The Pain Pill Free Approach: How Chiropractic Medicine Has Benefited Me

Chief Complaint:

My back is tight.

I turned my neck so I could move my hair out of my eyes, and was instantly dizzy.  I have had a non-stop headache and my neck and shoulders hurt.

My back is tight (again).

I sprained my ankle over a year ago, and the pain is still there.  My whole lower right leg hurts.

“Take something for the pain.”

Ugh, if I had a dime for all the times someone told me to take something, I wouldn’t be a rich girl, but I wouldn’t be pain free either.  Point is, I hate pain medication of any kind – I’ve had two minor surgeries (sinus revision and gallbladder removal), as well as a Grade II Ankle Sprain, and in all cases, I’ve stopped the pain medication I was on fairly quickly, as I find pain medication to be counterproductive to my healing.  There is nothing I love more than being two days post-op and woozy from anesthesia, only to get even more woozy from the prescribed pain medication.

I’m aware of the benefits of pain medication – it reduces inflammation and lets you rest comfortably, but for me, the absolute limit on how long I can take the medication is two, three days tops.  After that, the dizziness and nausea tell me it’s just not necessary anymore.  I’ll downgrade to Tylenol, since even ibuprofen is hard on me.  And forget codeine.  If you ever want to see a legendary meltdown, give me codeine.  Steroids are usually a better alternative for pain, but there are risks with steroids – they compromise your immune system with constant use, they cover up signs of infection (as I found out the hard way with my last sinus infection), and the dreaded weight gain from bloating that one can have from constant use is no fun whatsoever.  Six-day dosepacks are fine, but after that, no more.  I don’t care if I’m still swollen, I hate the things and will not go any further with taking them.

Where conventional “take this pill, you’ll feel better” has failed me (and yes, I feel this way about Tylenol too!), chiropractic care has been a lifesaver.

I started seeing my chiropractor in 2008 when I had developed sciatica and a overuse injury in my lower back (the speculation was that I was taking Hip Hop for the first time, and my back wasn’t used to it) – four adjustments, and I was a new person with a new back.  It was wonderful.  Where conventional medicine would have told me to take a pill, the pain was actually stopped by four rounds of stimulation, ultrasound, and snap/crackle/pop.  After four visits, I was done, and told to call if I needed anything else.

A year later, I needed “anything else.”  The “anything else” was the result of trying to move my hair out of my face by flicking my head slightly – apparently, this was enough to pull the muscles from the base of my skull to my left shoulder.  I was dizzy and had a constant headache.  After a week of assuming things would get better, refusal to take pain medication, and Tylenol providing marginal (albeit temporary) relief, I finally broke down and made an appointment.  Again four visits, healed neck.  The injury was actually a tension-related injury, the result of work-related stress.  I wound up being laid off from that job soon after (and left about four months later).  I’d like to think my neck is pretty good now.

A few years later, I had a repeat of the lower back pain I dealt with in 2008.  I noticed it after sleeping on my back post-sinus surgery, but had subsided after I switched back to my side.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a permanent fix, and yes, it necessitated four visits.  Four is a magic number apparently, because that was all it took.  Again.

The most recent issue I’ve had is one I’ve dealt with for over a year, and is connected to the ankle sprain I sustained in October 2014.  Ignoring the injury, and then finally dealing with it several months later meant damaged tendons, but the boot I wore when stability failed me left my leg with some extensive inflammation and scar tissue.  I decided that, again, chiropractic care could only be my best friend in this situation.  I’d like to say that it will help, and six visits later (I was discharged after the sixth visit), I can truly say that assessment is truth.

The jury is out on chiropractic medicine as a source of relief (and yet, people believe in having needles in their body as pain relief?).  It is often referred to as controversial and “not medicine.”  Ok, so to a doctor who writes prescriptions for your aches and pains, the belief  is that no good can come from someone who refuses to relieve your pain with something you swallow.

Here’s where the science (ok, it’s not really science so much as it’s “Allison Science,” which isn’t exactly scientific) comes in – medication can only go so far.  It provides temporary relief – it loosens muscles, it reduces inflammation gradually, and it helps you rest.  Chiropractic care is a little more drawn out, with relief happening incrementally, but the result is a fix of the actual issue, rather than a covering up of the issue.  I don’t know about you (and maybe you disagree – it’s ok, you can), but for me, I’d rather have a lasting, more permanent fix than just throwing a blanket on the problem and letting medicine that gives me undesired side effects do the job.  And  let’s face it, it’s not really doing “the job.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like throwing a blanket on something and hoping I get relief.  Especially when the “pain medicine blanket” almost causes me to take a header down a flight of stairs.  It almost happened at my last job without pain medication in my system (it was injury-related), so why would I want that effect from a medication I obviously have no right to be taking?


Although, if they looked like this…

Don’t get me wrong – medication for other aspects of my life has been beneficial – I take allergy medication to supplement my allergy shots, multivitamins for health, Vitamin C because of the anti-inflammatory properties (not that it works, but the immuno-boost is a good thing this time of year), Fiber/CoQ10/Fish Oil for cholesterol, and two antihypertensives for my blood pressure, so I know the benefit of medication that is keeping my health in check, and in turn, improves my quality of life. But pain medication, in my experience, does none of this.  With it, I get unfocused easily, dizzy, and uncoordinated; without it, I’m in pain, but at least I can focus and get through my day. Yes, I’ll take Tylenol when it’s necessary.  In short, it’s the double-edged sword of “do I take this and feel lousy” or do I take this and feel the constant, unnerving pain of my injury” that is the deciding factor of how I care for my pain.

The way I see it, I’ll solve my problems my way, and you (not meaning “you” or “you,” but “you” in general) solve yours the way you see fit.  If medicine works for you, great – more power to you.  I’ll stick with the supposedly unconventional relief I can get from “not medicine.”  Because when I want my situation to be fixed with all deliberate speed that ends in a result I’m satisfied with, I’ll take “not medicine.”


Even though these smile at you.

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