Chronic pain is a huge problem across the states, affecting more than 100 million Americans. This number is greater than those affected by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. Chiropractic professionals provide a holistic approach to healing that helps to relieve symptoms without the invasiveness of surgery or the use of pain medication.
Originating from the Greek words cheir (meaning ‘hand’) and praktos (meaning ‘done’), the art of chiropractic practice offers a truly “hands-on” approach that many are flocking towards to heal a variety of painful ailments. This approach is ideal for those who are looking to find relief from pain and discomfort alongside health practices such as lifestyle, diet, fitness, and sleep hygiene.
To get started, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide that breaks down exactly what a Chiropractor is, what they do, and how they do it.
A chiropractor is a healthcare professional that performs highly skilled adjustments of bones and joints in order to reduce problematic symptoms in patients receiving treatment. The theory behind chiropractic practice is that proper musculoskeletal alignment, especially when it comes to the spine, will allow relief in the body and allow healing to occur.
Referral to a chiropractor can be due to a variety of symptoms including but not limited to neck pain, back pain, joint pain, and muscle soreness. Chiropractors are able to diagnose and treat a variety of spinal disorders, musculoskeletal and/or nerve discomfort, cervicogenic headaches, herniated discs, sciatica, and whiplash to name a few.
When considering whether or not to bite the bullet and book your first appointment with a chiropractor, it may be comforting to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. First appointments typically include a look into your health history, as well as a physical examination to ensure you are a good candidate for chiropractic adjustments. The actual adjustment is generally a spinal adjustment or a joint manipulation that the chiropractor performs with their hands or small instruments.
Chiropractors typically use small, sudden force in order to adjust areas in the spine that are causing discomfort in the body. Overall, the chiropractor’s goal is to help you gain mobility, lessen pain, and improve your body’s functioning.
Though accounts of bodily adjustments have been littered throughout history for over hundreds (possibly even thousands) of years, it was not until Daniel David Palmer, a major contributor to the fields of anatomy and physiology, began to make connections between bodily symptoms and spinal alignment did the science start to gain some credibility.
Palmer’s first adjustment was in September of 1895 when he helped a janitor (William Harvey Lillard) whose hearing had become impaired 17 years prior after he felt something in his back “give”. Palmer performed a crude adjustment on the janitor whom he believed to have a displaced vertebrae in his upper back.
After doing extensive research on human physiology, Palmer believed that the hearing loss was due to a misalignment in Lillard’s back that was blocking the nerves that controlled his inner ear. Following Palmer’s adjustment, the janitor reported significant improvement in his hearing, and Palmer went on to treat numerous patients. Eventually he opened the Palmer School of Cure, which is now known as the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa (where it remains to this day). Interest developed in Palmer’s chiropractic study after word spread of his initial adjustment on the janitor, and in 1913 the first state law licensing chiropractors was passed.
By 1931, 39 states had given chiropractors legal recognition. There are currently over 70,000 active chiropractic licenses in the U.S. The U.S., District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all officially recognize chiropractic as a health care profession and a variety of other countries also utilize chiropractic services such as Switzerland, Japan, Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, and Canada.
Today, Chiropractic practices are found all over the world.
Chiropractic science focuses mainly on the relationship between the spine and the nervous system.
During an adjustment you can expect to be placed in specific positions on a padded chiropractic table in order for the chiropractor to treat certain areas.
Generally a chiropractic treatment lasts from 1-4 weeks for musculoskeletal symptoms that are mild.
Chiropractic science focuses mainly on the relationship between the spine and the nervous system in order to restore and preserve patient’s health. There is an emphasis within chiropractic practice on the body’s own ability to heal itself without the need for surgery or drugs. Many chiropractic professionals also realize the importance of a holistic approach to healing, including working with a variety of other healthcare professionals when it is in the patient’s best interest.
During an adjustment you can expect to be placed in specific positions on a padded chiropractic table in order for the chiropractor to treat certain areas. Generally a chiropractic treatment lasts from 1-4 weeks for musculoskeletal symptoms that are mild.
The initial treatment usually leaves patients with a 40-80% reduction in pain and the frequency of visits to the chiropractor should decrease as the pain of the patient decreases and mobility/function of the patient increases. Depending on the treatment you require there may be a need for multiple follow up appointments.
Chiropractors have to go through years of postgraduate training, and many chiropractic programs even include a year of PhD level advance nutrition training. These health professionals do more than just a few neck twists and back cracks. They are trained to see the body as a whole rather than separate parts and aim to treat patients so they can avoid more severe methods of treatment such as pain relieving drugs or surgery.
Common treatments sought from chiropractors include:
Many seek treatment from a certified chiropractor to treat other not-so-obvious ailments because they want to avoid the risk of surgery or they do not wish to use harsh pain medication. Chiropractic treatment can be sought for things such as bowel irregularity, arthritis, asthma, insomnia, blood pressure, mental clarity, healthy pregnancy, and the common cold.
Yes, chiropractors are certified professionals who are experts in various musculoskeletal diseases and dysfunctions but there are some things that are best left to the world of medical doctors. Conditions that are not treated by chiropractors include instances of:
Be wary of chiropractors who claim to cure things like allergy symptoms or cancer. There is little to no evidence to support such claims and choosing to not seek support from medical doctors in these instances could be hazardous to your health.
A foundational element to chiropractic practice is that the structure of the body, with specific emphasis on the spine, affects the function of each part of the body. By correcting alignment, chiropractors believe that undue stress is relieved, which allows the body to function properly and, in turn, heal itself from pain.
Though the focus of chiropractic treatment remains on the spine, chiropractic care has now widened to include treatments for posture, nutritional counseling, and exercise education in order to supplement musculoskeletal manipulation.
Your chiropractor may recommend certain exercises to help improve your range of motion, and may also ask what position you tend to sleep in and what shape your mattress is in. Because we spend so much of our lives on our mattresses, understanding sleep health and hygiene may be crucial in your path to recovery. Chiropractors often work with primary care doctors, pain experts, and surgeons to deliver the best, most comprehensive results to patients. Understanding your health history and current lifestyle are all important factors that aid chiropractors in delivering relief from pain.
Chiropractors cannot treat broken bones, they can not cure diseases, and they cannot cure cancer. There are chiropractors that exist in the world who will claim the ability to cure such serious ailments but evidence for these claims is minimal. Serious diseases, tumors, or broken/fractured bones should be left to other medical professionals with expertise in these fields.
The most common risks involved with paying a visit to the chiropractor is muscle soreness and aching, headaches, or fatigue post-adjustment. Oftentimes these symptoms disappear within the first 24 hours after an adjustment and having time set aside to lay down in order to let muscles and joints resettle is usually recommended. Ice or heat packs may also be recommended to aid in soreness or aching.
Other, more serious risks involved in chiropractic treatment include the worsening of an existing herniated disk, compression of nerves in the lower spinal column (cauda equina syndrome), and a certain type of stroke after neck manipulation (vertebral artery dissection).
Chiropractic adjustments are not recommended for those with severe osteoporosis, numbness, tingling, or loss of strength in an arm or a leg, cancer in your spine, an increased risk of stroke, or instability in the spine.
You’d be hard pressed to find another health professional with as much knowledge about the musculoskeletal system and relieving its symptoms of pain than a chiropractor. When it comes to the the prevention of neuromuscular-based disease, chiropractors also take the cake.
A clinical trial from the European Spine Journal found that 72 percent of chiropractic adjustments were successful in treating sciatica-related symptoms compared to 20 percent success rate from physical therapy and a 50 percent success rate from steroid injections.
Going to a chiropractor is also a great option for those unable to afford expensive costs for surgeries to relieve spinal pain or those wanting an alternative to potentially addictive pain medication.
You may find yourself saving even more money in the long run when choosing chiropractic care because of the additional benefits from adjustments. Improved sleep quality, breathing, and increased energy are all second hand benefits when choosing to get adjusted.