and again as you breathe out your head is moved quickly to the other side, producing a further click. For me this gives an instant feeling of aaaaaah, if any of you meditate then it is exactly like the moment when all of your muscles have relaxed and suddenly you realise how tense they were before you relaxed them!
How often do I need to go?
Well this will very much depend on your personal condition. For me, who had a reoccurring problem the process was repeated frequently, but for those with smaller problems the pattern is repeated, but at a lower frequency. It works on the premise of re-educating your body to align in a way we would have prior to establishing bad posture or an ailment. Generally, as initially the body needs re-educating you are required to attend frequently, in my case three times a week for 15 minutes. Lessening to once every six months which is the stage I am now at.
Can I trust them / How do I find a Chiropractor?
Yes they can be trusted in the same way as any other profession can. Since 14th June 2001 all who are working under the name of Chiropractor are legally obliged to be registered under the General Chiropractic Council. Prior to this time, anyone could work or call themselves a Chiropractor. Today, anyone working within the UK, must be registered, and if anyone is working without registration it is now a criminal offence. Therefore, before making an appointment it is easy to make a quick check that they are registered under the General Chiropractic Council, if they are then they are regulated, and as such will have all necessary qualifications. They are also obliged to follow the GCC's Standard of Safe Practice, which covers the standard for proficiency in chiropractic, professional obligations of the chiropractor, clinical assessments and guidelines for treatment. The document is brilliant to read if you are thinking of trying a chiropractor or indeed if you have reason to believe that a chiropractor is not abiding by the rules of their profession. If you do have reason for complaint, then the GCC have their own complaints procedure which enables any complaint to be taken forward and dealt with through their system, which can ultimately lead to the guilty chiropractor being struck off the register and therefore unable to practice. For more information regarding the General Chiropractic Council there is a wealth to be found on www.gcc-uk.org
How much does this cost?
Now I'm not going to pretend that this is a bargain solution, but as it works (and for me it's the only thing after 10 years to work) it is worth the money. It is not available on the NHS, so any associated costs are yours to bear. Initially the investment is high, as the appointments seem to average out at £20-25 per session while you are visiting 3 times a week it is expensive but once you are down to once every six months then the relative cost is low.
The last thing I will warn you about is that initially after the first few appointments it might feel like you are getting worse. But in actual fact you are getting better, it just seems to bring pain to the surface initially, so don't worry.
So my advice is if you are having problems try it, although it sounds like a fairytale world it worked for me so it may well work for you. I can honestly say that after trying so many things this has been the only thing that has worked. For two years I have had no pain, after having attacks frequently.
I was not born a cynic, it took years of practise to perfect my techniques. For years I have suffered headaches, they got that bad that I was referred to the Hospital (brain scans etc). Eventually I was told that they could find nothing wrong, although this put my mind at ease it did not stop the headaches. A friend suggested that I try a Chiropractor, well as nothing else had worked I decided to give it a go. Now £25 a sessioon was not my idea of fun and I did not expect miracles, even so I still decide to try. Oh the sheer fun of my first session, hearing my bones cracking, I was wondering if my head would fall off. I ended up having more than 10 sessions over a period of time. The Headaches??? Yep I still get them, I guess I always will. Although a couple of Paracetamol normally subdues them. Now would I recommend a Chiropractor, well yes. I had also had a bad back over the years, although I did not go for that reason. I was asked by the Chiropractor if I had any problems with my lower back as the spine there did not appear to be normal (don't ask me). Yes I have had backache for years and this was cured by the manipulation that I received. So my original reason for going is still with me but at least I do not get the backaches that I did. Since that time I have heard that Chiropractors are now available on the national health, so it is always worth asking your GP.
To any one who is experiencing pain in their joints, spine etc I would highly recommend a course of treatment by a qualified Chiropractor. I would also recommend that you either ask your GP or ask around your friends for a recommendation. In my experience there are quite a few Chiropractors who do not work for everybody but when you find one that does it is so well worth it. I would like to tell you my story. In my teens I went to the Dr with what I thought was a tummy bug, he noticed that my neck was stiff and following some prodding and poking decided that I had slipped a disc in my neck, this apparently was what was causing the nausea. Anyway I had some x-rays, physio and eventually saw a chiropractor. The treatment that I had at the chiropractor seemed to work quite well although it appeared to be quite brutal but did not hurt. I moved out of the area and tried to find a new chiropractor that was as good as my last but to no avail. By my late 20s I was getting a lot of pain and due to my damaged disc this was having knock on effects through my whole body. Eventually I was sent by my Dr to see a spinal surgeon who decided that my options were medication for the pain, neck surgery which he wanted to use as a last resort and treatment by a good chiropractor. Luckily he was able to refer me to a chiropractor and I was willing to try anything because my life was being very effected and yet I did not fancy the idea of surgery. Unfortunately I had to pay for my Chiropractor as he was not on the NHS however I do not regret a penny even though at some times it was money that I could have used elsewhere. My treatments cost about £25.00 per visit after the initial consultation which was a bit more. To start with I had weekly visits but within a month I was feeling so much better, a lot of the pain was gone and I did not feel nearly as stiff. After a couple of months my visits went to monthly and after about a year to every th
ree months, I still go every three months. The treatment seems quite violent sometimes as it involves a lot of weird movements however I would say that it does not hurt but it does take some getting used to the first couple of times. However the best thing of all is that for me – IT WORKED – I am now pain free and have a lovely daughter which I would never have contemplated before. Even during pregnancy I was find. I used to end up in a collar at least every couple of months, now I don’t even remember what one looks like, I do still get the odd stiff and painful neck but this is more likely to be every once every 6 months or so and it is no way as severe as it used to be and goes on its own within a couple of days. The chiropractor has really changed my life for the better and I would strongly recommend one to anyone with neck or spinal problems, I have infact referred a friend who had been told by his Dr that he may have to give up his job, he went and also is delighted, he is still doing his old job and also is nearly pain free. Unfortunately the chiropractor that I used to see in Manchester emigrated and I also left the area however I have found a new one who seems quite good as well however she has an easier job now because I am so much better thanks to my previous chiropractor. If you do have a spinal or neck problem please give a chiropractor a chance however please make sure that a friend or your GP refers you to someone known to them.