In the fairly short existence of Milwaukee Record, I’ve made a point to chronicle foolish adventures that have damaged my spirit, tested my eating endurance, and depleted both my physical and emotional well-being. I have no regrets (except maybe that George Webb one), but with the arrival of a new year also comes new perspective and a new opportunity to forge a different path. Over the course of 2018, I’m going to seek inner peace, personal growth, and healthy choices while documenting my experiences with a series of columns under the ’18 And Life To Go umbrella. Will it work? Probably not, but I’ll try anyway.
I‘m 33 years old. I’m not old, but it’s beginning to become abundantly clear that I’m no longer young. Last year came the discovery of the two-day hangover. I now own antacid tablets. Another thing that apparently comes in one’s mid-thirties is the introduction of subtle aches, pains, and general discomfort that rear up from time to time—oftentimes from the most common of reasons. I’ve officially reached the point in my life where it hurts to go bowling. I don’t even want to tell you how many days it takes me to recover from the whopping four games in my summer baseball league’s season.
Beyond soreness from activities that never used to hurt, I’m also starting to feel the nagging sting of inactivity. I’ve learned it’s actually possible to sleep “wrong.” Spending most of my waking hours at a desk hasn’t exactly been kind to my joints either. Typing has wreaked havoc on my hands, wrists, and circulation. Seemingly small things like my posture, sitting on my wallet, and either standing or sitting for too long can all coalesce to take a gradual (but consistent) toll on my body. It’s in no way severe, but it seems like moderate discomfort is simply part of getting older. It sucks, but it’s the way it has to be.
What if it didn’t have to be that way? After months (or years, in some instances) of accepting mild discomfort as part of my life, I sought a treatment option that I hoped would be a sort of reset button for my body. With some glowing recommendations from patients, I decided I would set aside judgement and preconceived notions to pay a visit to the chiropractor.
Chiropractic care is a highly debated treatment option. Some swear by it, while others claim it’s a load of crap with no lasting benefits. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground. I honestly didn’t know what to believe, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t really spend much time thinking about it. However, with the pain in my wrists and hands at an all-time high lately, and being at a point in which I was cracking my knuckles dozens of times each day, I figured it was worth a shot to see if adjustments could be made, and if a polarizing type of treatment could really do the trick.
I made an appointment with Z Chiropractic, the practice of Dr. Michelle Zitzke that had specifically been recommended to me by a few people. Almost as good as testimonials from friends, it was located in my neighborhood and the price was right. In addition to holding a degree from Northwestern Health Sciences Nutrition School, Zitzke is a certified nutrition counselor who practices hands-on healing. When booking the appointment, I was warned the initial consultation would take about an hour. I arrived right on time and the receptionist handed me a clipboard with a pair of two-sided pieces of paper I needed to fill out before the doctor would see me. The forms ask for the usual information: name, address, medical history, and whatnot. Similar to my acupuncture experience, there was also a list of ailments I was to mark if they applied to me. Yet another side asked me how often I drank alcohol and coffee, my family history of things like cancer and heart disease, and other significant personal or familial ailments. One sheet also had a diagram of the front, back, and sides of a human body, which I was to mark on the places where I felt pain or discomfort.
Once all the paperwork was done, I met Dr. Zitzke and she brought me into her office. We talked about all the reasons for my visit that I’d mentioned above, as well as the fairly new need to crack my neck a few times daily and my left front toe that has been needed some adjustment since I’d injured it about six years ago. She examined each form and asked follow-up questions about me, my life, my diet, and changes in recent months or years that may have brought on some of this discomfort. I was halfway into my appointment and had yet to be touched. The doc also reiterated information on one of the forms that said I had the right to refuse any suggested treatment, and she encouraged me to tell her if I ever felt pain or was in any way uncomfortable with what was happening. I told her I would speak up if needed, but I was pretty much on board for whatever she thought needed to be done.
I was asked to get up and stand as I normally would. She asked me to bend down and reach toward my toes. I sat down on the table where I’d be treated and was told to turn my head left, right, up, and down to show the range of motion in my neck. Not particularly shocked by or disappointed with anything I’d displayed, Dr. Zitzke instructed me to lie down on the table. She tugged at my legs, informing me my right left leg was half an inch shorter than my left. As she pressed at my lower back, Dr. Zitzke told me that the cracking noise that emanates from the body is actually built-up gas that’s released. She also said oftentimes the joint that’s cracked my non-professionals isn’t actually the one that’s causing the pain, rather it’s one near the source that’s loose. That seemed to corroborate the fact that “cracking” rarely helped me.
After some searching, the doctor found what she felt was a problem joint in my lower back. After asking if I was okay with her pushing hard, I took a deep breath in and out. On the out, she give a hearty shove to my spine a few inches above my tailbone and I heard an audible crunch from an unfamiliar site. As unpleasant as that surely sounds, it felt pretty great. She moved up to my shoulders—the region she said, on account of my desk job, had a role in my hand and wrist discomfort—and made some minor adjustments there, too. I moved to my sides to have my legs pulled, hips, and back pressed with modest returns. I then flipped to my back, which is when the real fun started.
With my head lifted, Dr. Zitzke felt around my neck and rubbed its surrounding muscles until she found what she was looking for. Again, I consented to the forthcoming adjustment and breathed in and out as I awaited what was to come. Like an action star breaking someone’s neck with a swift turn, Dr. Zitzke forced my face to the left, letting loose a noticeable crack and instantly relieving head and neck tension I didn’t even know I had. Then she did so on the right side. It felt amazing.
There was no pain involved in any of the procedures. Instead of wincing, I welcomed each instance with eagerness, and a “Whoa! That was a big one!” when warranted. Finally, my appointment ended when I was told to sit up and hold out my hands. The doctor held one hand and felt around my fingers, wrist, and forearm with her free hand. I was told to relax my arm and breathe in and out. Distracted by the simple task, my arms (with Dr. Zitzke holding a hand) were individually snapped, which brought a rare sense of relief to my knuckles and my wrist that I hadn’t felt in years. She repeated with the other hand and almost as fast as my appointment started, it was over.
Dr. Zitzke warned me of soreness I would likely experience, but as I got up to pay, I felt like I was walking on clouds. I knew it wouldn’t last. Like driving a new car off the lot, issues and general wear and tear were bound to come my way. I knew my condition would start to depreciate the next time I sat at my desk. I declined her request for a follow-up a three days later, but I knew I’d be back eventually. I think $40 two or three times a year is well worth the renewal and relief I felt…and mostly still feel more than a week later.
Say what you want about chiropractic care. No, it’s not a tried and true cure for major existing issues, but as far as wellness procedures go, it’s a relatively inexpensive and wholly natural treatment option that has immediate results to improve the patient’s quality of life. I won’t be a weekly visitor, but I’m now a believer.