Weak at the knees..

“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.”
― Bill BrysonA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

This post is to give an update to my nagging knee condition.  To put it bluntly, it’s getting worse, not better.  I have tried to maintain consistent icing, elevating, NSAIDS and rest.  I have tried mild stretching, bicycling and walking, and with every action, my knee gets worse.  It seems the only thing that leads to less pain and less limping is by not doing anything but sit around.  At this point, it appears that I have no other choice but to wait around for my next doctor appointment, which is Feb 3rd.  Every day that goes by adds risk to my preparedness for the end of April start date.  Even the mid June southbound start date is risky at this point.  I’m finding it difficult to ignore these depressing facts even as I continue to work on my equipment list and resupply plan.

My closest friend is an avid supporter of the chiropractic approach to healing.  Over the years we have had a very long and continuous debate on this topic as I am unconvinced of it’s claims for healing efficacy and he is a true believer.   Even if I had direct evidence of improvement to my injuries or other health issues, I would not accept that my improvement was due to vertebral subluxation adjustments or other chiropractic complementary and alternative medicine procedures.  I have been impressed by scientific methods my whole adult life to the point that my beliefs demand strict adherence to the principles of scientific method for me to accept truth on matters of great importance to me such as my health.  This is where my friend and I differ most.  He is well trained in the sciences as I am.  An Engineer by trade, he has on more than one occasion straightened me out when my logic has fallen short.  Yet, he does allow personal experience to override mountains of scientific study, evaluations and opinion gathered by scientists whose job it is to seek the truth in their fields and are well trained to carry this out using careful and controlled studies.

Chiropractors are masters of deception and quackery.  Anyone, no matter how intelligent, can be fooled by someone trained in the arts.  I know I could be, therefore, I don’t put myself in the position to be fooled or taken advantage of.  Well.. I have to confess that about 20 years ago, I suffered from terrible headaches and back pain, that wasn’t being improved using mainstream therapies.  Although, I was skeptical, even then, about chiropractic healing methods, I decided what the hell, giver a shot.  The chiropractor asked me about my problem and proceeded to quiz me about any accidents or traumas that I may have had since I was a child.  Then he took X-Rays of my back and pointed to the three areas on my spine that I had previously identified as areas of pain.  He said he could see trauma in those areas that could have been caused by one or more of the incidences that I had told him about earlier (fell out of a tree at 7, several bicycle accidents, etc.).  This all seemed a bit too convenient for me, but I continued to listen.  He prescribed 10 visits to do back adjustments in the areas of injury and see how it goes from there.

I did the 10 adjustments as prescribed, but saw no improvement to my pain.  So I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to see if anything else can be done.   I brought with me the X-Rays made by the chiropractor.  The doctor took one look at the x-rays and said that they were all washed out and shows absolutely nothing.  He said the x-rays looked like they were taken with a WWII era machine.  I could see this for myself that the images were washed out but thought maybe a trained eye could see something I couldn’t.  He took a new set of x-rays that were dramatically better in resolution and clarity.  Once again, he said that there was no indication of trauma, scarring or other damage.  All looked fine.  He prescribed a series of physical therapy sessions and some muscle relaxants.  In all fairness, this didn’t solve the problem either, as my primary physician identified that my pain was entirely due to high blood pressure.  Once I started medication that brought my blood pressure down, problem solved.

Even though the Orthopedic surgeon could not solve the problem, standard medical procedures and observations by my primary doctor did.   Here’s the kicker.. If I would have seen pain relief from the chiropractor, I would have had to continue receiving adjustments forever, at great cost.  This is what my friend has experienced as he needs to regularly see his chiropractor to get relief his whole life.  These procedures have never shown to solve long term conditions, only some short term relief.  On top of that, even if I directly experienced pain relief, I would not accept that it was due to chiropractic methods, as the scientifically controlled studies have already demonstrated that these methods provide little or no benefit and I must accept this result even over my own personal experience (or my friend’s personal experience).  After all, I can be fooled!

I don’t begrudge those who directly benefit, especially with pain relief, from chiropractic “medicine”, as I believe there is some short term relief, kind of like cracking your knuckles or getting a massage, though, I would much rather get a massage then get my back cracked, especially if there’s going to be a happy ending :).   But there is an inherent danger in seeing a chiropractor as they are, as I have stated, masters of quackery.  Buyer beware.

Back to the knee problem..  I have accepted that all fitness (and weight loss!) progress will have to wait for my doctor’s diagnosis.  If the worst case scenario is realized, and I won’t heal in time for either of the northbound or southbound PCT start dates, I will go back to work and prepare for next year.  The knee will heal eventually and when it does, I’ll be on the trail.  Hopefully, it’ll be this year.  Stay tuned…

Bill

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