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Chiropractors/Chronic pain due to chiropractic care


A couple of years ago I was convinced to go to a Maximized Living Chiropractor to improve my overall wellness.  I had some minor upper back stiffness before going, but it wasn't anything that affected my life poorly and was tolerable and seemed to be stress related.  After going to the ML chiropractor, I developed severe upper back and neck pain.  They told me my cervical spine was going the wrong way and they needed to fix it for me to remain healthy throughout my life.  I continued care for about 6 to 7 months going 2 to 3 days a week.  Along with the pain, my upper back would make cracking noises all day long and my bones sounded like they were gliding on each other.  By the evening, I couldn't even stand or sit anymore and would have to lay down because I was so uncomfortable.  I told my ML chiropractor I was concerned and he told me that that's normal and I just need to keep up with treatment and it will go away. He told me it was a good sign that everything is moving well.  I was not convinced and quit going.  
I remained in pain daily for months after so I went to a different chiropractor friend.  He told me it feels like my bones by my shoulder blades are gliding against each other, but that chiropractic care could not have cause it.  
I am not buying that this is a coincidence.  I feel strongly that my pain was caused by ML technique and inappropriate exercises they had me do.   
I have not had an adjustment in over a year and the crepitis in my back has not gone away.  It cracks all day and I'm so uncomfortable.  I feel I used to be such a healthy, active person and this has been debilitating for me.  I can't sit or stand for long periods.  I'm in pain daily and it affects my mood.  What do I do now?  I don't feel like I can handle living with this pain the rest of my life.  I'm only 33 y/o and enjoy being active.  I am willing to try anything to get life back!
I appreciate you taking the time to respond and give me some clarity.

Hi Renee,

I'm sorry to hear about your situation.  As soon as I saw "Maximized Living" I knew I was not going to hear anything good from you.  Maximized Living (ML) is a cult within our profession, touting the need for care that is excessing by any reasonable standard.  Three days/week over six months of someone doing joint manipulation on your neck is unwarranted and preposterous treatment for a 33 y/o with "minor upper back stiffness."   "Bones of shoulder blades gliding past each other" needs clarification for me.   Some people do have a "snapping scapula" syndrome, often young females, and if that's your condition, I would agree that it likely has nothing to do with chiropractic.   However, "cracking noises" coming from your spine, especially your neck, can be caused by joint manipulation.   The bottom lne, Renee, is that you did not have evidence-guided, patient-centered care.   The care was dogmatic, with a faulty belief system that you needed to rearrange the curve of your neck in order to be healthy, and that six months of manipulation was going to change it for your betterment.   The truth is that we don't know if manipulation can change your neck curve, and we don't know how unhealthy you'd be with or without the curve.  So you had "doctor-centered care," care that's good for the doctor ($$$), but not necessarily good for you.   All patients need to be periodically reassessed, like every few weeks or every month, and if they are not making progress, then they need to obtain something different.  It doesn't matter if it's chiropractic or medicine or PT or acupuncture.   Also, like anything else, benefits have to outweigh the risks.   There is likely no benefit to going 3x/week for months, and having that much manipulation when it's probable that you don't need it does pose a risk - just like any other form of medicine.    It is my opinion that you likely will need some form of manual therapy to help out, and exercise for sure to help out.  You really need to find a more clinically astute chiropractor to help you out with this.  You also should seek other forms of care to help out, including PT, massage, and acupuncture, as well as some mental health counseling to give you some strategies to cope with this more effectively.   I address some of this in an article you might find helpful [].   I would also agree that you can find relief over time with your condition.  Check some of my previous Q/A's on this site to get an idea of what to look for when searching for practitioners. Also, don't be afraid to convey your experience to your state's licensing board if you feel that your care was unwarranted or negligent.  

'Best of luck,

Dr. G'


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Scott F. Gillman, DC, DACBSP


21 Years in practice: I can answer any question regarding chiropractic and sports medicine treatment. Mostly, I can help the unknowing public understand what is safe, valid, reasonable and evidence-based, and what kinds of unscrupulous chiropractors and fraudulent methods to stay away from. I have an advanced specialty degree in Chiropractic Sports Medicine. I have experience treating elite and Olympic athletes.



Publications: Education/Credentials:

Doctor of Chiropractic Diplomate: American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians International Chiropractic Sports Science Diploma

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