Why I Go to the Chiropractor
I have a horrible confession to make: I have been to a chiropractor twice in the last week. Feel free to throw things at me right now for being a bad skeptic. I know, I know, there is no medical evidence that chiropractic works, it’s all based on woo, why am I throwing away my money??? But I’m about to do something super risky for a skeptic blog: I am going to defend going to an alternative medicine treatment that you know is bunk.
I get headaches. BAD headaches. Not exactly migraines (although sometimes I get those too), not enough to really signal that there’s something really wrong with me, and not enough to send me to the doctor. Most of the time I can take ibuprofen and move on. Sometimes the headaches linger and linger and linger. I also get really bad back and neck pain. I hold lots and lots and lots of tension in my neck and back. When I get massages, they often comment that my muscles feel vaguely like rocks, and proceed to try to beat the rocks out of me (oh it hurts so good). Now if I wanted to, I could take lots of pain medication on a constant basis to treat these headaches and pains. I don’t think that would be a very good idea though, and eventually it would probably stop working.
What does work however is going to the chiropractor. Now as a skeptic and someone who has researched chiropractic, I recognize that this very well might be a placebo effect. It might just be that my muscles get nice and relaxed when I go there and then I get a nice massage, and of course this makes me feel a bit better. I spend some time away from a computer screen and just resting and letting my mind wander. There are all sorts of reasons that this might make me feel better. Many of them probably have nothing to do with chiropractic and I could likely replicate them outside of that setting if I really tried.
But here’s the rub: I never would. I’m not good at requiring myself to take time off or giving myself space to take care of my health. My chiropractor gives me a setting in which I’m required to do this. It’s an insurance covered massage (by someone who is REALLY GOOD at massages). And that placebo effect? Well I probably wouldn’t get that anywhere else. The chiropractor does make me feel better. And if that’s all in my head, or has nothing to do with the thoughts and theories behind the practice, I don’t give a flying teapot in space. Because it makes me feel better.
And my well being, my ability to get through my days without pain, is far more important than any principles about skepticism. Skepticism is a tool that we use to improve our lives. The reason that we criticize alternative medicine is because it doesn’t work. So if it makes me feel better, I have absolutely no guilt about continuing that practice. I might KNOW that the reasons it works are not the reasons that they list in the shiny brochures. And that means nothing to me when I also have years of evidence that this is what allows me to get up in the morning without pounding headaches. No abstract principles should ever come before our mental and physical health.