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What is Chiropractic: An Overview

Definition and Overview

Chiropractic is a method of treatment often used for disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, as well as the pain and defects associated with these disorders. The underlying principle of this health care practice is that manipulation and specific adjustment of the skeleton and its supporting structures can significantly treat the aforementioned conditions and promote overall health. The main subject of chiropractic care is the spine, although joints, surrounding muscles, and nerves may also be involved in the treatment of headaches, joint aches, and neuromusculoskeletal complaints in the neck, back, arms and legs.

Benefits of Chiropractic treatment

Chiropractic care can benefit patients of all ages suffering from a wide range of health conditions. It offers effective solutions to pain symptoms including the following:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Arthritis-related pain
  • Whiplash
  • Headache
  • Strains and sprains due to repetitive stress or normal daily activities
  • Work-related and sports-related injuries
  • Restricted movement of the shoulders, back, neck and limbs

These painful and often debilitating conditions often involve or significantly impact the nervous system, which can cause pain and dysfunction even to areas far from the injury region. Chiropractic care can help treat the underlying cause of pain so the overall body structure and health may be restored.

Chiropractic treatment also offers benefits to the elderly, as care and treatment can help them maintain mobility and a good range of motion. For certain conditions, long-term relief can be achieved when chiropractic care is combined with other therapies including physical therapy, orthotic devices, exercise and lifestyle modifications.

When to see a Chiropractor

Experiencing pain is normal at certain points in everyone's life. However, if you have been experiencing pain for a long time ( chronic pain) or if you experience pain that is so severe and debilitating that it keeps you from performing normal daily activities, then you may need to promptly see a chiropractor. In many cases such as spine problems, the sooner you see a chiropractor, the better the success rates will be.

Seeking services of a chiropractor usually doesn't need a physician recommendation. You may freely see a chiropractor anytime, although close coordination with your family doctor may provide the benefit of a more comprehensive health care for your condition. Take note though that chiropractic treatment is not meant to replace other validated and medically recommended therapies, so physician coordination is still required especially for serious conditions.

Doctors of chiropractic, also known as chiropractic physicians employ medication-free, hands-on approach to health care. They are skilled in a broad range of therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, and they also provide appropriate recommendations for nutrition, diet, and lifestyle.

Chiropractic Care: Diagnosis

Your first visit to a chiropractor will involve initial consultation and diagnosis. You may be asked questions or may be given a questionnaire regarding your health history. Your chiropractor will also ask you to pinpoint areas where you experience discomfort, and perform a routine physical examination focusing on these areas. The chiropractor may also take X-rays of the spine and the pain areas to check the bone anatomy and the condition of the soft tissues underneath. Several tests, such as reflex tests, range of motion tests, palpation, muscle strength tests, as well as neurological and orthopedic tests may also be performed.

During diagnosis, it is important to inform your chiropractor ahead of time if you have arthritis, recent fractures, or circulation disorder. Your chiropractor must also know if you have circulation disorders or if you're pregnant. You will also be asked to list down any medications that you're currently taking and previous treatment including previous operations or surgeries.

What to expect in Chiropractic treatment

After a thorough assessment, the chiropractor will develop a treatment plan best suited for your condition. After comprehensively considering your overall health, the condition of your spine, the extent of injury, and your long-term goals, the treatment plan will be discussed with you before the actual treatment is initiated.

As mentioned earlier, chiropractic treatment involves a medication-free approach. Central to chiropractic care is physical manipulation or therapeutic adjustments that employ the right amount of force, direction, leverage, velocity and amplitude directed at specific bones, muscles, and joints. Most treatments will be centered on adjustments to the spine, but depending on your condition, therapies to the ankle, wrist, knee, shoulder, and elbows may also be performed to restore proper alignment and improve function. Expect your chiropractor to use slow, and sustained hand pressure alternating with swift movements, with various degrees of hand pressure to perform the necessary adjustments. It is common to experience or hear clunking or clicking sounds as joints are manipulated, although this process is usually painless.

This medical practice is based on the idea that proper structure is necessary for proper and pain-free function of body parts. As such, there may be a series of physical adjustments, performed in increments to gradually improve the pain areas. Chiropractic treatment may last a few days or continue for a few months, depending on the suggested treatment plan.

Chiropractic therapy is often performed with tools and devices for better results and improved comfort. These include specialized adjusting tables, mechanical instruments, application of heat or cold compress, orthotic support for shoes, electrical stimulation, rehabilitative exercise, and nutritional supplementation.

Is it safe

Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest non-invasive, drug-free therapies for the treatment of musculoskeletal problems. Although the safety record of this procedure remains excellent, there are a few minor risks associated with chiropractic care. After treatment, patients may feel minor discomfort and soreness due to the manipulations performed, but such pain usually goes away within a day or two.

To ensure best results with little or no side effects, it is best to choose a chiropractor who is licensed and experienced in the field. It is also important to be very specific about your symptoms for your practitioner to be able to recommend the safest and most effective treatment.

References:

  • American Chiropractic Association (2014). “What is Chiropractic” Available: http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61
  • Peterson, D. H. & Bergmann, T.F. Chiropractic Technique: Principles and Procedures (2nd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
  • Kuusisto, L., Ph.D., The University of Minnesota Driven to Discover. “What Happens at the Chiropractor?” Available: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/chiropractic/what-happens-chiropractor