Be wary of chiropractors (and other medical professionals)

A lot of you guys ask about my health and I have not publicly said anything for a few months so here it is: my eye is healing slowly but has a long way to go. My back has done pretty well. I am pretty much pain-free and while a few lingering issues are being stubborn about disappearing, I am thankful for the progress.

If there has been a silver lining to my health saga, it has been that I have learned some very important things. Many of you have already learned those things, but for those that have not, maybe my experiences can help you. I want to talk about the dangers of chiropractic care, especially if you are dealing with bad chiropractors.

I should say up front that there are obviously good chiropractors that this post does not apply to. But based on what I know about professionals in general, I suspect that for every safe chiropractor, there are at least a few incompetent ones. Finding a good chiropractor is harder than it seems.

Sadly, I chose an incompetent chiropractor based on a recommendation from a well-meaning friend. If you live in the area, the chiropractor to avoid is Mark Anthony in Athens, Georgia. I have no problem naming him by name to protect people from going there.

In my case, I had lower back trouble that I wanted him to help with. He did a great sales job (and make no mistake, these services are being sold to you) about how he could fix my back. I agreed to ten treatments. (He did not come right out and say that would be all it took but that was the impression I got.)

The big problem was that Anthony did not know what was wrong with my back when he was selling treatments. He was guessing based on X-rays which are very inconclusive in these matters. Only MRIs give real information about disc issues in the back.

Not knowing what the problem was did not stop Anthony from doing adjustments that were very intense. He would sort of wrap me up in a strange twisted position and do a very hard push on different vertebrae in my back. I let him do it because I was under the misconception that he knew what he was doing.

The day after my first adjustment, I woke up feeling strange. I had less pain but I had a new numbness below the waist. It actually affected some body function a bit and I was concerned. When I brought it up to Anthony and staff, I was told it was a temporary result of bones being shifted and not to be concerned.

Over the following weeks, the numbness did not go away. And I noticed something very strange. Every time I brought it up with Anthony, he seemed surprised as if it was his first time hearing about it. In other words, it became clear that he was not notating it in my records.

Eventually, we came to the tenth treatment and Anthony called me in for an evaluation. He did new X-rays and pronounced me miraculously improved. I brought up the numbness again. Yet again, he acted like he had never heard that before and then said he was perplexed because he had never heard of patients having numbness after a treatment. He said that if it persisted for another week or so, he was going to suggest an MRI because it could be something like cancer. (Suggesting cancer was ridiculous; he should have known that a bulging or herniated disc was the most likely culprit.)

Predictably, he also said that he was going to need to do more treatments to finish the job, and for some reason, I was stupid enough to come back one more time. This time, one of the things he did created enough pain where I finally took control, left his clinic and got an appointment with a orthopedic surgeon.

The orthopedic surgeon scheduled the MRI which showed that I had a huge herniated disc. He recommended immediate surgery because the numbness I was experiencing was affecting some body function and could have led to devastating results. He actually said that I should have come to him as soon as the numbness started and it might be too late to reverse it. I got a second opinion from a neurosurgeon who said the same thing.

The neurosurgeon did the surgery for me and I am thankful to report that the numbness has almost completely gone away. Fortunately, it appears I quit listening to Anthony in time.

Before I went to Mark Anthony, I had some back pain that while painful was relatively minor and not dangerous (probably a bulging disc). There is no doubt in my mind that the very first adjustment that Anthony did caused the disc to herniate. When a disc herniates, it leaks a jelly-like substance that in my case, pressed against nerves and created the numbness.

Do I blame Anthony for the disc herniation? Strangely, not really. Apparently, a disc herniation is just a fluke thing that happens sometimes.

But on the other hand, I do blame Anthony for the way he handled things after the herniation occurred. His refusal to acknowledge the numbness as serious and his cavalier way of keep notes in his records lead me to either describe him as incompetent or grossly negligent. Certainly, his actions created a very dangerous situation.

The fact that he told me he had never heard of a patient having numbness because of back troubles makes me wonder about his training. Once I got scared, it took only a modest amount of research to determine that numbness is a very common and very dangerous symptom of disc problems.

In my opinion, he should have taken the numbness very seriously and rather than giving me false reassurance, he should have suggested an MRI.

I am not minimizing my responsibility for my health by the way. I am ultimately responsible for my health, not a chiropractor. My mistake was putting any confidence at all in a chiropractor that I now believe was hopelessly incompetent. I will not make a mistake like that again.

Going forward, my plan is to let the matter drop if the numbness continues to heal. On the other hand, if there is any permanent damage, I will handle things in court. In the mean time, I just want to warn you of what I have learned.

1) Don’t let a chiropractor touch your back unless they know what is wrong with it. That means you have an MRI done; X-rays are not sufficient.

2) Be careful of incompetence. If you sense any, leave immediately. My clue should have been the shoddy record keeping.

3) Be wary of sales tactics and slimy billing practices. Medical professionals need to make a living but you have to understand that they do that by selling you services. You can safely assume some will sell you services that you either do not need or should not have. I believe that is part of what went on in my situation and looking back, certain business practices I observed should have warned me.

All in all, I have a lot to be thankful for and am glad God chose to protect me from a dangerous situation.