Denise Day Spencer

August 30, 2006


Filed under: Devotional Life,Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 2:22 am

This is not quite intended to be a commercial, but it may seem that way. I’m going to talk about chiropractic care.

Are you still there?

All of my life I had never given a thought to chiropractors or what they did, probably because I didn’t know what they did. I never thought they were quacks or witch doctors; I just never knew anything about them at all–until I finally had to.

Several years ago, I my right arm began going numb. After a series of X-rays, I was diagnosed with degenerative changes of the cervical spine–by a radiologist and an extremely competent nurse practitioner who was in no way associated with chiropractic medicine. She explained what it was, and basically said at my stage of the game the only thing to be done about it was to take Ibuprofen or use an ice pack when it flared up. She indicated that if it got bad enough, I might eventually need surgery. That was not a happy thought, but there seemed to be little I could do to make things any better.

A couple of years after that, I suddenly began having severe muscle pain and spasms in my neck and shoulders. I’m still not sure what set it off. But we had a science teacher on our faculty here at OBI who was a chiropractor. This kindly doctor took a special interest in my case, I suppose because he had been Michael’s prayer partner for a year, and because he already knew about my diagnosis.

Kindly Doctor began giving me C-spine adjustments twice a week. In no time at all, I began to feel better. The symptoms lessened, and soon almost completely went away. I’ll spare you the anatomy lesson, but he showed me my X-rays and explained to me why the adjustments were helping. It made sense. (I’m a nurse by profession. Believe me–if it had not helped and/or had not made sense, I wouldn’t have kept going back.)

Well, the X-rays had revealed a second problem that the nurse practitioner hadn’t told me about. I had an abnormal curvature of my neck. “Have you ever had whiplash?” Kindly Doctor wanted to know. “No,” I answered. He looked puzzled. “Are you sure?” We never did figure it out. I may have simply been born this way. (My parents have since assured me that I was not a toddler victim of a car crash, alien abduction or any such thing.) Kindly Doctor explained that because my neck didn’t curve the right way-and actually went in the wrong direction–my muscles had to work much harder than those of an average person just to hold my head up. No wonder I was having so many pains and spasms! I marveled that I hadn’t started having symptoms much sooner.

I was eventually able to space out the C-spine manipulations to once a week, then every two weeks, and finally once a month. They continued to keep my symptoms at bay, but Kindly Doctor seemed to accept my being a contorted freak of nature as a part of the package that he couldn’t do much about.

Then he announced that he was moving away. He recommended a chiropractor in the nearby town of London, gave me his copies of my X-rays, and wrote a letter of referral. I don’t think Kindly Doctor had any idea that he was signing me up for much more than either he or I ever bargained for.

It turns out that, like regular M.D.’s, chiropractors can specialize within the field. My new D.C. was a specialist in chiropractic rehab. He had just had a research article accepted for publication in a major chiropractic journal–the American Chiropractic Association’s online publication. Want to take one guess what the article was about? Yep, you’ve got it. This guy is one of just a handful of chiropractors in the U.S. who actively work to correct abnormal C-spine curvatures.

You won’t be able to read the article itself unless you’re an ACA member. Don’t worry; it’s probably too technical for your taste anyway. But I’ve read every word (I’m sneaky; I have my ways!) so now I know how smart my doctor really is. And once again, it all makes sense. If you just want to be sure I’m not making this up, go here and look for the headline, “Case Report: Rehabilitation Approach to Treatment of Whiplash-Associated Disorder,” by Anthony A. DeCarlo, DC, DACRB. It’s in the research and science department of the August, 2006 issue.

Back to my story.

This doctor has the most efficiently run office I’ve ever seen. (Thanks, Terri, Cheryl and Mrs. DeCarlo!) He appropriately calls himself the “Rehab. Master,” and he immediately put me on a twice-weekly program of muscle relaxation, manipulation, traction, more manipulation, and then an ever-growing list of exercises. He supervised my stretching and weight-lifting. He explained the rationale behind everything. He showed me a new trick at nearly every appointment, so my exercise routine expanded as I was able to tolerate more.

Part doctor, part physical therapist, part personal trainer, the Rehab. Master taught me. He coached me. He encouraged me–and laughed at me when I fell off the big ball. He distracted me from my discomfort with jokes and wildly random monologues. This guy could make a stint in the Gulag seem like a picnic.

The Rehab. Master explained that even if we made no significant change in my abnormal curvature, strengthening my muscles would lead to less pain and a reduced risk of injury. That sounded good to me. Since I work in a print shop and sometimes have to lift or move some pretty darned heavy boxes, I’m all about not getting hurt.

After two months of appointments in his office, the Rehab. Master did another X-ray. The picture revealed slight improvement in the curvature of the top part of my neck. (Yes, I saw the “before” and “after” shots myself.) I needed to keep working, but it was time for me to assume the responsibility for my rehab.

So now our new guest room doubles as Denise’s makeshift gym. The Rehab. Master gave me my personal spongy football, and I bought my own big ball for only $2.50 at Walmart. (I got a purple one.) The first time Clay saw me rolling around on the ball like a circus elephant, he just stood there for a moment. Then he shook his head, said “You are one bizarre woman,” and walked away.

Most of my workout routine involves free weights, and fortunately we have a weight room on campus. It’s not as nice as the doctor’s office, though. Instead of dumbbells arranged in order neatly on a shelf, they are usually strewn around the room in some measure of disarray. There are three 15-pound weights, no 12-pound and only one 20-pound. Instead of watching myself in the reflection of mirrors, I stare at a long strand of what looks like old, dried blood on the wall. But hey, what can I say? It’s home.

Figuring out how to put myself in traction was more of a challenge. I needed to be able to lie on a hard surface and hang my head off the end of something. Clay suggested I lie on the back porch. But since our house is on a busy corner, I decided against giving the passersby too much to talk about. Michael offered an alternative: the wooden benches on the Campus Ministry Center porch. Of course someone would undoubtedly think I’d fainted and would call an EMT. The Rehab. Master quipped, “You can lie on your coffeetable. Just don’t invite company over while you’re hanging there!” Thanks, guys. You’re all so helpful.

At last I came up with my own plan: I lie on the bed in my little gym on top of the ironing board (flattened, of course.) Clay thought this was a brilliant idea. “Did you think that up all by yourself?” he wanted to know. And so each night I hang, batlike, in my self-imposed torture. I still miss the Rehab. Master’s crazy conversations, but that’s the price of progress, I suppose.

I don’t know much about chiropractic medicine in general. I don’t have any idea if it can cure what ails you. But if your neck is on backward, it just might do the trick.

Now. You may have noticed that I’ve categorized this essay under “devotional.” Why? Partly because the discipline it takes for me to stick with my new regimen has helped me be more disciplined in my spiritual life as well.

But here’s the real point. In “Out of the Silent Planet” from C. S. Lewis’s “Space Trilogy” [SPOILER ALERT] Dr. Ransom is kidnapped from earth and taken to another planet–a planet where the indigenous creatures have never known original sin. Occasionally, however, one becomes evil, and they say that one is “bent.” Dr. Ransom sadly explains that in his world, “We are all bent.”

Such a simple truth, yet profound–and so hard for most people to accept. We want to believe that we are, at heart, good. Far too many Christians even describe sin as simply isolated wrong actions, with no thought for sins of omission, selfish motives, or the ever-present desire to have things our own way. We may not be completely evil, but every part of our nature is tainted by self-centeredness. No one escapes it. We are all bent, just like my poor, twisted neck.

But there is a difference. My physical improvement depends, in large part, on how hard I am willing to work for it. I must lift the weights. I must do the stretches. Correcting our bent spirits, however, is not accomplished by our work. Trying to sin less or be better people will never silence the little voice in each of our hearts that cries out, “Me! Me! Me!” Instead, we must trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross. He’s the only un-bent person who has ever walked this planet. He gives us His perfection by laying down His life for us. Only after we accept His sacrifice on our behalf can we begin the work of truly rehabilitating our lives.

And there you have it, as the Rehab. Master would say.



  1. […] responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. 🙂 Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your ownsite. […]

    Pingback by The Boars Head Tavern » Blog Archive » Bent — August 30, 2006 @ 3:01 am | Reply

  2. Denise – I, too, apparently have a neck that curves the wrong way, but I am losing confidence in my chiro. Is there a way to find out who these specialists are?

    Comment by Jack Heald — August 30, 2006 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  3. Jack,

    Wow. Great question. I don’t know. I can ask my doc next week when I’m there. Somebody must keep track of the specialty degrees they earn…maybe the American Chiropractor’s Association could tell you who in your area is a rehab. specialist…? Wish I knew more. Can any readers out there answer this question?

    Comment by Denise Day Spencer — August 30, 2006 @ 11:44 pm | Reply

  4. Hey Denise,

    I recently found out that I have Swayback (from the “Rehab Master” himself.) I really wasn’t sure what was wrong with my back, I just knew that it hurt… badly! Although I haven’t been going to Dr. DeCarlo’s office long, I’ve been going long enough to find out that he is very good at what he does, he’s very nice, and so are all his staff. And on top of all that, I feel better. I don’t have nearly as much pain as I did before. He’s wonderful. I don’t even feel as though I’m going to the Dr. when I go. (Just to be honest, I love going to his office!) I feel like a new person when I leave.

    When I decided to go to Dr. DeCarlo, I’d never heard of him. I just picked him out of the yellow pages, but for whatever reason, the grace of God or whatever it might have been, I’m glad I did. I’m sure I couldn’t have possibly made a better choice!

    –Brenda Napier

    Comment by Brenda Faye Napier — February 13, 2007 @ 11:01 am | Reply

  5. Hi. I just happened upon your site when I was researching “neck curvature, c s degenrative changes”. That is what was written on my x-ray report I received in the mail today. I also have a small spur on my right elbow. I went to the doctor last week to see why the heck my arm hurt so bad and why I was losing strength in my right arm and hand. Well, I have my referrals to have an emg done and then on to ortho. But I think I might add a trip to a chiropractor in there too! We are military and at some bases there are chiropractors they will refer you to but not here! 😦 Well, I wish you continued success on your exercises I think your website has really helped me a lot!
    Oh yeah, I have been in a few wrecks in my day but I never had any pain in my neck or back from it. I wonder if they will say it was accident related……hmmm.

    Warner Robins, GA

    Comment by Donna — September 20, 2007 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  6. […] I’ve been working out with weights for three years now. That may be some of it, but my Rehab Master agrees with me that the weight-lifting can’t account for all of it. OK, OK, so I need to be […]

    Pingback by Carbohydrate Codependent « Denise Day Spencer — July 14, 2009 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: