There was no precise moment when I knew I'd injured myself, no gristly pop in the lumbar spine as I lifted weights or bent over to lace my boots. My back just twitched and complained in the most random moments, freezing me for a half-second with a blot of pain, and in typical orneriness I repaid it by working out harder. What it needed, I was certain, was to work through its weakness. I added more weight to my workout and grimaced my way through. By the time I knew I'd really messed something up in there, the symptoms were unambiguous.
I begged off working out, and when things didn't immediately heal up I began to get concerned. Back injuries are a hazard of my trade, and if I really had damaged myself, I had endangered my ability to earn a living. By now, getting out of bed was a complex and painful maneuver, in which I displayed about as much grace and coordination as a ventriloquist's dummy. Fortunately, I had some previously-scheduled time off to sort things out.
Lu suggested the chiropractor, and I scoffed. I was raised to have a healthy, skepticism for anything that smells faintly of hand-waving woo-woo non-science. Actually, I was raised to mock those things openly. There are some obvious signs of junk science I've learned to recognize. Any process which purports to eliminate some nonspecific "toxins," as if it zeros in on the foul humors of the body and magically spares all the good compounds, is almost certainly junk.
Chiropracty has always struck me as some legitimate physical therapy, crossed with a lot of cracking of joints, and buried under a snowdrift of pseudoscience. It seemed vaguely dangerous. Popping the nitrogen bubbles in the synovial fluid of joints produces a temporary satisfying sensation, but the forces required to do it to some regions of the body strike me as vaguely dangerous. So I scoffed at going, but she pointed out that I had only a medical co-pay to lose by trying it, and that I might actually consider trying it before scoffing.
I'm going to tip you off to the fact that this story does not end with me magically cured by a chiropractor. The point of this story is actually that I never learn.
Also, Lu is wrong. The best scoffing is done when one is totally uninformed, because that's when one is the most free.
Anyway, I went, and waited in the atmosphere of soft new age tinkling background music, and filled out so much paperwork that you'd think I was having a kidney removed. Some regular patients came in and chatted with the front desk staff, and the common theme of their banter was that they were so happy the doctor could see them on short notice because they needed a readjustment desperately. They sounded like addicts talking through the little window-in-a-door you see at the threshold of an opium den in the movies.
Then I went in. I figured I might as well put my cards on the table. I told the doctor that I wasn't entirely on board with this but was willing to give it a try under several conditions. I did not want any part of my body manipulated in any way that surprised me or could be called violent. I did not want to pop. I just wanted to see if she could help me begin to heal.
For someone whose entire medical specialty was just called into question, she reacted exceptionally well. She performed an exam and determined with some confidence that the problem was almost certainly muscular. In addition to some massage therapy, she said she would hook me to a machine that would stimulate the muscles, with the goal of producing overall relaxation of my back.
My wife had spoken highly of the electrical-stimulation machine. And hey, electricity is science, right?