Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Not to Reassure a Cynic

As the black Santa Claus who worked at Macy's in December of 1990 can attest, I am an extremely skeptical person.

For the past several months I've been enduring chronic lower back pain. It's nothing close to a demon drilling into my eye, more along the lines of a troublesome imp kicking my lumbar. A gremlin rotating my spinal discs, or perhaps a lesser goblin operating a gondola service through my spinal canal.

The best treatment to chronic lower back pain,  people smarter than me say, is to see a Chiropractor. The cynic inside me was yelling "let me out, I have a family! I'll give you anything!" and also something about chiropractors not being medical doctors. As stubborn of a skeptic as I am, I'm open minded enough to try most anything at least once. Plus my insurance covers it.

My insurance provider's website tags chiropractors with "alternative medicine" - not a propitious start.
I felt a little off balance in the doctor's office. I never feel fully comfortable in any doctor's offices, and this is the office of a high-priest witch doctor (did I mention I'm skeptical?).

A jovial dark haired girl just a little north of plump greeted me and instructed me to take a seat and read three laminated pamphlets. I assumed it was to pass the time while the shaman spread incense through the exam room with his thurible. I browse through them. Pamphlet one: "'Chiro' comes from the Greek for…" Pamphlet 2: Even when you feel better you can't stop coming to the chiropractor because the underlying issue is probably still there, in fact, it's probably worse! You'll need to keep coming for the next 50 years or until you die, whichever happens last. Pamphlet 3: Look at all the crazy stuff that's caused by spinal issues! If anything bad ever happens to you, there's a 90% chance it's caused by your back. Digestive problems like diarrhea, heart problems, bad breath: all back issues. The family in the pictures seems awfully perky for a family so ravaged by ailments, and I'm pretty sure I've seen Dad there bicycling through a Valtrex commercial (herpes is a back problem).

The pamphlet librarian returns and leads me into a doctors office. She sits in the doctor's chair although her nametag, the photos in the office, and her general demeanor tell me she's not the doctor. She picks up the first pamphlet, holds it to her chest, and asks "what did you take away from this pamphlet?" I'll give you a minute with that.

Stunned, I inadvertently gave her a face that said I hadn't done my assigned reading. I took another moment and arrived at the correct answer: "yea, I'm not going to answer that."  She looked a little surprised; I really can't be the first person who decided they weren’t going to play this game. She regained her balance and paraphrased the pamphlet, pointing to the passages as she read as if I might not believe she was describing what was in the pamphlet.

Apparently my lack of participation was not a dissuader, because she picked up pamphlet 2. I considered  telling her she could skip the pamphlets and I'd tell the doctor she'd gone over them with me, but I could see she was committed. I relaxed a little, I'd let her go through the motions but she pressed even further. "Did you read this pamphlet?" Ohhh, that's how we're doing this. My mind begins to pull off it's press-on nails. "Yes, but I wasn't aware there was going to be a test." I sharpened my voice as much as I could, coated it with poisonous barbs, and lit it on fire. "Well, if there was, you'd fail! ::pause:: That was a joke, you can laugh!" I attempted to melt her face with my mind while she waited for the laugh I owed her. She paraphrased this pamphlet and took it up yet another notch:
"Can you read this passage here aloud?"
"Well, what is says is…"

I acknowledge that this was a missed opportunity. Had I been less annoyed I might have put my best idiot smile on and stumbled through the passage, mispronouncing words and sounding the long ones out with a determined squint.

Did I realize that things as small as diarrhea could be indicative of a back problem? She toned down the audience participation portion of the lesson, and my mind wandered. By the time she got into the third pamphlet I was fixated on the plastic spine she was using to demonstrate bone spurs. It was so cool, all I wanted to do was play with it. Did I see how the little rubber nerves were pinched when the spine turned this way? Yes, yes I did.

As soon as she stepped out I picked up one of the plastic spines and played with it, trying to find the mechanism for how it stayed together. I also played with the diseased spines and wondered which spine had that diarrhea she was so fond of.

The most ironic part of all of this is that they had made me sign a piece of paper saying they verbally reviewed my privacy rights with me, which they hadn't.

The rest of the visit was bland, the doctor was professional. He took some x-rays and didn't wear any manner of headdress or invoke his ancestor's spirits. So there's a good chance Chiropractic isn't voodoo, but I will say I never received the time-share sales pitch at a dentist's office. 

1 comment:

  1. I usually forestall such 'helpful lectures' with: 'I worked in healthcare for five years.' By which I mean: 'You cannot B.S. me, I know all the tricks, and I distrust doctors based on vast empirical evidence. Get me a nurse practitioner.'