It is estimated that about 27 million Americans visit a doctors of chiropractic each year, and millions more receive chiropractic care throughout the rest of the world. Chiropractic is the third largest primary health care field (after medicine and dentistry).
Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts which is based upon the understanding that good health depends, in part, upon a normally functioning nervous system (especially the spine, and the nerves extending from the spine to all parts of the body).
"Chiropractic" comes from the Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning "effective treatment by hand." Chiropractic stresses the idea that the cause of many disease processes begins with the body's inability to adapt to its environment.
It looks to address these diseases not by the use of drugs and chemicals, but by locating and adjusting a musculoskeletal area of the body which is functioning improperly.
The conditions which doctors of chiropractic address are as varied and as vast as the nervous system itself.
We use a standard procedure of examination to diagnose a patient's condition and arrive at a course of treatment. Chiropractors use the same time-honored methods of consultation, case history, physical examination, laboratory analysis and x-ray examination as any other doctor. In addition, they provide a careful chiropractic structural examination, paying particular attention to the spine.
The examination of the spine to evaluate structure and function is what makes chiropractic different from other health care procedures. Your spinal column is a series of movable bones which begin at the base of your skull and end in the center of your hips. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves extend down the spine from the brain and exit through a series of openings. The nerves leave the spine and form a complicated network which influences every living tissue in your body.
Accidents, falls, stress, tension, overexertion, and countless other factors can result in a displacements or derangements of the spinal column, causing irritation to spinal nerve roots. These irritations are often what cause malfunctions in the human body. Chiropractic teaches that reducing or eliminating this irritation to spinal nerves can cause your body to operate more efficiently and more comfortably.
We also places an emphasis on nutritional and exercise programs, wellness and lifestyle modifications for promoting physical and mental health. While chiropractors make no use of drugs or surgery, Doctors of chiropractic do refer patients for medical care when those interventions are indicated. In fact, chiropractors, medical doctors, physical therapists and other health care professionals now work as partners in occupational health, sports medicine, and a wide variety of other rehabilitation
One of the main causes of pain and disease in the human body can be traced to improper alignment of the vertebrae in your spinal column. This is called a subluxation. Through carefully applied pressure, massage, and manual manipulation of the vertebrae and joints, pressure and irritation on the nerves is relieved and joint mobility is restored, allowing your body to return to its natural state of balance, called homeostasis. Put another way, when the bones in your spine are allowed to go back to their proper positions, the nerve energy can resume its normal flow and your body's natural healing processes can function properly.
In general, proper chiropractic treatment of your body's lumbar, or lower back, region, involves very little risk and the rewards can be significant.
Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations can be especially helpful in relieving pain for facet joint injuries, osteoarthritis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, because such conditions respond well to mobilization. Moreover, scores of patients with chronic headaches, sinus problems, high blood pressure, ear infections, leg pain, arthritis, and many other illnesses have reported significant relief after chiropractic therapy.
Increasingly over the past few decades, the medical community has come to accept and recognize chiropractic care as a valid form of treatment for a variety of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, and as a conservative treatment option for patients with lower back pain. Moreover, many medical doctors recognize a chiropractic diagnosis and accept it as the first line of treatment for functional disorders of the entire musculoskeletal system.
Studies by leading medical journals in recent years have confirmed the benefits of chiropractic care:
- A 1993 report by the Ontario Ministry of Health concluded that chiropractic care was the most effective treatment for lower back pain. The agency also recommended that chiropractic care be fully integrated in the Canadian government's health care system.
- In 1994, the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published its Clinical Practice Guidelines, which asserted that spinal manipulation was effective in reducing pain and speeding recovery among patients with acute low back symptoms without radiculopathy.
- A 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study of outcomes and costs for acute low back pain found that patients treated by chiropractors were significantly more satisfied than those who saw primary care, orthopedic or managed care practitioners.
- A 1996 study in the journal Spine echoed that study and found that patients who sought chiropractic care were more likely to feel that treatment was helpful, more likely to be satisfied with their care, and less likely to seek care from another provider for the same condition, compared to those who sought care from medical doctors.
- In 2001, the Center for Clinical Health Policy Research at Duke University concluded in a study that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for cervicogenic headaches, or those that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.