Chiropractic is a total health care profession which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular-skeletal and musculoskeletal disorders, and their effects on general health. Chiropractic practitioners (called chiropractors or chiropractic physicians) use drug-free and hands-on techniques to examine, diagnose and treat disorders.
While chiropractic treatment is primarily used as an alternative pain-relief treatment, it is often used in conjunction with traditional medical treatment.
How Chiropractic Works?
Corrective Chiropractic is based on correcting both structural and postural imbalances, without administering drugs or undergoing surgery, allowing the body to heal itself naturally. The brain communicates with every organ and muscle by transmitting signals through the spinal cord, which relays them through the network of nerves your spinal cord. If the brain cannot send signals to the right organs or tissue, your body may be unable to perform at its best, or the disruption could even cause pain.
The channels of communication can be affected by many factors:
- If you suffer an injury that causes mechanical or structural misalignment to these pathways, called vertebral subluxations
- Stress could be overloading the central nervous system and reducing the nerves’ ability to relay signals
- Drinking alcohol, smoking and even an unbalanced diet can cause chemical changes that interfere with the nervous system
A chiropractor will typically perform a thorough examination to determine the source of the disruption, and then perform corrective chiropractic procedures, so the nervous system can operate at its maximum efficiency. Since the nervous systems and brain control the entire body, the corrections help get your health back on track. You will likely need more than one session to correct any structural or chemical imbalances.
Just like conventional medicines, there are different kinds of chiropractic care:
- Relief Care – This is usually the starting point the identify the underlying cause of your discomfort or pain and start corrective therapy
- Corrective Care – Once the major symptoms have improved, continued visits are scheduled to retrain muscular strength and maintain soft tissues for lasting spinal changes
- Maintenance Care – Like daily hygiene routines, periodic visits will help avoid relapses, even if obvious symptoms do not appear
- Preventative Care – These less-frequent visits are helpful to catch emerging issues before they get more serious, like an annual health checkup
- Wellness Care – Your unique stresses, environmental effects or personal health goals may require different visit frequencies to help you be your fittest
One of the most commonly used chiropractic techniques most commonly used chiropractic techniques is the adjustment, which is using energy at the right place and at the right time, to correct the spine. Think of it as ‘nudging’ or gently pressing the spine to correct a misalignment and improve its movement. The word “chiropractic” originates from the Greek language and it means “done by hand”.
Here are a few facts about chiropractic adjustments:
Though the Greek word “chiro” means hand, adjustments and other procedures can also be performed using handheld instruments, blocks, and other means
- Contrary to popular belief, chiropractic adjustments are not intended to treat diseases, symptoms or pain
- Chiropractic adjustments are simply intended to help revive or improve your spine’s ability to deliver signals from the brain, move, and function normally
- Chiropractic adjustments are usually quite pleasant and patients often feel the effects immediately
- The effects include a pleasant sense of comfort, ease, and well-being which is important since repeated adjustments are often required
Just like any other health care profession, there are a number of chiropractic techniques. After a thorough examination, the chiropractic therapist will suggest a specific technique to rejuvenate your spine, reduce interference and disruptions in your nervous system and improve the spinal or muscular biomechanics.
However, the technique may be modified or changed, based on your personal preferences and any physical limitations:
- Sacro Occipital Technique (SOT) – This technique uses gravity, your own body and wedge-shaped blocks to make spinal corrections and create a healthier pattern of spinal function. The SOT is well-known for being very comfortable for patients.
- Diversified – When vertebrae are malpositioned, this style of adjusting involves applying a manual thrust at specific points to realign them. This technique can involve an X-ray or a case history for diagnosis and can be applied to virtually any joint in the body.
- Activator Methods – Once the movement range of your spine has been analyzed, a spring-loaded handheld instrument is used for consistent low-force thrusts at high speeds. Since the thrusts are much faster, your body doesn’t resist much, resulting in more comfortable and effective adjustments.
- Thompson – Developed by Dr. J. Clay Thompson, this technique is a system of analyzing and treating vertebral subluxations. Individual cushions called “drop pieces” support different areas of your spine while the thrust is delivered. After that, it gently gives way to reduce the energy needed to move specific spinal segments.
- Gonstead – Named after Dr. Clarence Gonstead, its developer, this is a complete examination which generally includes spinal X-rays and precise analysis. Once there is a complete picture of your spine, adjustments are made to your lower spine and pelvis to target subluxations.
- AK Applied Kinesiology – This technique is used to test the strength of various muscles of your body to find structural, mental and chemical problems and to monitor your results. Treatment can include a range of healing modalities including chiropractic adjustments, mobilization, acupuncture and even nutrition supplementation.
Importance & Benefits of Chiropractic Care
Your nervous system coordinates and controls every function in your body. If the electrical signals that travel through them are interrupted or there is interference, parts of the body might be unable to communicate with your brain and vice-versa. Additionally, abnormal or restricted movement of the spinal joints increases the stress signals reaching the brain, resulting in a “Fight or Flight” response which is known to cause chronic stress.
Chiropractic care promotes healthy nervous system function, brain function and improves health. Here are some of the benefits of this treatment::
- Improved movement in your back, neck, shoulders, torso and even posture
- Relief from headaches, back and neck pain
- Prevention of work and sports-related muscle and joint injuries
- Increase in overall energy and athletic performance
- Improvement in flexibility and increase in range of motion
- Relief from back and neck pains during pregnancy
- Correction of gait and foot or leg problems
What Conditions Do Chiropractors Treat?
Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) provide a wide range of care for patients across all age-groups for a number of health conditions. They are well known, especially for their expertise in dealing with:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Injuries and musculoskeletal system disorders
- Muscle, ligament and joint disorders
- Painful conditions involving or impacting the nervous system
- Referred pain and dysfunction in regions distant to an injury
- General health issues
- Diet and nutrition
- Exercise and health regimens
- Occupational and lifestyle modification
- Sacro Occipital Technique (SOT)
- Activator Methods
- AK Applied Kinesiology
Is Chiropractic Safe?
Chiropractic has been recognized throughout the world as one of the least invasive and safest drug-free therapies for treating neuromusculoskeletal complaints, and it has an excellent safety record. While there is no health treatment or procedure that is completely free of the potential for adverse effects, the risks associated with chiropractic care are minimal, with many patients feeling immediate relief after chiropractic treatment.
- Depending on the technique and extent of the corrections, some patients may experience mild soreness, localized stiffness or aching, like those felt after some exercises
- Most symptoms will typically fade within 24 hours of the treatments
- While some patients are understandably concerned about neck manipulation, it is remarkably safe when performed by skilled and well-educated professionals, like doctors of chiropractic (DCs)
A 2012 systematic review suggests spine manipulation in chiropractic and clinical practice is a cost-effective treatment, both when it’s used alone and when it’s combined with other forms of treatment. Another systematic review in 2011 supports the cost-effectiveness of spinal manipulation techniques for treating sub-acute or chronic lower back pains but suggests the results may be insufficient for acute low back pain.
An analysis of clinical and cost utilization from 2003 to 2005 conducted by an integrative medicine independent physician association (IPA) found decreased patient costs compared to conventional medicine:
- 59.0 percent for hospital days
- 62.0 percent for outpatient surgeries and procedures
- 85 percent of pharmaceutical costs
All in all, total chiropractic is considerably more cost-effective than most traditional forms of treatment, especially when it can be considered an alternative to surgery.
A number of systemic reviews have been conducted over the years to calculate the risk benefits of chiropractic care:
- A 2012 systematic review concluded there was no accurate assessment of risk-benefits for cervical manipulation
- A 2012 summary concluded that SMT is safe, effective and the benefits outweigh the risks at a population level
- A 2009 review evaluating chiropractic maintenance care found spinal manipulation was routinely associated with considerable harm and found no compelling evidence indicating that it prevents symptoms or diseases adequately
- A 2008 summary suggested that chiropractic care is useful as a therapy for patients with neck or low-back pain and risks of serious adverse events can be considered negligible