People come to Dr. Rich May when it hurts.
They come to him because they were in a car wreck and haven't been the same since. Because the pain from that old volleyball or football injury never really went away. Because their back hasn't felt right after completing an Ironman, or shoveling snow last winter, or water skiing on the lake.
May is a chiropractor with more than 15 years of experience.
He said that when people come to him with chronic pain, “That usually means there's something people haven't known how to address yet—and I usually do.”
In the waiting room at his practice, Blue Chip Chiropractic in Hayden, May's senior portrait—in which he sports impressive long hair, a stark contrast to his current appearance—hangs on the wall, opposite a painting of the USS Enterprise. They're conversation pieces, meant to put patients at ease.
May himself is similarly relaxed.
“I wear jeans to work on purpose, because I want people to tell me what's on their mind,” he said. “It helps. People come in, and they'll tell jokes with me.”
He decided to become a chiropractor after he got his knees adjusted and the immediate difference “blew his mind.” Only when the knee pain was gone did May realized how severe it had been and how it had impacted his life.
“I learned from these super ninjas, who I consider to be the best in the profession, exactly how far you can take the art,” he said. “Chiropractic can be a problem-solver in one visit.”
May said it's frustrating when he hears from people with problems he believes he can solve—but the individuals are unwilling to try chiropractic again after not getting the results they expected from a different provider. An unsuccessful experience shouldn't put someone off chiropractic entirely, he said, because each chiropractor has a different approach.
“You haven't tried me,” May said.
Many people are hesitant to try chiropractic, he said, because of the common misconception that chiropractors “crack” parts of the body into place. But nothing “cracks” in May's office.
He compares a chiropractic adjustment to removing a suction cup from a hard surface: It's not a “crack” or a “crunch,” but rather a release. Suction is what holds the body together and helps it move; May's job is to find places where the body has become stuck and to restore normal function.
“The sound you hear when you get your back adjusted is a release of negative pressure,” he said.
May's goal is not to facilitate the nervous system or to align vertebrae, but to normalize function. With his experience and the techniques at his disposal, each adjustment could be the one that solves the patient's problem.
“Sometimes it's not realistic, but I need people to think that way,” May said. “It happens all the time. I adjust somebody, they get up, and they say, ‘Wow, I remember this. This feels normal again.'”
That's why he doesn't require patients to sign up for long-term treatment plans upfront; May takes things one session at a time. The first visit could be the only one a patient needs—and often, it is.
“We're busy with new patients, not repeat patients,” he said.
After each adjustment, May asks his patients to walk around and make sure they feel a difference. The body weakens when it's in disarray, May said, and adjustments can restore both strength and function. He points to one of his patients, a local powerlifter and strongman, as an example.
“After I adjusted him, he was able to squat 90 more pounds,” May said.
The adjustment didn't suddenly increase his patient's strength—but it made his body more efficient and allowed him to achieve more. That's the power of chiropractic.
“You think that if you're giving 100 percent effort and attention, then you're at 100 percent (function), and that's not always the case,” May said. “If you're leaving something on the table, I can go get it, and I know how to find it.”