Crack your bones

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Since early in this pregnancy, I've had trouble with my pelvic bones. There's a pregnancy hormone, relaxin, that makes your ligaments loosen up so that your bones can move more freely (which is why people suddenly start freaking out when you try to lift anything heavier than your average novel); it's a good thing, because your pelvic bones are supposed to have some give to allow for passage of the baby at birth time.

In my case (not that I'm alone here), relaxin hit early and with a vengeance. Around 14 weeks, I started having pretty intense tailbone pain whenever I sat down. It was very much like I'd fallen and hit my tailbone really hard - I've done that. But I hadn't when this pain started. As it turns out, the loose ligaments destabilized my pelvis enough that my tailbone had rotated inward, and the other pelvic bones (the sacra and the ilia in particular, since that's what I sit on) were all out of position, not supporting good positioning of... well, anything else.

Like Eddie Izzard, I am somewhat skeptical of the chiropractic-care-for-everything claims that get thrown around. ("You've got diphtheria! I'm gonna crack your bones.") I can understand how it's relevant for some things that aren't directly "bony" problems - after I fractured a vertebra in my neck in 8th grade, I had really awful headaches from muscles that tightened up to compensate for the weak and wobbly bones.

But unstable, misaligned bones to begin with? That's classic chiropractor material. So off to the chiropractor I went, and I described what was going on. And he dug my tailbone back out to where it was supposed to be, and I felt better. (Mostly; my chiropractor is pretty brutal, but in exchange for some pain I wind up actually seeing results in the short term.)

Because my bones are (due to the aforementioned hormone relaxin) unstable in general, I've continued seeing the chiropractor for adjustments for the last four months. He's pretty great, for a number of reasons. Chief among them is his inclination to educate. He's taught me how to sit better, stand better, lie down better; how to exercise and strengthen muscles that are used for balance rather than heavy lifting; and how to self-heal problems as they arise using simple movements, moderate pressure, and rest.

But his methods of practice also make it very obvious where the value of chiropractic lies. Last year, due to pain in my foot, I saw a podiatrist. I told him that when I walked, I'd get intense pain through the midfoot, along the back of my heel, and various places in my ankle. He examined my foot, took some x-rays, and determined... that there was nothing wrong with my foot. No broken bones, anyway.

I started having similar problems again here in San Francisco; problems with this foot have been fairly consistent, if a bit periodic, ever since I dropped a heavy piece of furniture on it in 2000. It's gotten particularly bad in the last month, noticeable when I walked sometimes but really screaming bad when I try to take off the opposite shoe using the toe of the bad foot. I described to my chiropractor what hurt, where, how, and when. And he examined my foot and determined that three of the twenty-odd bones in it were jammed or misaligned. Cue the cracking of bones, followed by a vigorous (and really painful) beating on a muscle in my calf that wasn't helping the situation any. And now when I walk, I'm surprised when it doesn't hurt.

It's a circuitous way of making the point, but here it is: chiropractic seems to see my body as a dynamic system, made to be in motion, while other medical disciplines I've encountered seem more focused on my body as a static system. As a consequence of seeing a chiropractor, then, I've become much more interested in the way my body moves, and the ways I can introduce or prevent introducing dysfunction into it.

I still don't know that chiropractic care would do anything for diphtheria, but if you find that body motions (rather than body parts) are painful, a recommendation to see a chiropractor would likely be the first thing out of my mouth. If you're in San Francisco and can get to Bernal Heights easily, I wholeheartedly recommend Dr. Colin Phipps.

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This page contains a single entry by Erica published on January 7, 2011 8:37 PM.

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