Being a chiropractor is a very physically demanding job; especially if you do more than just adjust, like soft tissue work, taping, etc. Not only are you moving and positioning people all day, but you also put yourself into awkward and unnatural positions to treat your patients. For example, if I am treating a patient for plantar fasciitis, you’ll often times find me crouched on the floor with an instrument wedged under the patient’s foot while they perform calf raises. Another example is when I am adjusting patients larger than myself. Granted, I’m not a small woman by any stretch of the imagination…I’m 6’0 tall for crying out loud, but I do have several patients that are difficult for me to maneuver into proper adjusting positions. So it goes without saying that it is not uncommon for chiropractors to get injured themselves. And as a habitually accident prone person, I have had my fair share of injuries in and out of the office. Here is the story of my most recent chiropractic-related injury and recovery.
It was a sunny Tuesday morning here at Pro Chiropractic and I was the only doctor working in the Bozeman office. I had just completed the adjustment on my first patient of the day and was assisting that patient into the regainer chair to help restore her natural cervical curvature. As I bent forward to tighten the tension on the chair, I felt a very sharp pain on the right side of me lower back; so sharp and severe that my right knee buckled beneath me. I stood up very slowly and assessed my condition. It was next to impossible to stand up completely straight and even harder to bend forward more than about 10 degrees. I made my way back to my desk and sat down to try to relieve the pressure in my lower back. It helped a little bit, but did not completely relieve the pain. As the morning went on, my lower back muscles continued to get tighter and tighter. I still had patients to see so it was not an option for me to go home at that time. I was somehow able to grit my teeth through adjusting a few more people and did so without further injury (thank goodness!). By the end of the morning, I was beginning to question my effectiveness in not only keeping myself safe, but in keeping my patients safe as well.
Luckily, Dr. Wilhelm was a few doors down working on the new Pro Physio Bozeman office and was able to treat me before I went home for lunch. He did some extensive soft tissue mobilization and adjusted my hip. Unfortunately, the treatment did not do much to relieve the pain. My lower back muscles were in severe spasm by then. When I got home for lunch, I decided it was necessary to take some ibuprofen if I wanted to have a chance to make it through the afternoon seeing patients. As I bent down to grab a cup of water to take the pills, I felt like I had been struck by lightning in my lower back and immediately hit the floor. I have never in my life felt back pain like this before. As a person who suffers from chronic sacroiliac dysfunction, I often have lower back/pelvic pain, but this pain in my lower back was at a whole new level. It took me about three minutes to get myself up off the floor into a standing position. I knew at that moment that I was in trouble and would not be able to tough it out for my patients in the afternoon.
I rushed back to the office and was happy to see that Dr. Wilhelm was still there. I talked to him about what happened and how the pain was getting worse. We agreed that it would be unsafe for myself and my patients to try to work the afternoon. He recommended that I wear a back brace and seek treatment at Pro Physio; specifically non-surgical spinal decompression to try to release the spasms. The Pro Physio team was fantastic in getting me in immediately and on the DRX machine for 30 minutes. Once I finished on the DRX, I felt mild relief and was able to stand more upright. I was then treated with electrical muscle stimulation and moist heat, manual soft tissue manipulation and kinesiology tape to further release the spasm in the lower back muscles. Following the treatment, I sought out Dr. Bradley for an adjustment. He informed me that I had a severe rotation of my L4 vertebrae in my lower back. Once he adjusted it, I had instant relief and went home to rest for the rest of the day.
The following day, the Pro Chiro team was set to volunteer to do sports physicals at Manhattan Christian School and I was needed to help with those. I returned to Pro Physio that morning and repeated the treatment from the previous day. Afterwards, I felt sore, but better overall. I still had to wear the back brace during physicals, but was able to complete the task. I spent the remainder of the day at home resting. I returned to work Thursday in the back brace and made it through the day and Friday with only mild to moderate soreness. Friday after work, I was lucky enough to get in for a massage with Amy Hessen who is a massage therapist that works in the Pro Chiropractic Belgrade office. She did a phenomenal job working through the muscle spasms in my lower back and all surrounding areas. I woke up Saturday morning with very little pain at all and have returned to my normal work schedule and activities.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “Why are you telling this story?” Well here’s the answer! As a chiropractor, I see people in pain every day. It is my job to help them get out of pain. But I thought it was important to show what happens when the shoe is on the other foot and give a personal account of what it takes to get out of pain. I am lucky enough to have an amazing group of chiropractors, physical therapists, physical therapy assistants and a massage therapist on my team. The great news is…SO DO YOU! When the injury first happened, I had family members and friends tell me that I needed to go to the hospital or go see a medical doctor to get muscle relaxers, pain killers or an injection. But I didn’t need to do any of that! I was able to feel better and heal without those unnatural means. I was able to feel better and heal using conservative care and you are no different! Sure, it takes a little longer, but in the long run, it is more effective and less expensive. Who wouldn’t want that?