The Rockwood Files: Making peace with snap, crackle and pop

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

During the holiday break, I did something stupid – something that would have been no big deal if I was about 10 years younger than I am. But alas, the decade has taken its toll.

My kids, ages 8 and 5 and 3, challenged me to a game of Wii Fit, the video game system that exercises your body instead of just your thumbs. For the record, I love the Wii Fit because it gets you active with your kids, and, as an added bonus, it’s really fun. The kids let me choose the game I wanted to compete in, and I chose hula-hooping. You have to stand on the Wii balance board and move your hips in a big circle in order to keep your virtual hula-hoop on your virtual waist.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’m pretty decent with a hula-hoop, real ones as well as the video game version. I was determined to show the kids that their old mom still had a few moves she could teach them. We started the hula-hoop tournament, and I’m proud to say that I totally smoked those guys. I hula-hooped multiple hoops for long periods of time without ever dropping a rotation. So there. I won. Ha, ha! The kids were duly impressed.

The next day, I knew something wasn’t right because my back was screaming at me. Apparently, I’d shaken my groove thang right out of its groove. My left hip hurt. Something felt like it was poking the middle of my back. And my lower back seized up every time I reached for something in a lower cabinet. In short, it was a New Year and I was feeling very, very old.

I took some ibuprofen and tried a few stretching exercises over the next week or so. It helped a little, but the aches and pains came back, moved from one spot to another and made it hard to get comfortable enough at night to go to sleep.

I had to do something – even if it meant something that scared me. I made my first-ever appointment with a chiropractor. I’d heard great things about the doctor, and several friends told me that chiropractic “adjustments” had helped them through an array of different ailments over the years. But I was really nervous, although the reasons were silly.

If you have an aversion to things “popping,” visiting a chiropractor is not typically high on your list. In high school, one of my friends had a habit of popping her knuckles, and the noise made me crazy. I hated how painful it sounded, although she swore to me it felt good. So I was nervous about the popping my own body might make on the chiropractor’s table. And I had this ridiculous vision of my head being twisted the wrong way and popping right off my body in one of those colossal “oops” moments no one wants to experience.

But I pushed the irrational fears aside and promised myself I’d be a grown-up about it. I admitted to the doctor that I was a first-time fraidy-cat, and she was very gentle with me and explained every step along the way. Sure, things popped a little here and there but it wasn’t nearly as loud as I expected and it didn’t hurt.

During the exam, which included x-rays of my spine, the doctor asked if I had any past accidents, even from childhood, which may have caused any of the symptoms I was experiencing now. I’ve been fortunate because there are no big car accidents to talk about or sports injuries to report. But when I thought about the question after the exam, I began remembering all the little things that seem like ancient history – falling off a swing, wipe-outs on water skis, bicycle crashes, and the back-hand-spring in gymnastics when I landed on my head, not to mention the three babies who each took up residence in my body for nine months and then moved out during hours of childbirth.

The doctor said all these things can have a cumulative effect on a person’s spine. Apparently, my overly ambitious hula-hoop session was just the proverbial straw that messed up the camel’s back, so to speak.

Though I didn’t feel an immediate difference when I left the doctor’s office, I did notice that suddenly I was able to turn my head over my shoulder while backing out of a parking space without whispering “ouch” under my breath. Then later that day, I stretched out on the bed for just a few minutes and unintentionally fell asleep more quickly and easily than I have in years. I slept soundly for almost two hours and woke up feeling decidedly “less old.”

Now that I’m not afraid of snap, crackle and pop, I’ll probably go back to the chiropractor’s office as the need arises. And I’m going to keep doing exercises designed to strengthen my back. Because I’m frockwoodheadshot2010compressed3.jpgar too young to retire my hula-hoop just yet.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.