After five years of chiropractic care I’m still ambivalent about the process. There is no doubt that my back feels better after an adjustment, but I worry that I might become dependent on it. There is strong encouragement to become part of the chiropractic family, which means showing up for an appointment every three weeks – for the rest of my life. I’ll admit here to being slightly appointment-phobic. I never make my next hair appointment after a haircut, despite knowing that I’ll need one in about a month. So in that sense, I’m not singling out the chiropractor.  But it’s also a cost issue. If I were to attend that frequently my private health cover would run out very quickly, so I try to stretch out the time between visits.

After three weeks I’m beginning to stiffen up again. How does that work? Is there a built in redundancy to the adjustments? Still, I don’t want to give in.  Soon, the receptionist is leaving voice messages for me; they are concerned that by waiting so long, I’m not meeting my health goals. I ignore the first few calls. As a less than regular patient I’m not sure whether I am still part of the chiropractic family. I expect the cold-shoulder treatment at my next appointment.

The reality is, you can’t beat the system. Eventually I always go crawling back to get that tension across my shoulders released, and just for good measure, I’ll need to go again the following week because I’ve let things get so out of hand. But it just makes me dig my heels in further.

Finally, a stiff neck forces the issue. As expected the reception I receive is a little chilly. Then the chiropractor proceeds to exact her revenge. She tut-tutts about how tight my neck is, and says casually, ‘Is it really only three weeks since I last saw you?’

‘Oh, it might be a bit longer than that,’ I say, grateful to be face down on the table while she looks up my file.

‘Hmm, tenth of April,’ she says. ‘That’s why things are so locked up.’

She asks if I have a cold, which I don’t, but my usual dodgy sinuses are a bit congested. She decides to open my Eustachian tubes for me, which involves pinching my earlobes between her thumb and index finger and pulling them down towards my waist like a pair of Holland blinds. Then she lets go and I imagine them rolling up and spinning around a few times – cartoon-like, before coming to rest, bright red and pulsating. It really hurts. But that is nothing to the bone-crushing pressure she applies to my sinus cavities with her deceptively delicate fingers.

After paying $82 for the indignity, (but feeling considerably looser) I walk out, hair all mussed up, ears swollen, face red and blotchy.

‘See you next week,’ she calls after me, sounding much more chipper than when I arrived.

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