A visit with the Spine-olator
As I lay flat on my stomach with my head buried in a doughnut shaped cushion, I wondered “How did I get here?” The chiropractor’s office was dimly lit with a few nondescript art pieces on the walls. From my position I could see a poster offering tips on caring for your spine. It illustrated how best to sit, stand and walk properly, for the proper maintenance of your upper body frame.
This would be one of several visits in an attempt to bring relief for an aching lower back. A pain so severe at times I needed help putting my socks on in the morning. I knew I required medical attention when my wife said, “You’re crooked!” as I supported myself with one arm on the sink while shaving.
At first I thought she was accusing me of shorting a deposit in our joint checking account, but then remembered she balances the checkbook, not me. When she repeated it, I stood there like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, staring at my profile in the bathroom mirror, and said, “You know what? I am crooked.”
I was always skeptical of chiropractic care. In fact, I rate chiropractors right up there with acupuncture, yoga and palm readers. I must admit though, the one time I did visit a chiropractor I left his office feeling incredibly loose and relaxed. That’s what happens when some guy twists you around like a pretzel and jams your knee clear up to your chin.
Three months of chronic back pain forced me to quit my daily running routine. And when my wife refused to tie my shoes in the morning I decided to give a chiropractor a shot at straightening me out.
So here I was flat on my stomach when the chiropractor’s assistant placed four rubber patches on my back. The patches were connected to electrical wires leading to a machine in the corner of the room.
“Are you going to shave my head?” I asked.
“Why would I do that?” she responded.
“Isn’t that protocol for death row convicts sent to the electric chair?” I asked. “It allows the current to travel through the body faster. If I’m going to die, let’s make it quick.”
“Let me know when the pulsation reaches a level comforting to you,” she said.
Was she serious? Just when does electrical current zapping through your back become comfortable?
Three days a week for six weeks we went through the same routine. With each visit she would turn the dial up a few notches and ask the same question. Eventually it became a test of willpower. How much electrical current could I withstand?
It was like doing time in the Big House. “Jack it up!” I would boldly say. “I can take anything you screws give me!”
As my back pain continued the chiropractor resorted to trying new techniques.
“I think we’ll put you in traction,” he commented. “Perhaps if we stretch your lower spine we can take pressure off your disc. We’ll use the ‘Spine-olator’ first.”
The Spine-olator? What the heck is a Spine-olator, I wondered. Visions of going toe to toe with some guy in a white lab coat crossed my mind. If he’s over 350 pounds I’ll drop to the floor and scream “malpractice” and demand a rematch, preferably with the assistant with the blond hair at the front desk.
I soon learned the Spine-olator was nothing more than a couch with a built-in rolling pin under it. The Spine-olator would roll up and down the entire length of my back as if kneading me into cookie dough. Imagine yourself floating on a raft in the ocean, waves lifting your body up and down like a piece of driftwood.
When this treatment was finished I was moved to a strange contraption with weights, ropes and pulleys. “Natasha,” another assistant, strapped me down and tied a rope to a harness wrapped around my waist. She pointed to a button and said, “If the pain gets too severe just push this and the machine will shut down.”
So this is what it’s like to be tortured on the rack, I thought, lying there helplessly. When I was close to having both legs pulled from my hips she returned and asked how I felt.
“I feel about 3 inches taller,” I told her. “Next time let’s use horses and do it right.”
Back pain is no fun. And in desperate times we do desperate things. For me it’s the “Spine-olator” and the “Rack.”
If that doesn’t work I’ll just pay a visit to our family physician. He’s listed in the yellow pages under “Body Repair” and goes by the name of Dr. Frankenstein.
Richard Esposito is the publisher of VIllage Life. You can reach him at [email protected].