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The Old Woman and the Chiropractor

It’s often said “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but from this “old dog’s,” perspective, I can definitely testify that I have been taught a few new tricks!

Forty years ago, in my long past youth, I gaily pranced up the stairs in my house, in a pair of hippy coloured flip flops, only to trip on them and just as quickly fall back down them onto my bottom. At first, apart from the indignity of feeling stupid, and the laughter of my kids, I thought there was no more than a beautiful, purple bruise on my hip. 

This turned out to be a weeny bit more serious than colourful bruising, however. After a week, I was having difficulty walking without a cracking pain in my leg. This became steadily worse until being bent like a banana was the only comfortable way to stand. 

At this point, someone my husband worked with said, “you want to go and see my Dad, he’s a chiropractor”. Well, when this was relayed back to me, my first comment was, “what’s a chiropractor?” We were only reasonably enlightened in the early 1980’s, and I had never heard of one. 

I soon found out. Standing in my underwear, discretely covered by a gown that just about hid my modesty, I looked closely at the photographic Xray that apparently showed my spine, not to mention the underwiring on my bra. Of course, it meant absolutely nothing to me, however I feigned knowledge and nodded wisely, as my new best friend, the chiropractor, pointed out the area of damage, most likely a “prolapsed disc”, or in my then world, a “slipped disc”. 

Over the next thirty-eight years, I visited Peter and had him manipulate, push, pull and maneuver bones in my body back into their rightful places. During this time, and with Pete’s help and guidance, I managed to stay more runner bean and less banana. This included two lots of surgery for prolapsed discs, facilitated by Pete and his friendly orthopedic surgeon.

Then came disaster!! Pete announced his retirement. He was giving me fair notice, that in six months’ time he would no longer be practicing. I had become accustomed to his leaping on me from a great height, and the cracking of bones as he manipulated them back into place. I was pretty distraught, with a dodgy set of backbones, what was I going to do now?

I put off the decision making for a while as I didn’t have major back ache or any other ache for that matter. Then older age started to creep up on me. It wasn’t just the grey hair and the forgetting where I had put my car keys, I started to ache again.

This time, it wasn’t a, “backache”, as in the past. It was more an, “all over, I feel old ache and my hip hurts.” For a while, I just put this down to galloping decline towards my dotage, but then the increasing twinges in my hips made me think once again about a “Pete Replacement”. Even though I wasn’t sure that a chiropractor was the answer to this ageing hippy hurtling down the hill at a rapid rate of knots. 

I asked around and was told about “Liz”. “She’s young”, they said, and I imagined a young girl, not long out of a gymslip, and not necessarily having much sympathy for a feeble old woman. A bad experience was at the back of this thought, fifteen years previously, a young male physiotherapist, just out of college, had told me, “There is nothing we can do for the sciatic pain of a prolapsed disc. I’ll refer you to a pain clinic. You’ll have to learn to live with it.” Seriously?? Not this old woman – with Pete’s help we made short shrift of that whipper snapper; I could deal with another one if I needed to.

Appointment made, I hobbled around in martyred silence, waiting for the day of my rendezvous to arrive. How was anyone ever going to replace Pete? I rocked up at the appointed time and after a few minutes wait, I heard a friendly voice behind me. “Hi, I’m Liz, you must be Liz, come on through.” A very charming smile accompanied the voice, and I followed the young woman into the cosy consulting room. First hurdle crossed, it was nice, not stark white and clinical. 

There followed a very thorough questioning about my past history, and Liz managed to convey the impression to me that at that moment in time, I was the only person that mattered in her life. Good start, memories of the unfortunate, spotty physiotherapist began to fade, and confidence in a younger person’s ability was on the up. But I thought to myself, can she do the same cracking job as Pete. That would be the test!

Having listened attentively to my history of woes, Liz began her examination. This was unexpected. She was checking out all sort of bits of me that I didn’t even know existed. Pete had never done any of this, he had gone straight for the jugular, leapt on me from a great height and following loud cracks, he would say, “there you go, come back if you need to”. 

This consideration of bits of me I hadn’t even mentioned was novel! I ventured a comment. “It’s actually my hip that hurts”, I said as Liz was prodding my ankles. She smiled and started explaining to me how all the different bits of the body are connected. Of course, I knew this, but I hadn’t really thought about it in terms of chiropractic treatment before. Hmm, this was food for thought, an interesting holistic approach. I warmed to the idea as Liz started explaining what she thought the problem might be. It started to make some sense. 

After a thorough scrutiny, Liz undertook some manipulation type stuff. I say, “manipulation type”, as this was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. In a firm but gentle way, Liz pushed and pulled, pressed and worked my frame. Having gone to Liz with what I though was a “dodgy hip” which was related to being old and arthritic, I found that I had far more interesting things happening with my body, that had potentially been suspect for a very long time.

When she had finished her first treatment of me, Liz invited me to stand up and see how I felt. Well, staggering off the couch, being prepared to feel pummeled and battered, I stood up, and found to my surprise, my hip was far less achy and the neckache I didn’t know I had before seeing Liz was no longer in evidence. In fact, after only one treatment, I already felt twenty years younger. Well, slight exaggeration, but I definitely felt less “old woman” and more “woman with life left in her”.

Over the past two years, I have seen Liz on numerous occasions and apart from the laugh we have, I have learnt so much about the different ways my body works, or in my case, sometimes doesn’t. The novel ways Liz has of “fixing” things for me, from the “wonky” stance to the “crooked” knee, have astounded me. I had thought that after forty years of visiting a chiropractor, I could almost have carried out the treatments myself! 

Liz has shown me how wrong I was. It has been fascinating to learn about how – “that muscle in …. here…”, as she squashes it and causes a twinge in my shoulder, “is connected to this point …. here”, identifying totally accurately the point at which the pain was occurring.

From cranial manipulation (totally new to me pre-Liz) to muscle makeovers, I consider that as an old woman, I have indeed learnt so many “new tricks”. Rock on Liz (and indeed Liz!).

Elizabeth Garvey
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