This is the story of how I became a chiropractor.
Life is a learning experience. Stressors abound and especially during our early years we have a tendency towards accidents and trauma. First learning to walk, then going up and down stairs, and starting to ride a bike… scabs and bruises were likely a part of your childhood. Part of youth is learning the limits of what our bodies can and cannot do.
We have all had trips and falls, but during my early years I had one particularly severe accident. The details are all recounted to me from my mother, as I was less than two years old when this happened. As the story goes I was in the stumbling forward walk/run stage of my development. At the far end of our second story living room was a screened in window that slid up from the floor. In front of that window were light cloth drapes blowing in the wind. And I guess my fascination with wind began early on, because as those drapes were blowing in the wind I got up and ran to play with them. My mother, who was ironing in the room, saw me running and frantically tried to catch me. I had a tiny lead on her and she was just a little late. My little body went through the drapes and the window screen effortlessly and I was flying.
My 25-inch tall body dropped twelve feet to the ground below. As a new parent, I can’t imagine how my mother felt as she exploded down the stairs and rushed out to find me on the ground. Part of my body was on the sidewalk and a sprinkler had missed my neck/shoulder area by inches. She scooped me up and raced to the emergency room. The doctors did an exam and x-rays and said miraculously I hadn’t suffered any injuries or broken bones.
It seemed like a positive ending to this tragic story. And until I was fifteen we thought I had escaped any damage in what was my earliest of extreme sports stunts. The problem, if we can call it that, is that the human body has an unmatched ability to compensate when injured. When injured your body automatically favors other muscles, slightly shifts movement patterns, and alters postures. Indeed, the best athletes in the world are those with bodies that can compensate instantaneously during their sport or when injured.
I hadn’t suffered any broken bones in my fall, but what the MDs at the hospital weren’t trained to look for would nonetheless cause my body to be imbalanced and less than optimal. I was fifteen when I received my first chiropractic adjustment.
That initial visit to the chiropractor was for a pain in my right hip that had seemed to come out of nowhere. After two visits to the chiropractor my hip has never bothered me again. This chiropractic experience occurred in Hood River, Oregon where I was training as a professional windsurfer during the summer months.
Flash forward six months and it is a rainy, foggy, and cold winter in my hometown of Fresno, California. I am in high school and suffering from horrible acne. It had been getting worse since I became a teenager, but now it was almost unbearable. I feared I might have permanent damage to my skin from the eruptions on my face that plagued me daily. And I was ashamed each day to go to school because of how bad my face looked.
To try and get a solution to my acne my mother took me to a dermatologist. The doctor said that indeed I had a very bad case of acne and that it would probably go away by the time I was eighteen (I was still fifteen years old). He wrote me a prescription for an oral steroid that he said would help to calm my acne down until then. An oral steroid? I am someone who doesn’t like to take an aspirin unless I really need to and I was being put on a two-year course of steroids!)
We asked the MD if there was anything I could do diet or nutrient wise to help with my acne. He quickly stated, “No, your diet has nothing to do with your skin or acne.” I left the appointment with the dermatologist feeling frustrated, ugly, and without any hope for my skin except to take this severe medication.
My mother and I didn’t fill the prescription for steroids. I couldn’t bring myself to do it and I knew there had to be another way. The side effects of the steroids really scared me and I knew there had to be another way. My body and skin wanted to be healthy; I just had to find the way. Little did I know that I was soon to make a discovery that would forever change my life.
My mother was talking to our neighbor about my struggles with acne and the neighbor suggested we see her chiropractor. My mother exclaimed, “A chiropractor? Aren’t they back and neck doctors? They had helped my sons hip, but what could they do for acne?”
The neighbor replied, “Well it can’t hurt and maybe they can help balance out his nervous system and teach him something about how his diet could be better.” She left my mom with one question, “What do you have to lose?”
My mom asked if I was willing to see if a chiropractor could help my skin. I felt like I was ready to try anything and agreed to the visit. My life at that time involved spending thirty minutes per night in front of the mirror with alcohol wipes and topical creams that were advertised to reduced acne and redness. Nothing was working. I was so embarrassed.
A few days later I saw Dr. Steven Hoopes (DC) at his office in Fresno on the recommendations of our neighbor. Dr. Hoopes took a thorough health history and did the most complete physical exam I had ever received from a doctor. He asked my mother when
I had had major trauma to my head and neck region. I had never been involved in any car accidents or other major traumas and so there were none listed on my intake forms. Or were we forgetting something? Dr. Hoopes asked again about trauma because I had a nerve pinched in my upper cervical spine and some scar tissue that he could feel in those tissues.
Up until that chiropractic visit I had never heard the story about falling out of the second story window. When questioned by Dr. Hoopes again about trauma my mom said “well he did fall out of window as a child, but we took him to the hospital immediately and they said
everything was ok.”
Dr. Hoopes next asked how long I had not been able to breathe through my nose. I told him “for as long as I can remember.” It wasn’t that I had sinus problems or a plugged up nose. It was just as if my nose didn’t work. I would try and breathe through my nose and nothing would happen.
Dr. Hoopes proceeded to gently adjust my neck and do some cranial adjusting work. Five minutes later he asked me to take a breathe in through my nose. It was the first time I can ever remember being able to take in any air that way and it felt energizing and wonderful. He explained to my mother and I that I had probably pinched those nerves in the back of neck when I had fallen as a young boy and although that wouldn’t show up on x-ray, it certainly had an effect on my health.
He then talked with me about my diet and how that could affect my skin as well as other aspects of my life. I was a ravenous carb-o-vore and lean protein and good fats were completely absent from my daily meals. He gave us some simple suggestions on how to incorporate a balanced diet into my routine and sent us on our way. We scheduled a followup appointment for a few weeks later. And when the next appointment rolled around my acne was 95% gone. I was ecstatic!
Was it the chiropractic adjustment that helped my acne? We will never know. I do know that ever since that visit I have been able to breathe through my nose. And from my chiropractic training I know that when the body and the nervous system are properly aligned and cared for that all the systems in the body work better, including our skin. Or was it the nutritional advice that Dr. Hoopes had taken a few minutes to give me that helped my skin? Maybe the adjustment and the counseling? We will never know.
What I do know is that it was then, at age fifteen, that I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people through natural, conservative health care, the way that I had been helped. I wanted to empower people to have amazing health without drugs and surgery. And I wanted to give people options when they felt they had none. I had been treated for a severe injury, the fall from the window that went unnoticed for thirteen years. And I had my eyes opened to a new healthy way to live and feel my best.
Obviously I am biased; I had my life profoundly changed by a chiropractor. That being said, I strongly urge you and your family members to be evaluated and treated by a good chiropractor. Not just because you have pain or need to take medications daily. You should see a chiropractor because you may be limited by things you consider “normal” but that are nonetheless holding you back from being truly healthy. Being adjusted and receiving advice for healthy living from a chiropractor is invaluable.