May 7, 2016 – Bent

If 2016 is the year of the Body, I had best improve it. For decades, I’ve suffered congenital poor posture that bows my back. Basically all the bones and tissues of my shoulders, neck, and ribs don’t fit in the middle of my back, so I’m constantly creaking like an old boat as I shift bones into more pleasant positions.

To address posture, in the past I’ve seen a back doctor who after looking at my x-rays said, “Nothing is wrong with your bones.” I’ve seen massage therapists, physical therapists for an exercise regimen, and a chiropractor. For about a year, Julie the jovial chiropractor would press on my back and crunch my hips weekly but not weakly. When I stopped working and taking in money, I stopped seeing Julie.

But I’m working again. Coworker Heather recommended a local chiropractor named Dr. Rob who has unorthodox methods. After an initial consult with x-rays, I see Dr. Rob three times a week each time for a grueling hour. He starts with the usual chiropractic adjustment to crack my back and dig into my shoulder blades, but it is after the adjustment, he asks, “Do you have time for a stretch?”

For the stretch, I lie in two different wooden traction machines each for fifteen minutes. Both contraptions look like guillotines. In the first machine, I lie back and let my neck hang freely while Dr. Rob piles weights on my forehead. In the second machine, a strap under my back pulls me up and arches my middle. Both devices are grueling, more so for an incessant fear of drowning. Because I can’t swallow upside-down, I worry about accumulating saliva blocking my throat. After the two stretches, I relax for ten minutes on a bed of ice blocks.

According to Dr. Rob’s methodology, the spine is like a coat hanger. After years of incorrect bending, these machines will bend the spine closer to the correct direction. So after twelve weeks, Dr. Rob will take more x-rays, evaluate my progress, and counsel me on what’s possible next. I’m spending a lot of money on straightening, but work helps pay for the treatment, and one of these days, I would finally like to be fully upright. In the meantime, it’s time for a stretch with weights on my forehead and my chest hanging in the air.