Monday, September 20, 2010

Nothing is ever free.

It just so happens that my employer is located in the South Lake Union neighborhood in Seattle, an area that is exploding right now with the new location of Amazon headquarters, a Tesla dealership, a bunch of biomed companies, a Microsoft outpost, and some other stuff.

With new office space comes new local businesses. Which is great. I am 100% pro local business.

Last Thursday there was a "trade show" in the neighborhood. I put this in quotes because it wasn't really a trade show, it was more like an open house. A coworker convinced me to go because they were serving a large assortment of free food, and handing out bags of swag. Of course, most of that stuff is just garbage anyways (for example, the flyswatter-- guys, there are basically no flies in Seattle!) but sometimes you get something good like a reusable grocery bag.

You trade this free swag for your name and email address, which is fine with me.

I stopped by one booth for our local "wellness center," which is a combination pilates studio, chiropractice, naturopathy clinic, and massage therapy location. They had a Plinko game and with my first disc I won a "free chiropractic assessment and adjustment."

I was kind of excited about this. My daughter is nearly 4 months old and I've been nursing her somewhere on the order of 10-12 times a day (although less now, since I'm back at work). Though nursing in public is legal in basically every state, it's pretty common and embraced in the Seattle area, so I wasn't always at home propped up with boppy pillows and in an upright posture like I was supposed to be. For example, yesterday I nursed in the front seat of my (parked) car before we went into Ikea, on Friday I nursed on the ground at a park after my walk, and just about every day I prop her up and nurse while I'm hunched over on my laptop. 2-3 times a night I also sit with one leg up on an easy chair and fall asleep.

(The dangers of falling asleep in a chair while nursing in the middle of the night is a post for another day. Perhaps some parents will understand the strange phenomenon of "losing" hours in the middle of the night from passing out in a chair.)

The grand result of this is that my lower and upper back are sore and stiff and for the first time ever last week I got a tension headache that started in my neck, which also is becoming stiff.

This morning I had my appointment. I dropped my daughter off at daycare on my day off (yay, best mom ever) and drove over.

In the waiting room I filled out 6 pages of paperwork with my medical history and watched other patients come in and drape themselves across what appeared to be pilates machines and lie there before their appointment times with various body parts hanging in slings. It was all a little strange. With some hesitation I hand them my health insurance card as well, knowing that I would refuse any service that would bill to them. After all, this is a free appointment, and because my insurer is an HMO and my employer, I'm not in the practice of pretending like billing them for services is actually "free."

I go in and speak with the chiropractor, he re-asks all the questions about my pain, makes me attempt to touch my toes (which I unfortunately cannot), bend backwards, bend sideways, twist, etc. All in front of a full length mirror, which is great for the ol' postpartum self esteem. Then he makes me lie down and presses here and there, asking me where I feel pain.

After all this he has his assessment: my lower back, upper back, and neck probably all have problems.

So, right. That was why I was there, after all.

Then he hits me with the kicker: in order to continue, he has to X-ray these three locations. Because they have already (conveniently) checked up on my insurance coverage for me (did I give them permission to do that? I guess I did), they know that my insurance doesn't cover it. X-rays are $60 a pop.

I'm standing there looking at the guy. A bit confused, I clarify, "so you want me to get $180 worth of X-rays before you can do any adjustments?"

"Well, yes," he says.

I tell him I'm going to have to refuse at this time and then I make a hasty exit while he announces to the receptionist, not quietly, that I'm going to "look at my other options and let them know." Glad to know that the people lying around slung up world's oddest waiting room are privy to that information.

In the car on the way to the grocery store I get a bit angry about this. I'm a skeptic and I don't go in for this woo stuff, and chiropractice really is part of that movement. There's evidence to show that it helps with some low back pain, but there is not evidence to show that it helps with, among other things it claims to, sinus problems, kidney trouble, cancer, headaches, joint pain, vision problems, dizziness... or basically anything else. This all was passing through my mind as I was looking over a diagram in the waiting room that was connecting the vertebrae to all the other body parts and body systems. It's all unsubstantiated woo, and there I was supporting it. It made me feel uneasy.

In addition, I gave them an opportunity to find out if they can bill my insurance for the privilege of irradiating me three times. As it is I already have to fight with my dentist's office over whether they REALLY need to take X-rays every.single.year. Frankly there are too many people close to me with cancer right now for me to want to jump at the opportunity to subject myself to more radiation. Especially in my lower back, which is the area that contains all my reproductive organs.

In summary, I'm going to have to trust my gut about things. The thing about chiropractice that I knew going in was that no matter what they were going to do to me that day, it would be recommended that I keep coming back over and over. After all, it's not in their benefit to actually fix anything, because they need to be able to squeeze me and my insurance for that next dollar. I had just hoped that they would maybe doing something today that would make me feel a little better, but they didn't feel any obligation to go that far. Which perhaps they shouldn't, because after all, I wasn't paying them anything.

Furthermore, I don't need to get myself in a situation where someone's trying to convince me of a bunch of hooey that's not evidence-based, just like I wouldn't go somewhere and have someone tell me the color of my aura, the balance of my chakra, the direction of my body's energy flow, or the type of scented oil I have to keep at my front door to bring money into my life.

For now, I'm going to have to help my back by not hunching over all the time, and exercising again. If that doesn't work, I'm going to have to pursue what the research says will actually help me, and then go and spend money to get that treatment fair and square.