Friday, November 23, 2007

Naushaba and Sayaar's Brief Honeymoon

Just got these pics. They went to crater lake and decided to postpone the big honeymoon for a little later. They look well rested and Sayaar looks happy to be away from the mobs of people. I can't believe Naushaba has to work today. Otherwise they would have gone to Hawaii. So this morning Sayaar, Joeron, and me are going post thanksgiving shopping. I'd rather be dragged over hot coals slowly with my balls exposed, but it's the last time I'll see Joeron. He is inviting us all to come to Amsterdam or anywhere else in his neighborhood and I told him I would take him up on that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Naushaba Gets Married

My best friend and favorite person on planet Earth got married this weekend.

Below, one the most interesting pictures I've ever been in. Friend from Holland Joeron couldn't get his camera to have a fast enough shutter speed so he was taking some psychedelic moving pictures. Here's me and Safoora, one of the cutest women in the world. She only eats Halal meat though (Islamic Kosher), I've tried my best. Naushaba's step-mother was trying to get her to marry me. 2 years ago she tried to get Naushaba to marry me. I thought of pleading with my wonderful advocate to simply arrange something by force.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pt 7: Letting go of God and Chiropractic

If you've really read all this and care about my life enough to do so, I say thank you. This really is what I have been doing these last 10 years.

I remember going to this website full of ex-Chiropractors and a few still practicing Chiropractors who speak out about everything they went through. Many of their stories were very similar to mine. I was choked up to read a thread about ex-Chiropractors commiting suicide this morning as I researched these posts. I was fortunate enough not to have been married or with children and other responsibilities. I can only imagine the pain they went through as they began to realize they were living a lie. Here is a typical rant from a student who went to "life university"

"The threads i see here about suicides in the profession don't do the truth justice. Look back to 1984 I knew one personally. He had quit his profession as an air traffic controller to become a chiropractor. The last thing he said to me during exams before he killed himself was I feel kind of funny. It is so true that if you decide to get out so many of the people you care about will turn against you....Another was when my friend told me we had fallen for a bunch of bull shi### before he killed himself. We were young in our 20's and thinking our motives were pure we thought we had a chance. We never had a chance. Chiropractic is a circus tent. Where are the clowns?"

Eventually I was forced out of Chiropractic by a lucky event which only cost me about $2,000. I had rented an office space and was going to hire an old friend who had cerebral palsy to be my front desk person. Due to her condition she couldn't maintain her job in an ER because all the walking put too much stress on her knees. I could not afford to start the practice and she stated she had a trust fund that she would never be able to use unless she went off disability benefits. So she was going to help me out a few thousand dollars from the fund. She paid for much of the office furniture, the advertising and insurance. Looking back it wasn't much, but it seemed like it at the time. After a couple of months I started receiving bill after unpaid bill for things she "paid" for. She had lied, and I was swamped. I confronted her parents and she turned out to be a confirmed pathological liar. This was the greatest thing possible for me. I was forced out of practice. Forced to move on. I sublet the space.

Most people who I've known, if asked, would say "Aaron failed in practice, and because he couldn't be a successful Chiropractor, he got out of the profession". No string of words could be more false.

Most importanly due to this experience, it began to help me realize that there is no God. There is no plan for my life. All my tears and prayers and begging for guidance was just me talking to myself. It took a couple more years for me to say "I am an atheistic materialist", but at that moment I lost my ability to take spirituality seriously, and this opened the floodgates to the pressure cooker of the cognitive dissonance. It was an Aha! experience which brought the epiphany that no god or "Universe" or spirit, or life purpose is desiring me to save the world through Chiropractic. Over time it sunk in and I began to heal from the madness.

When I was a spiritualist I was frequently depressed. Suddenly I found myself going several weeks at a time without experiencing more than a day or two of depression, whereas before it would be classified as clinical. Although I was financially devastated, I could pull my foot out of this bear trap and start limping forward finally. I finally understood why I couldn't immerse myself into the belief systems several of my other friends accepted. I figured out why I had so many problems with what they believed and said. It wasn't because of something bad about me, it was something good! I was critical and analysing and I saw through all of their bullshit beliefs. Once I quit blaming myself for "not getting it", I felt so much better, and ceased to be depressed.

I look back at where I was and it is inconceivable that I believed many of the things I did. It was an entirely different life. After some time I became fascinated with why people believe such weird things. The people I once hated or thought were delusional- Dawkins, Shermer, Dennett, Sagan, etc... Became my heroes.

I became humble. I realized how incredibly stupid I am. I lost the ability to really take myself seriously in some ways after having fallen so deeply for things that are so demonstrably ridiculous. But I felt good about this. Being stupid and seeing clearly is better than being brilliant and delusional.

This account is nowhere near complete, and is quite lazy, but that's what blogs are for right? There is much here that is missing, and I have skipped over troubling aspects of Chiropractic that are more major than what I've remembered, but truth be told I don't think about Chiropractic much anymore until someone brings it up. As I said in the beginning, it is like having had a divorce. But in this divorce, no matter how far you have grown apart from your spouse, she always returns and someone always has to bring her back up again. You can be sitting sround a dinner table anywhere at any time enjoying your meal and someone can say something like "Now why did you divorce her again? Can you explain it to me? I would have never let someone like that slip through my fingers. Pass the mashed potatos."

Oh well. I am getting better at dealing with it, but that minimum monthly student loan payment for 22% of my monthly income never ceases to make my veins pop out. Ya, no shit. And funny thing is, if there weren't money in Chiropractic, nobody would give a shit. It's all about money and power.

I'd like to thank Chiropractic for teaching me that there is no god, no spirit, and that everything about us as human beings, from our most base and violent qualities to our most noble altruism, is purely Darwinian.

Pt 6: My Journey Pt 2

Chiropractic helps people. It's function is extremely complex. If it didn't help people it would have been simple for me to get out of it. My father has a serious L5 disc degeneration which causes demonstrable problems related to the neurology of his leg muscles, as well as pain. By merely rolling him on his side once in awhile, it dramatically improves his condition. This is where I fully support spinal manipulation. I do not speak bad about it, and if every patient were similar to my father, I would still be in practice. But they aren't. I suppose if you could single out every patient who actually responded because of the biomechanics of the adjustment and got rid of the rest, Chiropractic would collapse pretty quickly.

I bring up my father because his response to the adjustment convinces him beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am the stupidest human being alive for not being a Chiropractor. It eats me up, and I could never make him understand.

My mother and brother have major spinal issues as well, but receive only palliative results from adjustments and no lasting aid. And this is what you get from Chiropractic- a handful of people really do have a dramatic positive result. Many people have a palliative temporary relief of pain due to the release of endorphins and the subsequent muscle relaxation following the adjustment, many receive no benefit and a few get worse. When you add the very powerful placebo effect in the mix you get all sorts of interesting anecdotes. Patients will often tell the Chiropractor that they have gotten dramatically better even though they haven't and time tells that eventually. Most back and neck pain is self limiting anyways, so going to a chiropractor and receiving a temporary endorphin release by stimulation of the mechanoreceptors in the spinal joints will give the false impression to people that the adjustment helped solve the problem, even though the pain was self limiting. As they say, back pain takes a weeks to go away laying in bed and only 7 days with chiropractic.

All in all people like their chiropractors. They stay in business because they are gregarious and work on their patient care skills. They understand that making people feel good is what brings people in more than the actual adjustments they sell. This is missing in the medical field, and just the nice environment makes people love their chiropractor.

There are probably hundreds of different Chiropractice techniques, or maybe a different one for every Chiropractor. Some are hard and forceful and some don't require touching the patient at all. There is a woman in Seattle who vibrates her hands over her patient's neck without touching it. She was on Evening Magazine (a local T.V. show). She has patients lined up out the door and people who have experienced *dramatic* results from her awesome Chiropractic expertise. It must have taken her years to master this skill.

One friend of mine does a technique almost identical, but it uses a metal stylus. This is called "atlas orthogonal" technique (above picture). Using x-ray analysis, you position the stylus on the 1st vertebra just so. Then a tiny impulse imperceptibly pushes the stylus against the vertebra. You can't even feel it. Turning your neck or coughing puts more stress on the 1st vertebra than does this adjustment. This friend of mine also does traditional forceful popping style adjustments. When asked why he still does the non-force atlas orthoganal adjustment his reply was "we still do AO because it gets the best results of any of the adjustments we do".

So, if you live in my universe, this statement can be rearranged to say "generally speaking, doing absolutely nothing at all gets better results than popping the vertebra for most people".

Pt 5- My Journey

After the first trimester of Chiropractic school it dawned on me that nobody had any objectified method for practicing. At that point I thought briefly about dropping out. By the near mid-point of the curriculum I lost interest in the purely biomechanical approaches of chiropractic because I decided it was unnatural to manipulate the spine on a regular basis, and frankly, I didn't like being adjusted myself and found no reason to be. This led to a crisis for me, where I had nowhere to go but the metaphysical route. At that time I was heavy into yoga and meditation and the metaphysical realms of Chiropractic were imbedded in the same foundations of spiritualism that I was getting involved with. I paid exhorbitant sums to attend seminars on things that were so kooky I couldn't believe anyone would buy into it. I developed a sense of "groupthought" with the people I was surrounded by and blamed myself for "not getting it" instead of realizing that it was the people I was surrounded by who were delusional. But I was trapped.
I remember sitting in my apartment one incredibly hot and humid Iowa summer with the air conditioner blaring, laying on the couch in my underwear. My shirt and tie and slacks were laying on the floor and I was supposed to be at the student clinic getting credits to graduate. But I sat there in a state of bewilderment wondering what in the hell I was doing there. I was not accumulating the credits to graduate because I could not stomach the absurdity of the student clinic. I decided not to go to the clinic at all, and I eventually barely got the credits I needed.
At a talk by the school's president the huge crowd stood and roared with enthusiastic smiles and clapping. I stood just to avoid looking weird. I looked at my friend Diane and said sadly, "I don't want to be a Chiropractor". I called my friend Maria and told her that I did not want to be a Chiropractor.

For the next 3 years after graduation I was in a state of living torment and profound cognitive dissonance. I did not have any desire whatsoever to practice Chiropractic. My goals was to try to pay off my student loans as quick as possible and live like a monk to do it. I took an associateship position making good money and after 2 months found my throat muscles literally locking up from my conscious inability to continue telling people things I knew weren't true. I quit out of the blue, for my health. They offered me more money, and I declined. The guy I worked with made 600k a year, doing what a chimpanzee could do.

But I was deep into spiritualism. I lived my life as a servant of God, the universe. I blamed myself perpetually for doubting Chiropractic, believing that this profession was god's calling for my life, and I just "didn't get" something everyone else did. The only way I could keep making sense of it was to blame myself. I would call and talk to every Chiropractic friend I had and tell them that I didn't want to be a Chiropractor, and every one of them would explain to me that I "just didn't get it", that I "just needed to have faith", or needed to "trust the Universe". I believed them. Once again the cognitive dissonance was overwhelming. What I believed concerning spirituality was so at odds with the actual reality of Chiropractic that I couldn't place the two together, but I knew I had to find some way to do this or be out 100k-300k and end up on a park bench.

I tried weakly to start my own practice on the cheap. My heart was far from into it. I thought that by meditating I would get an epiphany from God that would see me through. I didn't believe in any Chiropractic techniques so I literally invented my own and got the same apparent "results" as anyone else. I remember one family I helped bring together with my care, the father was a brilliant Microsoft programmer who became an alcoholic and the wife hated her job and wanted to quit and move on. The daughter was very smart, but underperformed in school. Somehow I brought these people together by touching them and caring for them and they thought I was God. They made profound changes in their lives, and I felt so incredibly sick inside doing pure quackery and having it do such great things for people. I couldn't hold up the illusion. I couldn't live this way, but it's God's desire for my life, I thought. I have to live this way. It's all my fault that I can't.

I took menial jobs while halfheartedly trying to start a practice. I lived with my parents. The pressure and embarrassment was cooking me alive. Everyone wondered why I had such a problem with Chiropractic. Why was I such a loser? Why was I living at home when I was 27? Why didn't I just practice like everyone else did?

I contemplated suicide.

Pt 4- Chiropractic Smokescreens

This picture is of the "subluxation station". It looks fancy but is utterly worthless.

In Chiropractic College, you take a business class which tells you how to market yourself and how to do what is called a "report of findings". After doing your x-rays and whatever you do, you sit down with your patient and answer these questions: What is wrong? How does it get fixed? How long is it going to take? How much is it going to cost?

What I experienced in business class, sitting in the auditorium with about 200 of my classmates listening to the instructor, was the full transparent awareness that not a single one of us had an honest answer for any one of those questions, and we all knew it. And when you add to this the total known fraudulence of the analysis methods I mentioned, it becomes clear that the "report of findings" is nothing at all but a salesman's gimmick. And that is exactly what it is by it's very definition (as it includes findings which have been demonstrated to be invalid). Of course, there are some people who actually *believe* what they are telling their patients during these sessions and alot of these people are fundamentalist Christians or spiritualists involved in certain groups with names like "Body by God". Needless to say, these people are divorced from the need to explain anything rationally.

But can't you just practice Chiropractic like a medical doctor practices medicine and take in hurting people and help them? No. Because there are almost as many hurting people as there are Chiropractors nowadays and not enough of them just walk through your door. You have to market hard. You must be a salesman. And if someone else has an approach which scares the patient shitless and makes them feel they need to come back again and again, that bird will get the worm. Marketing includes giving talks, going to malls with booths, going to marketing groups and advertising yourself, making connections, incessantly explaining what it is you do and why. Eventually after years of this you may end up with a word of mouth practice where you can stop all the marketing.

Now for a couple more common deceptions.

One leg is shorter than the other- This is an absolute joke. I almost puke evertime I hear someone tell me this. just stand on one leg and bend it a couple of time and lay down. One leg appears shorter because the muscles are contracted. It doesn't last. Most Chiropractors know this is bullshit. Patient's don't.

Ongoing wellness care- If you get regular adjustments you will "add life to years and add years to life". There's no evidence that people who get adjusted live longer. People who care about their health certainly are healthier, so you can't make the correlation that people who decide to get regular adjustments are healthier because of it. The ongoing wellness care is certainly a good marketing tool. I don't get adjustments anymore. I have no desire to at all, and it doesn't feel natural to me.

I could write a book about all this, but why? Most of the practitioners it would be aimed at already know this stuff and simply don't care.

Pt 3: Common Chiropractic Deceptions

This is merely my own opinion after having thought about this for ages-Nearly everything that Chiropractors say about what they are doing, how, or why is baseless.

Chiropractors use three methods to find spinal misalignments:

Palpation- Feeling the spine and moving the joints. This has been shown conclusively by studies not to be effective and has no interexaminer reliability.

Intrumentation- The most common being heat sensing equipment or EEG equipment that measures and graphs heat and electrical activity of the paraspinal muscles, looking for imbalances. Chiropractors market this as a perfect science. I actually worked in an office that used this. All 3 of the Chiropractors working there agreed that it was perfectly worthless. But we charged for it, and we rationalized it all by saying that it is "good for patient education". Every Chiropractic friend I have agrees that these machines with names like "subluxation station" or "myovisions" are perfectly worthless. The studies on them are pointless and fruitless. They provide no value at all to the practitioner. The value is merely in giving the patient an artificial visual aid to show them that their body is assymetrical, and to lead them to the false assumption that this is pathological and Chiropractic care is going to improve their lives by fixing this. One practicing friend I have is irate that Palmer College (where we went to school) has incorporated these junk machines in their student clinics.

X-rays- One of the most common strategems Chiropractors are trained to use is to show a "normal" spine in comparison with an x-ray of the patient's slightly crooked spine and then claim that we can help you make this better. False. Almost nobody has a straight spine, and no amount of adjusting is going to make an adult spine straight. To make matters worse, the chiropractor telling you this knows it! It's just more "patient education". Needless to say, the x-ray analysis has been shown in studies done by Chiropractors to have a worthless degree of interexaminer reliability. Reading x-rays for pathology such as disc herniations, degeneration, fractures etc... is a different issue and is not what I'm discussing here.

When taken as individual things- X-rays, Instrumentation, and Palpation have been shown in research done by Chiropractors to be virtually worthless at informing the Chiropractor what to adjust. But Chiropractors maintain that if you combine all three worthless detection systems together, they make a good system of detection.

Since most of the Chiropractors I know are intelligent enough not to "give a shit about subluxations" anyways, it doesn't much matter. "Being a subluxation fixer is like being a deaf piano tuner", I heard one person say.

Pt 2: What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic was started by D.D. Palmer (left) near the turn of the century and developed by his son B.J. Palmer. Palmer was a spiritualist who thought that misalignments in the spine blocked the life force from the brain to the rest of the body.

Chiropractic followed the route of the typical placebo effect. It started by focusing only on the upper cervical vertebrae. Initially, like most new placebo therapies, people claimed dramatic miraculous results. Then, like most placebo therapies, the results began to wane and the technique was tampered with again and again. Each time some change was made to the upper cervical adjustment, results improved and then waned as it became old again and the hope and expectation that drives the placebo effect diminishes. This went on and on until the placebo effect waned to the point where people decided to start tampering with the whole axial skeleton from occiput to coccyx. The idea was to restore the flow of the nerve impulse from brain to body by removing vertebral subluxations (tiny misalignments of the vertebra). Up until this point, there wasn't a word about neck or back pain. It never originally had anything to do with neck or back pain.

But by the 1950's, Chiropractors noticed that there was an effect on pain from adjusting the spine. The original placebo miracles of D.D. Palmer's adjustments were too rare now to provide effective marketing, so there was a campaign to start selling the profession based on musculoskeletal pain relief. Since then, there has been enormous confusion between the metaphysical/life force/placebo effects of Chiropractic and the musculoskeletal therapeutic effects of the adjustment.

Many Chiropractors want to focus on the metaphysical aspects of original Chiropractic while many see the metaphysical ideas of original Chiropractic as bunko and want to focus on pain relief. Most combine the two ideas and hope to draw as many patients as possible into their net.

Insurance companies hate Chiropractors. When Chiropractors bill for insurance, they mark subluxation codes no matter what the patient is coming for and no matter what the Chiropractor is doing. There is not the slightest bit of reliable evidence that tiny subluxations have any effect at all on anyone. As most of my practicing Chiropractic friends have told me personally, "I don't give a shit about sublxations". Old time Chiropractors who have been getting regular adjustments to fix "subluxations" for most of their lives are currently dropping off like flies, dying before their time.

On Chiropractic

Chiropractic is the bane of my existence.

It is like a divorce process that never entirely goes away. It lingers with me due to a gigantic student loan burden, and the inability to explain to people why I would choose not to practice Chiropractic. In any social situation I am absolutely guaranteed to be met with a crowd of astonished people who force me into admitting that I was once a Chiropractor and who ultimately think I am insane for not practicing Chiropractic- primarily because of the pay-cut and nothing else. There is not a word I can say to make them understand. In fact, there may not be a human being on this planet who really knows why I am incapable of practicing Chiropractic, because it can't be explained briefly in a way people would understand.

The next several blog posts will break down this issue in detail, allowing me to explain things and hopefully giving me a chance to refer specific people here to read this.

Let me start by saying that it is humanly impossible for me to practice Chiropractic. My goal in this series of posts is to give some idea why.