At least I don’t trust this one in particular. Or anyone else in the future.

Given that I have a very serious cervical spine injury, I’m not letting anyone touch my spine unless he’s a qualified medical professional. I’m sorry, but I don’t consider chiropractors as such. Their practice is generally categorized as “alternative” or “complementary” medicine.

Last year after another chiropractor diagnosed me with “Stage 2 subluxation,” I debated on whether I should actually seek chiropractic treatment for my lower back pain. (I had lower back pain from running and intense workouts for a few months.) Though the chiropractor did give a persuasive case for why I should get treatment immediately (or I was headed for a life of pain and disease), I remained skeptical and well, scared!

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The yellow line shows the normal spinal curvature
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The yellow line shows the normal spinal curvature

My husband was adamant that I shouldn’t let anyone manipulate my spine, of all body parts. He said, “If chiropractic was a legit science, then why don’t they have it at U of T?” (University of Toronto, where we both went to school.) While I spoke to and read about many people who praised chiropractors and their work, what my husband said made me really question their legitimacy as medical professionals. I didn’t entertain the thought of going to the chiropractor any longer.

Fast forward to a bit more than a month and a half ago when my neurosurgeon Dr. J prescribed me with a device called a bone simulator to help my neck fractures heal properly this time. I’ll talk more about the device itself in my next post as I would like to focus on my experience with buying it from a chiropractor. Let’s call him Dr. W.

After Dr. J faxed his prescription for the bone simulator to a high-end health care provider, I was contacted by one of their associates to arrange an appointment to buy it. I was told that it would be $5,450 for the device plus $110 for the assessment by the chiropractor.

Chiropractor? I didn’t want a chiropractor. I just wanted to buy the bone simulator! Maybe they need to measure my neck and back to match me with the appropriate bone simulator, I thought. Despite the steep $110 fee, I obliged as I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. (About 90% of the bone simulator and chiropractor fees were covered by my extended health insurance – phew 😅)

Their clinic was quite far from where I lived, about a 40-minute drive away. They offered to have someone drive me to and from the clinic. Umm, no thanks. I have a BROKEN NECK from a CAR ACCIDENT and I don’t trust anyone but my dad or my husband to drive me places.

My dad had to take a day off work to drive me to my 3:00 pm appointment. We arrived at the clinic promptly and were greeted by not one, not two, but three receptionists. Why did they need so many? I thought. (Soon after, one of them left early.) It was a posh, upscale clinic with services like physical therapy, massage, acupuncture… you name it, they had it. Their spacious multi-disciplinary clinic catered to rehabilitation of sports and accident injuries as well as weight loss. I was asked to take a seat while I completed a new patient intake form.

I’M JUST BUYING SOMETHING FROM YOUR CHIROPRACTOR. I don’t need to go to this clinic again. Why are you making me complete all this paperwork? I thought. They also required me to sign a consent form for chiropractic treatment even when I had no intention of ever, ever receiving treatment there. What the consent form contained really disturbed me:

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I can’t even imagine ANYONE actually being okay with this!!! Ugh.

Shortly after we arrived, I was informed that my chiropractor, Dr. W, was running late. Like 20 minutes late. How was that acceptable? To have a patient, who made sure that they arrived for YOUR appointment on time, wait that long? If I still had the halo brace I would have been piiiiiissed. Though I experience shoulder pain after being up and about for a couple of hours, the Aspen collar is quite comfortable and actually livable so I tolerated the inconvenience.

Dr. W finally entered the clinic at 3:30 pm, 30 minutes late to our appointment. My dad and I were seated right by the door and he didn’t even acknowledge or apologize to us. I had a pretty obvious neck brace to show for it, so there was no excuse for him not to notice me.

I was called into his office. He introduced himself to me, and I to him. Instead of apologizing for his tardiness, he asked me, “What time did you get here?” “Umm, 3?” I said, to which he just shrugged off (what I assumed) his embarrassment. No show of regret, no explanation for being late and making me and my dad wait, nothing.

Dr. W proceeded to take a look at the new patient forms I completed. It turned out that I was given the wrong set to complete. (And they had three receptionists?) He got the correct set of papers and filled them out himself, copying my information. I would have preferred that I did it myself to ensure that everything was written correctly.

He was copying my insurance information when he asked, “Do you have auto insurance to pay for this?”

I said, “No, we only had third party liability insurance,” (Damages to ourselves and/or our car were not insured but damages to other people and/or their cars were – in our accident there wasn’t even a third party involved. This third party liability insurance is mandatory in the province of Québec where my husband’s parents registered our car. They opted not to take more comprehensive auto insurance.)

He stopped copying my information on to the new paperwork and looked at me with judgement. “You mean you only have your work insurance?”

“Yes and they’re covering me,” I said.

We basically went back and forth as he inquired why I didn’t have more comprehensive auto insurance… that I should really check if our auto insurance will pay for any of my treatment… that my current insurance won’t really pay for much.

Being the courteous and professional person that I was, I remained pleasant during the conversation. After months of all this accident drama, I know what coverage I have and don’t have, thank you, I thought. I just wanted him to shut up about it and move on. It wasn’t any of his business anyway!

He asked about the accident. I told him in as much detail as the story warranted but he clearly wanted me to get on with it as soon as possible. Well, you asked?!?

He said that he wanted a copy of my medical records and all my films because it was “probably not the last time” he was going to see me. Why did I need to see him again? My husband said that he would likely use that information to recommend some sort of treatment for me at his rehabilitation clinic. Besides, I just spent the last few days compiling all the information for my disability claim and now I had to do it again, for this douche? He didn’t even deserve to receive it.

Finally he was going to show me the bone simulator. Oh, but he didn’t even have it on him. He had to GO BACK TO HIS CAR TO GET IT. You knew you had an appointment with someone buying a bone simulator and you left it in your car?

I was given a rental unit until my real one came in a few days. He would deliver it to my house, thank God. (I was told I would pay an exorbitant $60 for the delivery but he forgot about it heehee 😛)

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My (rental) bone simulator

I would lay my neck on there for 30 minutes a day, at the same time every day. It basically pulses an electromagnetic field to which cells responsible for bone growth respond. It is used by patients like me who experienced non-union or delayed union of fracture sites.

It was pretty straightforward. He explained the basic principle of the device to me. He demonstrated how to lay my neck there and how press the buttons on it. I lay on it to make sure I would do it properly at home. DONE.

And I needed to ride in a car for 40 minutes, wait 30 minutes, and pay $110 for that? I didn’t even get measured for anything! What kind of assessment did he even perform?

After he showed me how it worked and entertained my questions, he handed me off to the receptionists to pay my total bill of $5,560. No simple “thank you”, no “appreciate your business!”, no reassuring “I know it’s expensive but it will help.” The ladies at the reception desk and even the lady who arranged my appointment there over the phone were so much more considerate.

After a few days of using the bone simulator, “Dr.” W (with air quotes now) called to tell me when he was dropping off my new unit . He was late that day and I wasn’t even the least bit surprised that he didn’t give an apology or due reason. I even rushed home from the grocery store to meet him on time!

Needless to say, that ended my relationship with “Dr.” W and his practice. Until then I have experienced a high level of care and compassion from everyone involved with nursing me back to health after my car accident. From all my doctors, nurses, hospital staff (okay, maybe except this time), and physical therapists, they have all treated me with the utmost care and kindness. I know it’s not fair for me to generalize and judge all chiropractors from two experiences, but I guess there’s another reason why chiropractic falls under “alternative” medicine – it’s not for everyone.

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