Take a look at my back in the above photo. What do you see? Is it my chubby lats, forever evading a strict pull-up? Or is it my baby traps, slowly growing with hundreds of cleans? You’d be forgiven for not spotting my spine curving to the right and the protruding shoulder blade – after all, it was only a few weeks ago at an unrelated doctor’s appointment I became aware of my scoliosis.
I’ve always been a bad back sort of person – long before CrossFit, strength training and running, I was very horsey and spent a lot of time in my teens mucking out and falling off spectacularly. I even smashed up my shoulder when I was 11 and have a pin in it! I always thought it was normal for people to have a bad back, and had mainly ignored it, until CrossFit really brought the problem into focus – from my lack of mobility in simple things like squats to pulling my hamstrings on three separate occasions – and I decided it was time I got my back problems sorted once and for all.
I’d had physio and had been having regular sports massages, so I knew I had to try something different to make the change – I was recommended to try a chiropractor, so last week I visited Sam at Davies Chiropractic Care.
My first chiropractic visit
First up, I filled in a form detailing my own and my family’s medical history, then Sam and I had a chat about the history of my back pain. I told all from my horsey youth to my recent pulled hamstrings; that my mobility had become worse after starting my desk job; that I was sat down for hours a day nowadays after having a very active career thus far.
Then it was a physical assessment. I stood in front of Sam and did some very simple movements, hinging forwards at the waist and moving from side to side. Laying on the treatment table, different parts of my body were manipulated, only to find that pretty much all of my hips, pelvis and back had reduced mobility, and some parts of my spine were extremely stiff. It seems my scoliosis is functional, meaning it’s a muscle imbalance rather than a true curved spine, so it could have been the years I spent mucking out and falling off, or I guess I could have been predisposed to having an imbalance. The only positive comment I had was that the arches in my feet were good, so I guess that’s one good takeaway..!
We then discussed my treatment plan while Sam made some notes on a diagram of a skeleton – I spotted that there was a diagonal line drawn across both my shoulders and hips to represent their wonkiness! The treatment part was relatively short, though I left feeling satisfied that we’d dug pretty deeply into what could be causing my issues and what was to be done about them.
What did I wear?
As I said, I’ve been to physio and sports massage appointments before, so I was used to the drill of stripping off your main clothes for treatment. I wear Nike Pro compression shorts and a sports bra, with a vest top too so I don’t get too cold – this seems to be fine for all my body to be visible for assessment, and also there’s enough skin free for treatment, too.
You’ll no doubt be asked if you can move your top around to get a better view or hold if it’s needed, and I’m also sure that if for some reason you felt uncomfortable wearing shorts you’d be fine in leggings too, just make sure whatever you’re wearing is skin tight so how you move and your shape can be assessed. Don’t forget that physios, masseuses and chiropractors have seen it all before, so there’s no need to be embarrassed!
Did it hurt?
No, not really. Some parts were a little sore, but not unbearable. Some parts shocked me a little as I didn’t know what was coming – I definitely let out a squeak or three when Sam cracked my back – but they don’t really hurt. It was better that I didn’t know they were coming as the next time I braced myself, so the crack didn’t work as well as when I was relaxed!
If something did hurt, you just have to say and your chiropractor will more than likely move on to something else for a while.
Did it help my back pain?
I’d already been told that it would take a few sessions for me to start feeling a difference, so I wasn’t expecting much after one treatment – but the morning after I woke up without back pain for the first time in years. Later on when I did my mobility work my hips and pelvis felt much freer, and I got my forearms down to the ground in Lizard pose for the first time ever..! So I’m going to tentatively answer this question yes, though obviously it’s very early days, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.
It’s easy to say “try to relax”, but if you’re visiting a chiropractor for the first time then your therapist will be able to assess you better and the treatment will be more effective the more chilled you are. My next appointment is tonight and I’m honestly really looking forward to it – I can’t wait to see the effect a couple of weeks’ treatment is going to have.
Hopefully the work being put in now will help save my back many years down the line – you only get one spine after all, so you really have to look after it!