Sunday, 11 February 2007

Why isn't chiropractic more popular?

When I posted that I've just got back from India, I neglected to mention in what shape. I suffered an acute muscular spasm while in India (not my first, by the way), and was in absolute agony for a couple of days (and continuous pain/discomfort for the next two weeks). Indeed, I was starting to worry about whether I'd be able to travel back home as scheduled.

In Sydney, I visit a chiropractor regularly once a month, and I've managed the last 4 and a half years without a back problem. But travelling to India with heavy suitcases, hauling them off airport conveyor belts and stuff must have taken their toll.

My first thought when my back gave up was to call for a chiropractor, but I then remembered with dismay that the species is unknown in India. I did manage to get the next best thing - a physiotherapist. He promptly came home, and carried in tow a most impressive kit. It was for "IFT" (or Interferential Therapy), I was told. I underwent almost an hour of ultrasound or short wave massage, which was quite soothing, but when the physio tried to get me on my feet and walking, the pain was so acute I couldn't suppress some high-decibel screaming, much to the poor man's shock.

I had about 10 days to limp back to a semblance of normalcy, during which time I underwent more sessions with the physiotherapist. Mind you, I have no complaints about the man, his clinic or his methods, which were all exemplary. However, the point remains that my recovery was slow. I was still standing crooked, my slightest movements could give me twinges of pain, and I was dosed to the eyeballs with painkillers and muscle relaxants.

I finally got back to Sydney (after a 14 hour flight back from Mumbai), and after the weekend, got to see my chiropractor at last. A quick examination, a gentle massage of the affected area, and then the trademark "click" of spinal manipulation, and I was free. I could move without pain. I walked back from his clinic with the proverbial jaunty stride.

My question is just this: Why did I have to suffer almost two weeks of painful recovery following best practice according to the medical establishment, when there's a far superior approach that could have had me back on my feet in a day? Hasn't anybody heard of chiropractic? Is it a bad word? Does it threaten the livelihood of the doctor-physiotherapist alliance so much that there's a conspiracy of silence around it? I really want to know.

And oh, as a side note of interest to the armchair economists out there - I underwent 5 physiotherapy sessions in Chennai, India, each about an hour long. Two of them were house calls. The physio also gave me an orthopaedic belt to support my back. The total cost? 1150 rupees, or less than 40 Aussie dollars! A single session with my chiropractor in Sydney costs me 55 dollars, which brings home the cost differential between a First World country and a Third World one.

But then again, a single session with my chiropractor achieved what all those physiotherapy sessions couldn't :-/.

India is visibly less poor today

I've just got back to Sydney from a month-long visit to India. I saw signs of affluence everywhere - new car models, mobile phones in the hands of autorickshaw drivers and vegetable push-cart vendors, etc., etc. But does that really mean less poverty?

The penny dropped after I returned home to Sydney. I hadn't seen a single beggar on the whole trip! As a child (more than 30 years ago), I remember travelling around a fair bit, and the one constant feature of every stop were the outstretched arms of beggars. They would throng around our bus or car as it stopped and the passengers alighted. We had learnt the folly of paying any of them. Once we were seen as potential "givers", there would be no peace from the rest.

But all that seems a thing of the past. We travelled a fair bit on this trip as well, and - no beggars! And it's not as if the beggars were physically removed by officials, Potemkin village-style. You can't do that in messily democratic India without creating an instant scandal, anyway.

There's no escaping the conclusion - there's still a lot of poverty in India, but it's no longer as severe.