Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hooked on Crack

As you may have surmised from the title of this post, I've started going to a chiropractor recently: Dr. Shawn "The Spine Man" Stephenson of Stephenson Chiropractic in Los Altos. I've only had a few visits so far, but I'm already more than happy to give him a glowing recommendation, if any of you in the area are looking for a good chiropractor. I particularly like that he is very focused on patient education, really making sure that everything is explained and understood, which is great because I always ask a bunch of questions anyway. He's also just a generally wonderful, nice, funny guy. And everyone else I've seen in his office so far seems absolutely delighted to be there having him work on them, including the lady who was getting put back into shape after a car accident. Plus Mom's been seeing him for several months now as well, and she raves about him too. So what more do you need? :-)

As for what I'm doing there, I had considered going in to see him a few weeks ago, when my back was stiff and sore from hiking around Ireland and taking long plane flights. But I got busy and distracted, and then got back to feeling normal on my own before I actually got around to doing anything about it. Then last week I had a very bizarre experience, where I was woken up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night by a surprisingly sharp pain in my back. Completely random as far as I can tell, unless I was lifting heavy objects in my dream or something. It gradually faded over the next few days, but not before it had worried me enough to want to get checked out. So I did, and I got some x-rays and had Dr. Shawn poke around at my spine for a bit.

Turns out I'm in a situation fairly common among people who have spent a great deal of their lives reading, drawing, hunching over keyboards, and things like that. (Dancing is probably my one hobby that tries to counteract all this bad posture, but it's outnumbered, I'm afraid.) As a result of this, an x-ray shows that my neck has lost about 58% of the curve it's supposed to have, putting my head about an inch too far forward, which adds an extra 20 lbs of pressure to the muscles in my back and shoulders. The particular pain that brought me in was probably just caused by something very small that just happened to come at the wrong time, on top of my back's general out-of-shape-ness, and bumping it into a painful state for a bit. So while it did let me off easy this time, eventually fading on its own, its main function was as a warning flag. After a couple visits with Dr. Shawn, I decided it was probably a good idea to heed that flag and get this taken care of.

So I'm going in a few times a week now, to enjoy a few minutes of manhandling, spine crunching and getting coaxed into shape. It's very satisfying to have that done by someone who's so good at it. I'm also trying to break my habit of cracking my own back and neck, so I don't mess with any of the work he's doing. Apparently back cracking releases endorphins and such, which your body likes, so I guess it's as much a substance addiction as a plain old habit. But Dr. Shawn is going to be my main supplier of those chemicals now, so I'm practicing resisting the urges.

It'll probably take a while to notice any significant changes, but there are interesting things to observe even at this stage. After the last couple adjustments, I've actually noticed myself breathing a little differently. I don't normally have any trouble breathing, but my breath just felt a little clearer and more open for a little while. I'm also being much more conscious of my posture and precisely how unergonomic I am a lot of the time. As a musician and a computer person, I've spent a lot of time making sure things are ergonomic for my hands, and a lot less time thinking about my neck and back. So there's something to start focusing on more now.


dancing dragon said...

Hi Graham,

I believe this is my first comment/delurk on your blog. Your observation on breathing more openly after the chiropractic treatment is very interesting. I've been noticing a similar thing, when I feel a particular muscle along my spine or even other places in my body loosen, I feel my rib cage is able to expand more in all directions. In addition, I noticed that my arms were swinging more, my legs were swinging out to take longer strides, and my whole torso was more flexible.

Noticing all the dimensions of movement is quite interesting, as is noticing that muscles and tissues all over the body are connected. I was planning on blogging about this in more depth at some point when I gather all my observations. It was neat to see someone make a similar observation!

Tandava said...

This is indeed a delurking occasion, so welcome, and thanks for your comment. I've been trying to absorb a lot of information as well as treatment from Dr. Shawn, and it really is fascinating just because of the increased awareness of how I move and hold my body, especially as a dancer. I expect I'll probably write some more about that once I've spent a while longer mixing regular chiropractor visits with dancing. I'll look forward to hearing more of your thoughts as well, whenever you get them put together and blogged.