My search for providers who understand both chiropractic and mainstream medicine

Hi everyone!

I have so much to share with you all… the epiphanies are really piling up for me, this month.

As you may know, I recently sought out a new physical therapist for help better understanding what happened to me back in May, when I ended up in the emergency room after a chiropractic adjustment.

It’s not so much that I’ve been looking for treatment, in the traditional sense.  It’s more that I still need to make sense out of what occurred. 

After all, I never got an exact explanation from anyone about my symptoms.  Part of the problem was that none of the people treating me (the emergency room staff, as well as the neurologist I followed up with on an outpatient basis) were actually familiar with chiropractic adjustments.  So no one felt they could truly say what was likely to have occurred.

Thankfully, as you know, my symptoms were not permanent.  Whatever it was seemed to be a temporary injury, and everyone told me to thank my lucky stars it wasn’t worse (which, of course, I have been!).

But, if you know me at all, you know that my mind doesn’t stop.  I like to understand things.  When something like this happens, I need to know why.   (And I think this mindset is a big part of why I was eventually able to claw my way out of the depths of SI joint dysfunction.  I don’t take other people’s word for it.  I need to know for myself).

That’s why, recently, I’ve been wanting to speak with someone who has an understanding of both chiropractic and mainstream medicine.

Because I do think chiropractic adjustments have something to offer… but, quite frankly, I don’t really trust the chiropractic field to be able to handle things on their own.  For safety reasons, I think there needs to be a lot more oversight from the traditional medical community.

I mean, let’s consider the fact that once something went wrong at the chiropractor, my only option was to head to the hospital, with x-ray, MRI, and, if need be, surgeons.  Many people people like to think of chiropractic as a stand-alone specialty, but to me, it really shouldn’t be.   Once something went wrong at my appointment, my chiropractor couldn’t fix it.  It was out of his hands.

So that’s why, recently, I’ve been wanting to speak with someone with an understanding in both areas.  In order to understand what happened to me, I felt like I needed someone who had all of the knowledge and solid scientific grounding of the mainstream medical field… yet was also familiar with what, exactly, chiropractic adjustments could do.

I thought this was sort of a shot in the dark, but it turns out that I’m far from the first person who’s been envisioning this type of collaboration!

It’s an unfortunate trend I’ve been noticing recently in healthcare, at least in terms of musculoskeletal pain.  Because pain, and the body, are so individual, there’s room for a lot more diverse types of treatments than other areas of medicine.  And sometimes, you don’t know what’s out there unless you specifically look for it.

It’s a strange paradox.  I wrote about this in my last few posts about segmental spinal hypermobility, as well.  Sometimes you won’t be able to find the right person to treat a certain kind of condition, or offer the exact type of treatment you need, until you as the patient know exactly what to ask for.  Which, of course, is ridiculous.  You’re the patient… how are you supposed to know?

But this is exactly what’s happened here as well.  Now that I’ve actually started looking for people who were trained in both chiropractic and mainstream medicine…. I’ve started finding them.

What I’ve discovered so far:

So… let me tell you what I’ve found, since I started doing this research.

Integrative Spinal Research

You may have seen my recent post on the Integrative Spinal Research program at the Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland.  (That was just one of the first things I happened to come across).

Since then, I’ve actually started discovering a bunch of new treatment options– near me– that I didn’t even know about!

Orthopedic Manual Therapy

As I touched upon in my last posts, I recently met with a new physical therapist, David, who is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Therapists.  This is a pretty big deal– it was an additional three years of schooling after his physical therapy degree.  I am really excited about David– we had a fascinating conversation not only about biomechanics and chiropractic adjustments, but also the neuroscience involved in some of these concepts.  I can already tell he’s going to be one of the people who influences me significantly, as I proceed with my PT career.

As an orthopedic manual therapist, not only can David perform the gentler joint mobilizations PT’s more commonly perform.  He can actually perform chiropractic adjustments himself.   How crazy is this?  I really had no idea this was possible.

Now, I’m still not interested in actually receiving chiropractic adjustments myself.  The point of this appointment was to see if David’s training would allow him to better make sense out of what went wrong back in May.  And I believe the answer was yes– because he was trained in giving adjustments himself, he had a much better sense for what might have occurred than the PT in the emergency room.

I have so much to say about what I learned in my first appointment with David that I’ll be covering it in its own post.  Right now, I just want to make sure everyone knows what I’ve been up to!

Primary Spine Practitioner

I also met with another type of specialist recently– a Primary Spine Practitioner.  This is a new type of specialty, and I don’t think you’ll find PSP’s everywhere, just yet.  But the idea is that they’re like primary care doctors that focus on the spine (because regular primary care doctors are not really equipped to manage complex spine conditions themselves).

This certification is open to both chiropractors and physical therapists.

I purposely chose to meet with someone who’d initially trained as a chiropractor.   To be honest, the results were somewhat disappointing, compared to what I was expecting.  I could tell he was incredibly knowledgeable about the spine.. but he’s one of those doctors who has pretty firm opinions about SI joint dysfunction not being a thing.

I’d never encountered that before.  I’d met plenty of doctors who weren’t sure, or said it wasn’t their subject area… but never someone with strong opinions that it didn’t exist.

However I did get what I was looking for out of that appointment, in the sense that I wanted to speak with someone who had knowledge both of chiropractic adjustments and mainstream medicine.  He was helpful as far as the spine itself was concerned.

Right now, my goal is just to give you a sense of some of the possibilities that are out there.  

Although I have made the choice not to personally receive chiropractic adjustments again, I do appreciate the contributions the field has made to my own healing.

Back in 2011, the only person who even knew what was wrong with me– let alone “unlock” my joints when they got stuck– was a chiropractor.   It stayed this way for a few years.

Yes, in retrospect, I wish I had looked for other opinions sooner.  But that doesn’t diminish the fact that that chiropractor was there, when no one else was.

So I’ll never totally write off the field, or say that it’s useless.

But I am really excited to see all of the examples of collaboration between chiropractors and mainstream medicine.  

I really think this is the way it has to be, in order for all of us to continue to receive the benefits of the chiropractic field in a safe and responsible manner.

I have a feeling I’m going to continue to discover even more examples of collaboration, and expanding areas of knowledge.  So I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

I’m also going to be writing more, in detail, about exactly that I learn in all of my appointments.

So… I hope you enjoyed this post!

As always, if you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or email me at

Also, be sure to check out our new SI Joint Facebook Discussion Group.  We’ve had some great conversations so far!


2 thoughts on “My search for providers who understand both chiropractic and mainstream medicine

  1. laura Balsley says:

    I am wondering if it is possible to have BOTH SIJD and a piriformis issue?

    I don t have sciatica .. with pain running down the back leg.. but I do have a knot of about two inches down from the dimpled spot…into the more meatier of the buttock. I did some careful hamstring stretches that was designed for the periformis problem I felt a great release after I had done it. I had done this before for the SIJD ( I have had this for 10 plus years) to help with it… but it made it worse because the hip joint moved.. causing real pain.

    as the day went on, even after I felt better with the release of tight hamstrings, it came right back.. but if I pressed against that spot two inches down from the dimpled spot… it helped relieved some pain. So is this SIJD still .. or could it be the periformis problem?

    do you treat SIJD patients yourself as a PT?

    I love your blog. Its so informative.. and all very organized…

    Thank you for sharing!



    • Sunlight in Winter says:

      Hi Laura! This is a great question, as I’m sure many people with SIJD wonder about this.

      The only way to get a definitive answer to your question would be to see a physical therapist who could evaluate you in person. They would be able to tell, based on the location of your pain, as well as where you feel it radiating to, which nerves are involved (and whether those nerves can be compressed by the piriformis muscle).

      Piriformis syndrome refers to when the piriformis muscle, in the back of the hips, spasms and compresses the sciatic nerve, which runs all the way down to the leg, to our foot. There are two types, which you can read about it in this excellent article:

      In 10% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually passes *through* the piriformis muscle– this 10% of people is more likely to experience piriformis syndrome, because of this.

      If I was going to guess, based on your description (which I am completely unqualified to do– this is my opinion, only!) I would think that it is NOT piriformis syndrome. I think that, if that was the case, you’d have pain going further down your leg, due to the path of the sciatic nerve.

      You mentioned you were doing hamstring stretches that helped. I think what you’re experiencing is more likely to be localized muscle spasms of multiple muscles, not just the piriformis.

      This is called “referred pain.” Basically, the nerves connected to where you may be having this muscle spasm are also connected with the nerves that attach to the spot inches down, so your nervous system ends up experiencing pain in both locations.

      Here’s an article on referred pain (it’s for PT’s, but it’s the only good one I could find):

      Again, this is just my opinion and I’m sharing it for educational purposes. The only person who could tell you for sure is a doctor or PT in person. But I hope this helped to give you some good background info!


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