I've visited two chiropractors in the last year due to a weird pain in between my left shoulder blade and spine. The pain isn't unbearable - more like a subtle, annoying, someone standing too close to you while having a conversation, sort of pain. Not entirely debilitating, but you wish that it wasn't happening.
My experience with each chiropractor was completely different from the other. Let me explain.
The first chiropractor visit was a bit of a fluke. My wife bought us some cheap 1 hour massage coupons from a daily deal site. Something like "$30 for a one-hour, full body massage and chiropractic evaluation." I know what you're thinking, red flag. I thought so too, but because of the weird little pain in my back I've had on and off for the last few years, I decided it was a good idea to get checked out.
I got to the office anticipating my magnificent mushy muscle, full-body massage. The receptionist was trying really hard to be super friendly, which came across as fake. I wrote my name and address on the 20 different pieces of paper she handed me and eventually got called back.
This guy, the chiropractor, looked like a retired body-builder, well-dressed in neat slacks and a tucked in polo, revealing his muscly frame. He stared hypnotically into my eyes as he informed of his process. I put on a gown-like shirt, got some things hooked up to my back to read the nerve connections between the vertebrae and the blah blah blah. All I could think is, "I'm ready for my massage."
After this he took me to another room and performed a manual evaluation. Of course he points out that my right shoulder hangs slightly lower than my left, I don't have equal range of motion in each of my hip joints, and few other things that I can't remember nor do I care about.
"I'm ready for my massage," I thought the myself quietly as I entertained a flood of overwhelming information about subfluxiation, vertebrae synapse connections, blah blah blah.
After this I finally got the massage - my sole reason for being there in the first place. I appreciated, to some degree, his attempt to inform me of the inner workings of the back, but it was all presented in a very medical type of way - generic, with little personality.
His message wasn't focused on me or my back problem, but he did manage to talk me into getting an "adjustment" that day - mostly because I was interested in seeing how it made my back feel.
To my ultimate disappointment, he had me sit in this medical-looking, computer-machine like chair while he used a tiny little pulsating hammer thing to align my vertebrae. I could barely feel anything happening at all as he maneuvered this puny device up and down my spine.
After a minute or two he said, "Alright, that's it. I know it doesn't feel like much is happening, but this little device is realigning your vertebrae. It will take several weeks of treatment for these adjustments to begin to hold in place."
Utterly let down, he proceeded to pitch me on this 6-12 week plan for coming in 3-4 times per week for adjustments. I can't remember all the details, but the total price tag was around 3 to 4 grand. Somehow, in the moment he had me convinced and I scheduled my next appointment. I blame his hypnotic stare.
I came home and explained the surreal experience to my wife, who was about to go through the same thing in a few days.
After logically thinking through everything, I came to my senses, called the office and cancelled everything.
The First Recap
The experience the office created was based on earning more money - selling an attractive full-body massage with a small hook of a chiropractic evaluation.
I went in for one thing and got a way different thing. The process was optimized for the business and not for me. I was shoved into a sales process and ultimately canceled everything.
Nearly a year later, the same little annoying spot in my back began to hurt a little more. The pain flared up enough to cause more concern, then subsided after a few days. Deep down I knew that something was going on back there that should be fixed.
This time there was no free massage bait. I genuinely wanted to seek out a new chiropractor, despite my previous experience. A friend of mine that I witnessed having debilating back problems and then get fixed, gave me a recommendation.
I called, got an appointment, and visited within the week. The vibe was much more laid back. The receptionist was nice, there was less paperwork, and perhaps most importantly there was no pre-massage sales pitch. I was there for a specific thing.
I felt more comfortable because of the personal referral. I got called back by Meg, the second chiropractor character in the tale my spinal journey.
She began by asking me questions. "What's going on? Tell me about what you're experiencing. Where does it hurt?" Personal questions about me and my pain, without the intimidating and overwhelming vertebral knowledge bombs up front.
This is an important concept for nearly every service industry professional. Focus on the person first. What are their hopes, fears, and dreams? How do they seem emotionally? What are they thinking about?
She effortlessly asked me pointed questions while pushing and prodding on my back, in search of the painful problem. I tried to point out the exact spot, but she said "Don't worry, I'll find it.'
I laid face down on her table and within 30 seconds of rubbing around the area between my shoulder blade and spine, she said "Are you a musician or play any type of instrument?"
"I play guitar," I replied.
"Yep, guitar. That's what did this." she said without hesitation. "Really!?" I blurted out, as I couldn't hold back my surprise. "Yep, I work on a lot of guitar players, amateurs and professionals."
See, when you learn guitar, it's easy to start hunching over and tightening your back, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, etc. Muscle tension can be a big deal. That's way the great guitar players look like the effortlessly glide up and down the fret board, because they are.
Over the years I've gotten better about muscle tension, but I guess all of those 8 hour guitar sessions in college finally caught up to me.
She told me how the spot in my back was a tightened area of muscle, like a balled up fist that was putting pressure on the middle of my spine. She lined her fingers up with the center of my spine in between my shoulder blades and a bit lower with her other hand.
"See how the upper portion has shifted over? You've got a little scoliosis forming due to that irritated spot."
We talked some more and she proceeded to crack my back using a variety of techniques, none of which resembled the first chiropractors giant computer contraption.
My chiropractor uneasiness was subsiding. "Maybe this isn't all a big hoax." I thought to myself. I felt genuinely better after being "adjusted" as they call it. She told me she'd like to do a follow up in a week to see how things looked and that we could take it from there.
I setup an appointment the following week and walked away feeling relieved that this experience had been so much better than the first.
The Second Recap
My experience at the second chiropractor was great. A friend referred me, there was no big sales pitch, and my problems were at the forefront of the conversations.
My hopes and fears were both addressed effortlessly by a combination of the chiropractor's experience and the questions she asked. She assured me that she only wanted to make people feel better and that if she couldn't help, she'd tell me, or refer me to someone else.
You can smell inauthenticity a mile away. There may be ways to mask what something really is with smoke and mirrors for a short while, but eventually the smoke will dissipate and the mirrors will get smudgy and cracked.
When you focus on people first, you're forced to listen to their problems and their needs. Only if you can help them in some way, will you become valuable to them.
On the contrary, if you shove your product or service in someone's face and mask it with buzzwords and deep industry lingo, it smells bad and no one will want it.