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ChiroI’ve been having some back pain for a little while accompanied by neck pain and headaches for a long while. At first I thought it was related to other issues I’ve had, and then I thought it was spinal meningitis because I WebMDed it (“Stiff neck? Headache? Trouble staying awake? I DEFINITELY HAVE SPINAL MENINGITIS!”). That was stupid.

As I’ve talked about before, and like most working moms, I’m busy and tired all of the time. Add “in pain” to the mix and you get one crabby Jill lately. The solution is relatively obvious. I simply need to take better care of myself. I need to carve out time from my week to exercise, rest, meditate, whatever I need to do to get in some Me Time.

I had been considering going to a chiropractor. A few of my friends and co-workers have raved about their experiences with them. So I thought I’d finally give it a try. Chiropractors are expensive, however. My insurance covers them but no one close to me. Then, lo! The day’s Groupon featured four sessions with a local chiropractor for $45 (“a $535 savings”). This was described as:

  • Approximately one-hour chiropractic consult with digital x-rays and relief treatment (a $310 value). Treatment time varies by patient.
  • Three subsequent 15- to 30-minute visits with an exam-findings report, adjustments, and mechanical-traction sessions (a $90 value each). Treatment time varies by patient.

Ok, I’ll give it a try, I thought, and bought the Groupon. A couple people thought that using a Groupon for a medical service was a bad sign, but call me adventurous.

I made the first appointment for the same day and got there a few minutes early. The place wasn’t the most glamorous, let’s just say that. But I was there for the service, not the bells and whistles (although bells and whistles can be nice). I was greeted by a friendly receptionist, also named Jill (can’t go wrong there) who took my insurance card and the Groupon. Interesting. I then met the doctor. He was nice enough, but seemed very rushed. He talked fast, didn’t make a whole lot of eye contact and talked in a lot of generalities. He then asked me if I could be pregnant to which I replied no (I actually think I said “hell no,”) and then took me into another room to do some x-rays. This was a good sign, as I was told by friends that this is the first thing all good chiropractors should do. The x-ray room sort of reminded me of the type they have in Paraguayan clinics. I stood against the wall while the chiro adjusted the machine, walked over to the switch behind him and flipped it. Shouldn’t I have on a lead apron or something? No? Ok. He did this another time, but the computer stopped working and he told me he’d have to have it fixed and we can take the last couple of x-rays later.

I was then lead to another room where a young woman greeted me and said she was going to do a “treatment.” I sat in a cardboard chair while she attached electrodes to my lower back (where my pain was) and flipped a switch. She left me alone for three minutes. I felt a tapping on my lower back, no stronger than someone gently poking me with their fingers. After a couple minutes, I think it started to hurt. I say “I think” because it was an odd sensation, definitely some slight pain mixed with “am I being electrocuted? Meh, probably not,” in there. It wasn’t bad. She took them off and led me to the first room again where the chiro was waiting. He explained to me that my x-rays looked good, actually, that there was not much adjusting that he thought I needed. I was happy to hear this, not only because this response is better than “Oh for the love of God, we need to get you to an ER immediately!!” but also because if it made me feel he wasn’t trying to just find $omething wrong with me in order to find more rea$on$ to treat me, if you catch my drift.

He then told me he’d look at my x-rays (didn’t he just do that?) and decide the best treatment plan for me. But until then, he’d do some decompression on my back to help with the pain. And then he’d see me tomorrow. I told him I hadn’t made an appointment for tomorrow, that I needed to check my schedule. He said ok, but to remember that chiropractic treatments work best if they’re done often. Yeah, so do massage, exercise, hair trims and color touch-ups and leg waxings,, but I ain’t got the money for treatments THAT often, mkay?

I laid on the table and he pushed down on my back with one hand while he pulled down with the other, decompressing my lower spine. It felt really good. And then he stopped. “Ok,” he said. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

That was it? It lasted all of 15 seconds. My drool didn’t even have time to begin to pool on the sterile paper.

I left and made an appointment for the next day. After all, I did have three more treatments coming my way, thank you Groupon. And maybe the real treatment got started after the initial consultation.

I returned at the same time the next day. I was told to lay on what looked like another bed for another “3-minute treatment.” They pulled a curtain around me, like in the ER, and pressed a button. I laid there while a mechanical roller moved up and down my back. It was like one of those electric chair back massagers at the mall, but with far less pressure. “This is doing nothing,” I thought. “This is dumb.”

3-minutes went by and I was led to the examining room. The chiro greeted me, showed me more of my x-rays and said that everything looked normal but that I had a lower back injury that looked like a sprain. He pointed out where the problem was and it made sense, as it has happened before. He then pulled out a file folder.

“Now, I will be able to fix this problem, but we’re going to need to see you twice a week for at least 12 weeks,” he said. He pulled out a piece of paper with a lot of dollar signs and numbers written on it. “We ran your insurance, and we don’t accept the kind you carry, unfortunately. BUT, I am wiling to offer you a payment plan of blah blah blah…” I heard the number $223 a week.

I had tuned out at this point, as I do during most sales pitches. I’m not interested. I don’t care what he says, I will not get sucked in. Let him finish and then break the news to him.

“I can’t commit to 12 weeks right now,” I told him. “That’s just not in my budget.”

“Well,” he said, turning away and putting the papers down on the counter, “That’s fine. I mean, I can only work with people who are committed to their health.”

That rubbed me the wrong way. “Woah woah woah,” I said. “I’m committed to my health. That’s why I’m here. I’m simply also committed to not going into debt.”

“I understand,” he said, “but I think this payment plan takes that into consideration. I help you, and I really think this can benefit you.”

I was annoyed. “I believe you may be able to help me, but unfortunately I can only work with those who are committed to not pushing their payment plans after only providing 15 seconds of service.”

We entered into a semi-shocked staring contest of supreme awkwardness. I broke it, narrowing my eyes. “I’m just here for the Groupon.”

He told me to lay on the table and he did another 15 seconds of back pressing and pulled on my legs for 5 seconds each. That was it.

He walked me to Jill, the front desk woman, and handed her my papers and left. “Ok,” Jill said, “Looks like he wants to see you twice a week for the next 12 weeks. Shall we put you down for every Tuesday and Thursday?” she said, already writing my name in the calendar boxes in front of her.

“No,” I said, “I can’t commit to that at this time.”

She looked up at me, frozen. I began to wonder if these people ever heard the word No. “Oh,” she said, “Well, why don’t we just put you down anyway just to hold your place…”

“NO.” I said. “DO NOT PUT ME DOWN. I WILL NOT GO.”

I felt a little bad having to speak like that, but then again, I didn’t. It’s like any of the hard-sells. (“And will you be putting this on your Victoria’s Secret’s Credit Card today? No? You don’t have one? Well let’s sign you up! No? Well you can save 10% if you sign up today! Let’s just get you an application. No? Well it only takes a few minutes! No? Well let’s just…” her voice trailing off into gurgles as I stab her to death with the underwire of my new bra.) NO THANK YOU I DO NOT WANT THESE THINGS THAT YOU WANT ME TO WANT.

I left and didn’t go back, forsaking my two additional Groupon-purchased visits.

This doesn’t mean that I have lost faith in chiropractors. I think there are good ones and there are bad ones, just like with massage therapists, mechanics and shrinks. You have to sometimes try out a few until you find one you like.

Sad fact: I am not a rich person who can afford frequent treatments of anything. So when I do, I want it to be worth it.

My question for you dear readers who use chiropractic services is: 1) How long do they last? Longer than 15 second adjustments, I hope. Or is that normal? 2) How frequent are you “supposed” to get them? I mean, assuming you’re also a non-rich person with shit to do. And 3) Worth it? Or should I just go do my 10-minute pilates DVD, rub one out and call it a night?

Let me know, kthanks.

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Update: Over the weekend I found this place that does these weird Chinese massages where you lay down fully clothed and they basically rub their forearms all over you and then slap you around. It lasted for an hour and cost $29!! Forget chiropractors! Whispering Chinese forearm rubbers are the way to go!

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