Woo-Woo: Scientific Style, Breaking Down the Label
I used to think chiropractors, massage therapists, and herbalists were part of the “not really a thing” crowd. I lumped them in with the Woo-Woo. I was firmly a traditionalist and didn’t put up with the nonsense of that ilk. (I also used to proudly use the word “ilk”.) This, I now realize, is a holdover from my mother, and many moms before her. The surety of tradition is what got her to make me eat lima beans and brush my teeth when I was four-years-old. As an adult, I carried over that comfortable surety into my own brand of tradition.
But my dislike of the Woo-Woo came from the practical aspect of my mother: I don’t like to be taken advantage of when it comes to my time or money. Harrumph. I’m not into being part of a hyped-up crowd of people who will believe anything. That’s what I thought woo-woo stuff was; stuff I don’t believe in that wastes my time and/or money. Therefore, I’m not into woo-woo communities.
Imagine my surprise when, two years later, I recommended a chiropractor–Dr. Shimer– to a friend of mine. She rolled her eyes and talked about how alternative doctors were a waste of money. I laughed.
I laughed because of what it took for me to get to this point:
- There was stalking involved.
- And abandonment.
- And a happy ending, but before all that,
- There was me, trying to prove why someone with Dr. Wendy’s skills couldn’t possibly exist.
I truly used to eye-roll when someone mentioned that they had the best chiropractor for me. Like, Eye. Roll. Because every back-cracking experience I’d had up to that point left me feeling like they were advertising for the woo-woo community of medicine. They drank the kool-aid. People who excitedly recommended their chiropractors were right up there, in my opinion, with those who recommended in-home aromatherapy parties, vision quests, and virtual energy wand work. Chiropractors just didn’t seem to be “real” doctors, after all. Thus the eye-roll.
My own experiences with them felt like this:
- Dr. Overly-Concerned-About-Me, “Ooooo. Yeah, I knew it the moment you walked in. You’re gonna need my help. Check out the pain chart that I just made for you. See? It’s all in the chart…”
- Me, “But what does that all mean? I mean, yeah, it’s a chart, but…”
- Dr. Even-a-Child-Could-Read-This, “It’s all right here, plain as day. Trust me. Trust my clinical-looking office, and the medical skeleton in the corner.”
- Me, “Uh. Okayyy? Okay, I guess. I’m already here.” (*PAINFUL CRACKING ENSUES*)
- Dr. Self-Satisfied, “There. Drink plenty of water, and wait a few weeks for any measurable results.”
- Me, “A few…weeks?”
- Dr. Soothing-Yet-on-to-the-Next-Patient, “Yep. Now, the pain may come back. It probably will. And for sure, you’ll need to come back and pay me a bunch of money three times a week to keep the fear from setting in. If your back keeps hurting, well, you probably didn’t drink enough water.”
- Me, “I’m outta here. It’s gonna take me another five years to try again. I need to lie down.” (*Walks out of the office wincing at the pain in my neck and in my wallet*)
See? Eye roll.
Now, you can see another story about the talent of Dr. Shimer, here, but to me, I needed proof, not just a recommendation, that it was worth trying out another alternative option. I’m a cynic, you see. So, you can check out my cynicism and the subsequent change of heart I had here, here, and here.
I went from dipping my toe in, just to see if I could get any relief at all, to sporadically keeping appointments at Shimer Chiropractic, PC. From there, I moved the need from an acceptable level of discomfort to the dignity that comes from prioritizing my busy life to include ongoing self-care.
It’s a comforting story about progress, but what would Dr. Shimer do differently if I were to mess up all that progress with a slip-n-fall? There are lots of people who are on track in their lives and then Bam! A whack to the tailbone on wet pavement. Or something else that lands them on an inflatable donut and a prescription from their doctor.
Nuts, Bolts and Checklists O My
I’m talking about a “what if” scenario, but as you can probably tell, it did happen to me. My experience with wet pavement cracked my tailbone and my dignity. But it also made me question where I should get my medical attention from.
Yes, I did go to the doctor at the medical clinic first. They let me know whether I’d broken, cracked, or just bruised the area, it would be about six months to a year of tender sitting. Not a thing could be done for my situation except keeping my pain prescription up. They sincerely felt sad for me and…sent me on my way. I had to ask for x-rays, which they sent me to for my own peace of mind, not because they needed them. Once I got there, I had to let the technician know that he was x-ray-ing the wrong area of what was hurting. Only after the second set of x-rays did they see the crack in the coccyx and confirm what I felt: I had a broken butt.
I felt pretty frustrated with the level of dismissal I’d received. And here is my acknowledgment of the medical community at large: I know. I know that it wasn’t you, personally. My experience was based on only three totally random people at a random doctor’s office. And an x-ray office technician in a random part of the country. I get that. You’re off the hook from my specific experience.
However, it’s not the first time I’ve been dismissed in other offices, (with other staff and doctors and technicians) because other patients were waiting to be seen and all my questions were taking up too much time. It’s not the first time I’ve had to say that the area that was hurting wasn’t where they were concentrating their time and attention. And it’s not the first time I’ve had to settle for a pain pill as my woobie over weeks or months of healing time while a physician moves on. You, or your staff, or office could have had this experience once or twice if you got busy. It isn’t out of the realm of reality, is it? I’m sure nobody meant for the efficiency to override the understanding or compassion, but sometimes it does happen.
But it matters each and every time. It matters to the person in pain who is scared and unsure of the best and quickest way to overcome something that they didn’t plan on in the first place. Think it is inconvenient to you, oh medical doctor or technician? It is also, even more inconvenient for your patient. While you turn to your next appointment, we gotta still figure out what to do. Which is why it was such a natural fit to call up Shimer Chiropractic and get in as soon as possible.
Help, I’ve fallen and need to get up…?
When I walked into Dr. Shimer’s office, I’d already filled out forms about myself from before. I’m a return patient. This time, however, I needed to get them up to speed on my new issue. So when I made the appointment, Hassie, the front desk whizz who keeps everything running, asked me to bring in the x-rays and prior diagnosis information. I was going to get an initial consult for my slip-n-fall.
Upon checking in at the patient computer, I added my new complaints and rated them accordingly so Dr. Shimer could see just where my tailbone was broken. Of course she didn’t adjust the broken bone, but moved gently around the area. She also took a look at what was bruised, and what would have been out of alignment as a result of any wrenched muscles and me hobbling around to compensate.
Next, she carefully and thoroughly went through my complete health history intake again. Dr. Shimer went through the forms and x-rays I’d brought with me. She compared them with the forms I’d initially filled out, as well as taking into consideration the progress I’d made. She knew where I’d have trouble recovering, and where I’d be able to heal up nicely. That was all while I was in her lobby before I walked into her adjustment room to see her.
Once I was in her office, she asked me about my mental and emotional state since I’d fallen, in order to complete the picture she needed. This took exactly enough time. I have no idea if other people were waiting, because she listened to me, having a complete conversation where we both felt like we were partners in healing my hurt.
Next came an exam, gently adjusting where she could, and leaving the inflamed, injured, and sore spots alone. She explained along the way where and why she was adjusting the areas on my body so I wasn’t alarmed or in pain from her.
Lastly, I got an assessment. Dr. Shimer explained what conclusions she’d come to, and shared them with me. This included her recommendations to help with my healing in the quickest, most healthy and well-rounded way possible. I was going to need, down the road, some massage and physical therapy, as well as muscle manipulation in acute situations that could bring in pain management, as well. That meant some possible acupuncture and herbal medicine remedies. We would use some of her business associates’ talents as needed. We also spoke of how and when to continue seeing my medical doctor for follow-ups. X-rays would come back into play as part of monitoring progress, as well.
I went home feeling secure in the fact that I was heard, I had a healing plan, and wasn’t in this alone with just a prescription and my Netflix binge schedule. I felt like I had a team taking care of me. Part of Dr. Wendy’s follow-up visit was meeting her business associates, Virginia and Peter. I had hope and a partnership. I still started in on some Netflix, though. It had been a long day.
When I came back in, I got to see exactly what Dr. Shimer’s business associates could do. After all, I knew just how much time it took for me to get over my skepticism and trust Dr. Wendy. What would it take for me to feel safe and taken care of by others? I didn’t have much to stand on except traditional comforts of the past, so I let their words sink in. Virginia and Peter had very different backgrounds and reasons for working with Shimer Chiropractic. But their experience aligned with Dr. Shimer. Their methods were sound, their licenses, certifications, and accolades were there for me to see, and the techniques they shared with me showed they knew what they were doing.
I saw firsthand their reasoning for being part of my recovery plan. Dr. Shimer did give me options to work with others outside her office, but (spoiler alert!) I chose to work within her office. Ultimately, I felt comfortable with their abilities, how much respect they had for Dr. Wendy, and the easy way they all communicated with each other.
So I broke my Butt, Now What?
So how was my slip and fall handled differently than my first time assessment? The truth is, it wasn’t handled any differently at all! She simply put me through the same steps she would anyone she was seeing. She’d:
- Find out the nature of the injury
- Order or look through all needed x-rays, CT scans, and other medical records to get a complete picture
- Perform an exam to assess the extent and areas of injury
- Recommend a treatment plan, either with her experienced business associate when needed, or referring them to another MD or other professional, if needed.
The good news was that she already knew me, knew my prior medical history, and was familiar with my health goals. It took less time to come up with a solid plan to get me back to my pre-injury state. And because its Dr. Wendy, I could see my measurable progress as the weeks went by.
For me, I needed specific attention to the lower back, my hips, and my knees. She double-checked and tested before she treated me, each time, and I knew that her first goal was to heal without further injury, and before long (okay long-ish months) I was transitioning to regular treatments and focusing on upkeep once again.
I’ll never say that Dr. Shimer is a miracle worker. She’s not. For one thing, she doesn’t take Workman’s Comp. Nor does she promise to do all the work while her patient waits for the injury to heal. Each case she takes is different, due to whatever is going on with that particular patient. So the circumstances will be, too. Their history matters, their ability and willingness to respond to her treatment. Also, finding out if they just need to be referred out or stay in-house. It’s all due to what is going on with that specific injury.
She’s fair and upfront, so the caution is that I had to be part of the solution, too. It took me doing my part of the work in order to restore my dignity. Part of her being upfront and fair is that sometimes there are cases that she refers out. She’s not going to heal patients suffering from cancer or other diseases outside the realm of her expertise, after all.