See Me Feel Me Touch Me Heal Me

For no particular reason, my favorite phrase today is butt of sack. Which I go to the gym not to have one of.

When I was a kid, my father was slammed by a hard case of sciatica, which is one of those tarpaulin terms that covers a wealth of pains. Dad’s was pretty crippling. Most back and leg pains take care of themselves sooner or later, but this didn’t. We’re in the ’70s now, which means a few things:

  • MRI’s exist in a theoretical sense, but not for you and me or our Dads.
  • Medicine is highly advanced, in a look-at-those-cavemen-go kind of way.
  • The sciatica might have been caused by bell-bottoms. We’ll never know.

As a union family in a time before Republicans started playing chicken with the National Treasury, we had health insurance, and good stuff too. My father tried medication, physical therapy, second opinions, exercise, relaxation, leeches, vapours, magnets, copper. None of it worked. The pain was constant and ineluctable, and at last he started taking advice from the sort of “We nourish our health from the Sacred Twisted Root” folks that he didn’t usually take advice from. We didn’t get as far as orgone boxes or pyramids, but for the age it was pretty edgy — he went to a chiropractor.

I didn’t think about it one way or another. I was too young to know that in the Nixon years “chirporactor” was atin-Lay for “unholy witch doctor,” and unholy Gentile witch doctor to boot, because what member of the Tribes would go in for chiropractic when he could have been a real doctor and made his Mother so happy and all the other Mothers jealous? Besides, I was probably trying to figure out how to consecrate my athame around then anyway, so it’s not like I would have noticed anything amiss.

It works. Dr. Unholy G. Witch sticks him in the chair (remember that Star Trek is newfangled back then, TV’s are still routinely black and white, and “ergonomics” is atin-Lay for “don’t tease him, he talks funny,” so the chair is a howler on its own), twists him around just enough to stir up paranoid Semitic angst (“I don’t know, Officer, he just broke all of a sudden”), pushes a bit here and pulls a bit there and then thumbs an off switch my father didn’t know he had. And that was that for the pain.

I realize two things after Master Debunker PZ Myers, Darwin of the wonderful evolutionary biology blog Pharyngula, takes a few casual swipes at Chiroquackery on Tuesday. First, I think of chiropraxis as rather like acupuncture — which is to say, harmless and sometimes surprisingly effective. Second, I know abso-über-lutely nothing about it whatsoever. So I fire up Google for a bit, and a few linky minutes later I discover a third thing: My Dad must have been in a lot of pain. Dr. McCoy would never have approved of this crunchy business, that’s for sure. But it worked that time when other things didn’t, and that’s something.

I had two brushes with native medicine when I was traveling through Nepal in the ’90s. They were as different as two similar things can be, and they both illuminated much if you watched them right: they were kind of like card tricks, in which the medicine wasn’t really the trick but it kept your eyes busy while the sleight of hand got done. They remind me of this, and I’ll talk about them tomorrow.

“A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.” – Arthur C. Clarke (a synergetic arrival in the email box, that quote, while I was writing this entry)

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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