Tag Archives: chiropractic

Taking an alternative route to lower back pain treatment

In the past, I’ve been reticent to use a chiropractor to treat injuries or other problems because I’ve heard stories about how the profession was allied with ambulance-chasing lawyers ready to sue people involved in accidents and their insurance companies, as well as the charges that chiropractic is not based the scientific method, especially when compared to the conventional Western medicine.

Over the past few months, I’ve been forced to change my mind. I noticed that several friends visited chiropractors regularly. I’ve also confirmed that Western medicine does not adequately address all health concerns. Finally, my iliopsoas spasms made me re-examine whether it was worthwhile to call in different opinions.

A new healthcare provider

Photo: Donald McGriff in his chiropractic office
Cheerful and caring, even at 6:30 in the morning

During the 40-day yoga challenge at Thrive Yoga, Susan and David Bowen brought in Dr. Donald McGriff to give a talk to the group about chiropractic and general well-being. I missed the talk because I wanted to take a yoga class at the same time. But Susan and David said that they used his services so that was high praise.

On April 15, I got an appointment at McGriff Chirpractic to see if Dr. McGriff could do anything for my iliopsoas spasms. He looks more like a professional wrestler than a doctor, a burly build topped off with a shaved head. After an initial examination and a check of my medical history, he sent me off to get an MRI of my lower back. That took a little longer than expected because of scheduling conflicts, but I was back in his office on April 27 with the CD in hand. After taking a look at the MRI, Dr. McGriff came back with the news that I might have a spinal disk herniation (4-5 L vertebrae), but the MRI was not really that clear. I also seemed to have a displaced sacroiliac (SI) joint on the right side. Since I did not take notes, I can’t be sure three weeks later whether I’ve misunderstood anything. In any case, he prescribed 2-3 visits a week to his office to work his magic.

The nice thing about Dr. McGriff’s practice is that he opens at 6:00 am on three mornings a week so I schedule my visits so that I hop out of bed, get into fitness clothing and drive over for a 6:30 appointment, usually on Monday and Friday. I am out of his office in time to go back home, shower, dress, grab breakfast, and head to the Metro by my usual time. There are also office hours on Saturday.The location of his office, which is only 10 minutes from my home in Rockville, sealed the deal.

Treatment starts with 15 minutes of electro-stimulation with hot pads on my lower back. There are four electrodes sprayed with some kind of liquid to increase conductivity (The spray must come right out of the refrigerator because it is cold). Hot pads are placed over the lower back (to compensate for the cold electrodes, I guess). The electrical current goes through varying patterns of pulsing, but can be adjusted to the point where it does not cause discomfort or pain.

After chilling for 15 minutes, Dr. McGriff leads me to his examination room where he checks my alignment and then usually has me lie down on my left side and gives me a firm twist of my torso to the right. My SI joint usually pops with the adjustment. That’s usually followed by adjustments to my hips, rib cage and upper spine, and upper neck.  He has a firm touch in his adjustments that gives confidence in his skills.

Once he’s done with me, I may get an additional ride on fancy equipment: a table that stretches my spine, a vibrating platform that loosens my hamstrings.

Dr. McGriff applies more than an exclusively chiropractic focus, emphasizing the value of   holistic approach that includes nutrition, corrective exercises, physical therapy, fitness and life style coaching. His web site has lots of information to understand his approach, the general practice of chiropractic, and other services.

Passing the grade

Has the treatment improved my injury? That’s hard to say. My iliopsoas have not been a source of pain or discomfort recently. With a more than a month of rest and avoidance of aggravation (no yoga classes), my hips and lower back may have healed itself. I simply have not been testing their limits. On the other hand, I do feel the effects of the treatment: after a session, I feel general muscular fatigue by the end of the day, which is usually a sign that my muscles are adjusting to a realignment of my frame. I have noticed that my thighs seem to set further apart. I can sit in easy pose more comfortably and my knees fall  closer to the ground naturally.

My daughter warned me that I should avoid active yoga classes or gym work on that days that I have chiropractic treatment. Dr. McGriff told Howard Rontal, my bodyworker, that it’s best if the bodywork happen the day before a chiropractic session to be the best results out of his sessions. Finally, Howard told me that I should not have acupuncture and bodywork done on the same day (within 24 hours of each) since the Oriental meridians run through the myo-fascial tissues. So there are now a whole new slew of scheduling factors that I have to take into account when planning my healthcare.

With less than a month of treatment, it’s far to soon to say that my chiropractic has worked miracles or otherwise. In the real world, it’s almost impossible to isolate the factors  (chiropractic, acupuncture, rest, restorative yoga, relaxation exercises, body work, positive thing, placebo effect) so I have to go with just my gut feeling. It has not hurt me.