Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Now I'm A Believer!

A few days after writing my post "When Rabbis Quack - In Print," in which I disparaged a variety of forms of alternative medicine, I suddenly had an ocular migraine. These are not pleasant - my peripheral vision disappeared, followed by great dizziness and a piercing headache. On the same day, I started to feel pain on the right side of my jaw. Over the next few days, this got progressively worse. I couldn't chew food without experiencing great pain, and I couldn't even close my jaws all the way.

Two of my sisters are in the medical profession. My sister the dentist told me to see a dentist. My sister the eye doctor told me to see a doctor. I couldn't bear to wait any longer, so instead of either of those, I went to a neighbor who is a chiropractor.

According to Wikipedia, "Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine mostly concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system... Its foundation is at odds with mainstream medicine, and chiropractic is sustained by pseudoscientific ideas such as subluxation and "innate intelligence" that are not based on sound science." Even more alarmingly, "It is frequently associated with mild to moderate adverse effects, with serious or fatal complications in rare cases. There is controversy regarding the degree of risk of vertebral artery dissection, which can lead to stroke and death, from cervical manipulation. Several deaths have been associated with this technique."

I only read that after I came back from the chiropractor. Had I read it beforehand, I probably wouldn't have gone. Which would have been a shame. Because although the appointment itself was excruciatingly painful, it completely solved the problem.

The chiropractor pushed her fingers into my jaw; it felt like a pickaxe penetrating my skull. It was almost as bad as kidney stones. I was seeing stars and almost weeping from pain. Then she yanked my head sideways, and the bones of my neck made a great crunching sound, like in those Arnold Schwarzenegger movies when he snaps someone's neck.

I had TMJ - Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, caused by a longstanding unfortunate habit of clenching my jaws. This also caused the ocular migraine. The chiropractic technique cured it. The next day, I was able to close my jaws, and chew without any pain.

So does this mean that I renounce my skepticism of alternative medicine? No, it doesn't. I am still every bit as dismissive of the forms of alternative medicine that I mentioned in that post - auras, chi, reiki, energy healing, distance healing, meridians, acupuncture, applied kinesiology, emotional freedom techniques, dowsing, homeopathy, radionics, crystal healing, geopathic stress, feng shui, iridology, and reflexology. But I didn't mention chiropractic in that post. While this was primarily because it wasn't discussed in the book that I was critiquing, it's also because chiropractic procedures cannot all be summarily dismissed.

Based on my very limited research, it seems that chiropractic is a somewhat vague term that actually covers a broad range of beliefs and procedures. Some of these, like the idea that spinal manipulation can cure all kinds of health problems, is quackery, but other parts are much more mainstream and are supported by many conventional doctors. There's nothing anti-scientific about the notion that massaging (or torturing) the muscles in the jaw will loosen them. And there is no question that it helped me!

So, yes, I still believe that one should be skeptical of alternative medicine. On the other hand, one should be careful about drawing far-reaching conclusions from a Wikipedia article.

33 comments:

  1. You are right that manipulating muscles can make muscles feel better. You still need to be careful with chiropractors. Some good ones will be careful, some have an incomplete knowledge of nervous systems and musculature and can make aproblem worse. Just imagine if they wrenched your head the wrong way.

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  2. Shmos/Exodus 32:9
    And the Lord said to Moses: "I have seen this people and behold! they are a stiff necked people.

    Once again the Torah proves true!

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  3. Then she yanked my head sideways, and the bones of my neck made a great crunching sound, like in those Arnold Schwarzenegger movies when he snaps someone's neck.

    "Haldemann et al. analysed 64 cases in which a cerebrovascular ischaemic event had occurred after spinal manipulation. All cases had been referred to Haldemann for medico legal review during a 16-year period, and none had previously been reported in the medical literature. The patients were predominantly women (mean age 39 years) who had consulted a chiropractor for neck pain or headache. In 48 cases, the onset of the stroke was within 30 minutes after spinal manipulation. The authors were unable to identify any risk factors that would discriminate high risk from low risk patients. Neurological status one year after the stroke was available for 46 patients: eight had made a full recovery, two had died, and the rest were still suffering from persistent neurological deficits.

    <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1905885/#ref37>https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1905885/#ref37</a>

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  4. Your TMJ was out and she pushed it back it. A boxer with good aim could've done the same thing.
    No one disputes that for musculoskeletal problems chiropractors are quite knowledgeable. They spend four years learning about bones and muscles while in medical school we got a couple of months of that. The problem isn't that what they do doesn't work. It does. The problem is their claims as to how it works fly in the face of science.
    And you went to a woman? Arayos!

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    1. You, of course, are an androcologist! ;)

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  5. "The case reports confirm previous reports associating upper spinal manipulation with a range of complications. The most serious problems, which some experts now describe as ‘well-recognized’, are vertebral artery dissections due to intimal tearing as a result of over-stretching the artery during rotational manipulation. This seems to occur most commonly at the level of the atlantoaxial joint. [The atlantoaxial joint is a joint in the upper part of the neck between the first and second cervical vertebrae; the atlas and axis. It is a pivot joint.] Intimal injury can be followed by intramural bleeding or pseudoaneurysm formation, which can result in thrombosis, embolism or arterial spasm."

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  6. I've had ocular migraines for twenty years. I get them on average once a month. It's actually not known what causes them. I'm guess that your TMJ was either caused by your reaction to the migraine or coincidental. The migraine goes away on its own and was probably unrelated to your chiropractic appointment. You should no more draw a conclusion from an anecdotal correlation than from a single Wikipedia article.

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  7. There are also a lot of studies showing benefits from acupuncture for various ailments.

    The underlying idea, that life energy travels through the body and affects health, is not proven, but it has been believed in by nearly every culture in the history of the world, including Judaism -- references to life energy are abundant within Jewish literature over the past several hundred years.

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    1. 1) That's conflation. Where is the proof that the "life energy" of other cultures is the same as some concept in Judaism? Certainly, in some systems (e.g. traditional chiropractic) this "energy" is equivalent to עבודה זרה.

      2) And where is the proof that this "life energy" can be manipulated by physical means and/or can impact a person's health?

      3) Since these claims are not proven, and are often dis-proven, they may fall under the prohibition of דרכי האמורי.

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  8. It was a punishment for talking against rabbanim. And once a lady poked around in your jaw, your punishment was over.
    See! i am also a believer.

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  9. Rabbi Slifkin - clenching the jaw can also cause major teeth problems. Talk to a dentist - there are contraptions that can help.

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  10. Yes refuah shlemah!

    A bit of History: (@David Ohsie of course this is all made up....)

    When Constantine made Notzrus the official religion of the empire, owing to the many fragmented sects that then existed he was forced to convene a council to create a single church doctrine. These councils were convened afterwards from time to time when disputes arose or other needs. At the 8th council in 789 we find the following declaration:

    Canon 11

    Though the old and new Testament teach that a man or woman has one rational and intellectual soul, and all the fathers and doctors of the church, who are spokesmen of God, express the same opinion, some have descended to such a depth of irreligion, through paying attention to the speculations of evil people, that they shamelessly teach as a dogma that a human being has two souls, and keep trying to prove their heresy by irrational means using a wisdom that has been made foolishness.

    scuse the flower translation it's not mine.

    This looks harmless but actually declares that there is no irrational soul, nefesh habehamis. D P Walker (http://www.jstor.org/stable/750490?origin=crossref&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents) notes that the church abolished not only the astral body but the forms, the universal energy that mirrors everything we see around us. Thus the concept of chi/energy/prana was simply declared non existant on pain of death. And by now has long been forgotten about, except that recently we come into contact with the Eastern world where no such decree was made, and find the concept. So looking at chi etc and saying apkorsus is simply following church doctrine. They are the only guys that say this.
    This decree is also the basis of the mind/body split, since the middle piece, nefesh habehamis, has been vaporised.

    Compare for example with Likutei Torah Chernobyl end of hadrocho 3 where he specifically says that the goal of the work is to come to see the "neshama of all created things" What you might call the energy.

    Once you understand this it becomes obvious that much ancient medical techniques were aimed at producing a change in this energy, since it was this energy that was holding the physical in it's configuration of illness.

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    1. "Compare for example with Likutei Torah Chernobyl end of hadrocho 3 where he specifically says that the goal of the work is to come to see the "neshama of all created things" What you might call the energy."

      So all of a sudden Chinese and Hindu pagans are masters of Kabbalah? More likely, you're conflating a Torah concept with an עבודה זרה concept that happens to be mystical.

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    2. I enjoy this song and dance as much as the next feller but let's cut the nonsense and go straight to the meat we're all waiting for. Moon landing - real or fake? Jfk - Rafael Cruz or LHO? Chem trails - harmless or making the frogs gay?

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    3. @Ephraim
      Oh Dear, c'mon get your act together.
      Remember the concept of hishtalshelus olomos, the worlds upon worlds that cascade downwards until this physical one. ABYA each of which has multiple levels. So you can see the spiritual at many levels. The Chinese and Hindus saw a much lower level than Chazal, but they still tapped into the non-physical at their own level.

      As far as AZ goes IMHO your (not you personally but people like yourself) use of this concept verges on the hysterical. AZ is an issur like any other, it has actions that need to be carried out (bringing an offering to some form of object (representing a higher being) that is the object of worship for example). You don't just run into a shechita house and shout 'treif, it's all treif', so you can't just run into the field of alternative medicine or even mysticism and label it all AZ. I thought you people were supposed to be rational!

      @ Shlomo
      I too laughed at the moon landing hoax - what a stupid idea - until I chanced on some of the films and then I'm afraid it was a bit of a shock. But there was no denying that when the moon lander jerked off the moon surface on 'takeoff' it had to have been pulled from above, not to mention that there was no disturbance of the dirt under the lander despite having used huge rockets to cushion the 'landing', or when the astronaut suddenly lifted up from a fall in such a way that he had to have been pulled from above, or when the cardboard cover fell off the window of the flight vehicle showing the earth to be much larger than they were intimating, or that the moon rover was supposed to be in two different locations yet there were the same three rocks in the foreground and so on and so on. eventually my resistance was overcome and had to acknowledge what I actually saw over what I was being told to believe.
      We live in a world where information is being manipulated.

      Chem trails I have no idea about, not terribly convinced. But what about the Russians disabling the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea?

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    4. You avoided my JFK question! Anyway, until now I wasn't sure you were a complete kook, but thanks for clearing that up.

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  11. So now you believe that not all alternative medicine is always baloney. Perhaps now you'll also believe that not all anti-rationalist positions are always baloney?

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    1. "So now you believe that not all alternative medicine is always baloney."

      To paraphrase: What is unique to chiropractic is useless; what is useful in chiropractic is not unique to it.
      The same would be true for most if not all alt-med.

      TMJ seems to be a self-limiting condition.

      Also note that the "chiropractor pushed her fingers into my jaw"...
      .. That's not chiropractic which by definition involves manipulating the vertebrae. This chiropractor was mixing in other treatments.

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    2. Perhaps now you'll also believe that not all anti-rationalist positions are always baloney?

      I don't think that Mr. "you" ever made such a sweeping statement. Straw man.

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  12. A good chiropractor (and both I and my children have seen some of these as needed) is essentially a physical therapist under another name. And like a physical therapist, they can make a major difference when the patient is experiencing pain relating to joints/muscles/tendons/etc.

    A bad chiropractor thinks every person, even one not with any painful condition, should be realigned regularly. And that doing so will make them live longer, cure/prevent cancer, and other nonsense.

    The two are usually readily distinguishable in their advertisements, websites, and other literature.

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  13. This should've been titled "When Rabbis Crack".

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    1. Took me little while to get that :).

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    2. a little slow there david.....

      a while back they did a survey on the banknotes in the bank of england to see what percentage had cocaine on them. the result..... 99%

      BTW I found a medic friend of mine in shock the other day, he had just heard about the latest guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure from the US. 120 is already pre-hypertension, and 130 is treatable. he realised that this was simply a money game and told me the following story. when he was a resident doing lots of ultrasound scans on babies he noticed that the girls had large uteruses, which was supposed to be a rare condition. After a while the penny dropped that those with large uteruses were taking soya milk (contains phytoestrogens, plant products that weakly mimic the effect of estrogen a feminizing hormone, but in large quantities as in milk have a real effect). He began a research project to show this effect but when the university found out they stopped him, they couldn't do that kind of research..... this is the level of contemporary scientific research.

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  14. IF YOU WEREN'T SO ANGRY AT SO MANY CHAREDI RABBANIM, YOU WOULDN'T CLENCH YOUR JAW SO TIGHTLY!

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    1. All CAPS AND AN EXCLAMATION POINT, so so what you wrote just has to be true right ?

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  15. Homeopathy was in the time of Hahnemann was the only alternative to the institutional qwackery of the official medecine and her phony theories, Hahnemann was not per se opposed to allopathy but the array of remedies was very limited, so he chooses homeopathy because the cheer number of poisons made the application of the law of similitude quasi infinite, until the rise of the modern pharmacology a lot of hospitals in England and France had a homeopathic consultation given by PhD trained in the discipline and I once met a woman who as a child was cured from diphteria by homeopathy in this context. The degradation of homeopathy in USA, England and Belgium was mainly the result of the adoption by Kent and his disciples of theosophist and vitalist theories which turned homeopathy from what was merely the empirical application of a paradoxical effect of toxics, into a mystical qwackery, but you can find in Israel PhD's formed by Dr Horvilleur, who practise the cartesian version of homeopathy teached in France exclusively to trained physicians.

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  16. Actually, An Osteopath might be a better choice. They have the same training as a medical doctor at least in the United States, but have a specialty in understanding the anatomy and inner workings of the body. It is never painful to get an osteopathic treatment. If you find a good one they are gifted and very good at what they do

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  17. Your title seems to point to your belief that human beings evolved from Monkees.

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Happy Chanukah!