Health: Chiropractic Medicine Is More Than Just 'Cracking Necks'

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Health

Chatham chiropractor Troy Niezgoda. COURTESY PHOTO

A humorous staple of old TV shows is a character who, after he indicates he has a pain in his neck, is grabbed by a chiropractor who then cracks his neck and immediately relieves the pain.

A more modern version of this are YouTube video compilations of “greatest cracks.”

Chatham chiropractor Troy Niezgoda, who will celebrate the one-year anniversary of opening his practice at 60F Munson Meeting Way on May 17, laughs talking about this. He says, in fact, that friends encourage him to post a video on social media showing him cracking someone’s neck. But he points out that the cracking sound in those videos has been enhanced to make the maneuver look very dramatic.

Niezgoda, 30, grew up in Brewster and graduated from Nauset Regional High School in 2010. He has a fraternal twin brother and an older brother. Following high school, he went on to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and then to study chiropractic medicine at New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, where he earned his doctorate. (The school is now called Northeast College of Health Sciences.) Becoming a chiropractor was not his original intent. Because his mother worked in a dental office in Wellfleet, he initially aspired to become a dentist.

Niezgoda served as a chiropractic clerk at a Veterans Affair Hospital in Bath, N.Y. before returning to the Cape at the start of the pandemic. He briefly worked for another chiropractor but when Mitch Tishler, who had run the Chatham Chiropractic Wellness Center since 1987, retired, Niezgoda rented his office space. He retained the practice’s name and telephone number; the office manager, Debra Mead, has worked there for 30 years now.

“He’s a great guy,” Niezgoda says of Tishler. “The transition worked out perfectly.”

Niezgoda treats mainly muscular/skeletal pain in the back and neck, shoulder and knee. He might treat chronic pain issues or an injury that just happened. “I want to bring out better quality of life in an efficient manner,” he says.

Some treatments that Chatham Chiropractic offers are muscle work, dry needling, cupping, assisted stretching and injury rehab.

Dry needling is not the same thing as acupuncture, Niezgoda stresses. Rather, it is used to increase blood flow and “calm down” various muscles and tendons by decreasing tightness and reducing pain. In dry needling, a thin needle penetrates the skin and treats underlying muscular trigger points to manage pain and impaired movement. He has had success with this in the knee, shoulder, elbow.

Cupping, on the other hand, is used to treat muscle tightness and soft tissue injuries. It breaks up small capillaries and hastens the healing process.

“It’s an old Chinese type of medicine,” Niezgoda says. “It started becoming more mainstream.” Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps helped introduce cupping to the public because anyone watching the 2016 Olympics noted that Phelps had numerous red circles on his skin from cupping. It is a technique that uses heated suction cups to pull the skin back and loosen muscles and tendons, relieving muscular tension. Both Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston have walked the red carpet in backless dresses that reveal cupping marks.

Typical appointments with Niezgoda last for 30 minutes. He sees a wide variety of patients and while most are middle aged or older, he has treated a child of about five or six who had a soccer injury to his calf. As well as athletes, he treats construction workers and other people who work in manual jobs. Often the parents are the original patients, and then they end up bringing in other family members. Niezgoda views his office as a “beautiful, relaxing spot.” With massage therapists, an esthetician and an acupuncturist next door, he looks at it as “a little healing center.”

Niezgoda's advice to those of us who want to stay healthy? His basic advice dovetails with that given for boosting our immune systems during the pandemic. He recognizes that it’s “tough to be active” but it’s “always good to be active, even if breaking a small sweat every day.”

“Everybody says, ‘I have no time to work out and go to the gym,’” he says. “I’ve had trouble even finding time to be as active as I’d like. Just break a small sweat, get your heart beating. Stay moving.” This “can go a long way.”

He advocates simple things such as quality sleep, and drinking lots of water. “The past two-and-a half years have been an eye-opener.”

In the summer, Niezgoda likes to surf with his friends. He also plays pickup hockey and skates at least once a week in a rink in Orleans.

In January, Niezgoda and his fiancée, Samantha Gage, whom he met in high school, hosted a “destination wedding” in the Dominican Republic. Despite COVID restrictions, 90 guests were able to join them in celebrating their union. Samantha Niezgoda is in her first year of teaching elementary school physical education at Truro Central School. The couple have bought land in Brewster half a mile from Niezgoda’s parents’ home, and plan to build their own house soon.

“A lot is happening in the Niezgoda household,” Niezgoda says. “It’s all good stuff. I feel so fortunate.”