I’m not certain of the first time I ever went to a chiropractor, but it was a monumental decision. Folks had warned me never to allow a chiro to crunch my spine, neck, or hips. Others had said they were ‘godsends’ that offered immediate relief without pills, just exercises.
As best I can recall, it was when I was in my twenties and had hurt my back lifting furniture, like moving a sofa that was a couple inches shy of fitting easily through a doorway. Back then there were a couple chiropractors in town. One was Dr. Andrion. He did a bunch of stuff with sand bags, heat, and a pretzel-like twist at the least expected moment. It was a kind of sneak attack to the adjustment.
Dr. Andrion moved closer to where I had the studio and from time to time I would make an appointment for an adjustment of the lower back and just walk or limp over to his office two doors away.
He did just fine. In fact, I was getting to like the hot sandbags he stacked on my back as I lay face down on his little bench. Once or twice I actually fell asleep after the hot sandbags were applied.
Years later, during hurricane Agnes, in 1972, I wrenched my back while cutting up a tree that had fallen on my house. Somehow I was caught between two limbs when one of them snapped and twisted me and the chain saw in two directions. That’s when my real back issues started. They concluded with a disc removal by the late, great Dr. William H. M. Finney at Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital. Dr. Finney had many ties to Harford county and was highly recommended to me.
From an obituary in the Baltimore Sunpapers, July 6, 2003:
“William H.M. Finney, a retired neurosurgeon who was known not only for his technical expertise, but also for his commitment to public health, died Thursday after an apparent heart attack while driving near his home in Towson. He was 79.
“Dr. Finney was an expert on back injuries and performed hundreds of disc operations during his career. He also helped start Shepherd’s Clinic, a low-cost treatment center for Baltimore’s working poor.
“He was one of the last of the old breed of doctors, who gave their lives completely to the field,” said his longtime friend and colleague, Union Memorial Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Howard.”
On a follow up visit with Dr. Finney I told him I had used a chiropractor in Bel Air from time to time and some folks had urged me never to go to one again, especially for spine problems.
Dr. Finney asked me who the person was and I told him it was Dr. William “Bill” Pickett.
“Pickett is a fine man, a good chiropractor. Use him when you need him. I have no problem with that.” Pretty high praise for Dr. Pickett, from Dr. Finney, I’d say.
It blew me away, and from then on, when my neck gets a crick in it, or my lower back is strained from lifting or falling, or tension I would call Bill. He reminded me the other day I once called him on an Easter Sunday in terrible pain. He saw me and made the adjustment and I was able to do a photo shoot I had booked. More than once he made it possible for me to work.
As time rolled on, some of my pals and I came up with the nickname “Bonecrusher” for Bill, totally a term of endearment.
Just the other day, for no apparent reason, my neck stiffened up and resulted in not being able to turn my head to the left, which is not a good thing when it involves driving.
A call to Bill the Bonecrusher resulted in three visits, in as many days. After the first one, my neck was cured, with very little residual pain. Tender on the neck vertebrae but no pain at all. The next two visits served to verify complete wellness.
Bill gave me instructions for a series of three exercises called “Cervical Spine Stretching Exercises”, or “SOS”.
‘Side opposite stretching’ is a program based on the theory that stretching your neck in the opposite direction of pain or stiffness is beneficial. The program increases range of motion on the side of pain because there is a resultant enlargement of the nerve hole opening or foramina.
The increase in the nerve opening diminishes swelling, decompresses the nerve, reduces pain, and helps to restore function. The neat thing is there are no pills involved, just ‘laying on of hands’ and me practicing the exercise program.
If I had practiced the exercises all along, I likely wouldn’t have had the latest problem. Discipline was never one of my strong suits. On the last visit I mentioned to Bill, “What am I gonna do if you die? Who can do what you can do, and do so well?”
Bill laughed and said he’d have to stick around then, just to keep me in good shape. Truly over the past 40 years he has been the savior of many a sore back, stiff neck, ache, pain or accident victim and that’s no stretch.
Wrestling coach and weight-lifter Keith ‘Watty’ Watson said it best, “Dr. Bill, he’s the man! I called him “”Harford County’s Back cracker. He just laughed when I said it to him.”
So it goes, and when the likes of Bill Pickett are gone a’wa, well, there goes a lot of old time medicine that really worked, at least for me it did.