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
Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to be a safe and effective alternative treatment for pain and injury.
Chiropractors perform 95 percent of all adjustments in the world to correct the subluxations, or misalignments, of the vertebrae in the spine. Chiropractic adjustments are performed by applying gentle, yet firm pressure to a bone. The goal of any adjustment is to restore the bone to its natural, or original, position. The important thing to remember is the act the adjustment frees-not forces-a vertebra to allow it to find its natural position. This is accomplished by the body's innate intelligence.
Chiropractic adjustments are performed to treat a wide variety of conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain disorders
- Chronic muscle pain and stiffness
- Most musculoskeletal and sports-related injuries
- Nerve disorders
- Pain and stiffness in the back, chest, abdomen, neck, hips and shoulders, as well as extremities, such as arms, legs, and feet
- Sciatica pain
- Whiplash and other traumatic injuries
Adjustments can be performed while sitting, standing, or lying down. Some adjustments involve special instruments or tables.
Some common adjustment techniques include:
- Instrument adjustments, which involve a spring-loaded device.
- Lumbar roll, in which the chiropractor applies a firm, yet quick thrust to a misaligned vertebra while the patient lies on his or her side.
- Motion palpation, a hand technique the chiropractor uses to determine if your vertebrae are properly aligned.
- Release work, in which the chiropractor uses gentle pressure with the fingers to separate the vertebrae.
- Table adjustments, which entail lying on a specially designed table that drops when pressure is applied to a specific area. The dropping motion allows more gentle adjustments than some manual adjustments do.
- Toggle drop, which entails firm pressure applied on a specific area of the spine by using crossed hands.
Chiropractors take many factors-including size, weight, and muscle structure-into consideration when deciding on which adjustment to make. Sometimes, ice, electrical stimulation, or massage therapy (including traction massage) are used prior to a spinal manipulation in order to relax the muscles.
In some cases, it may necessary to perform an adjustment while you are sedated.
Spinal manipulation under anesthesia, which is considered a very safe procedure, is usually reserved for patients with conditions such as chronic neck, back, and joint pain, muscle spasm, shortened muscles, and fibrous adhesions.
Another form of adjustment called craniosacral therapy, or "CST," involves exerting very mild pressure to the body's craniosacral system, which is comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. This includes cranium-which is composed of the skull, face and mouth, and the "sacrum," or tailbone.
CST has been shown to provide relief from chronic neck and back pain, scoliosis, brain and spinal cord injuries, migraines, chronic fatigue, nervous system disorders, jaw joint problems, and stress disorders. (Conditions such as aneurysm and intracranial hemorrhage prohibit this kind of therapy.)
Adjustments almost always do not involve any pain or discomfort. The important thing for a patient to keep in mind is to remain relaxed, because stiffening up may impede the adjustment process. Popping sounds are sometimes heard during adjustments; these are usually pockets of air being released behind a joint or other bony structure.
Adjustments can leave you with a greater sense of well-being, calm, and most importantly, on the road to a life without pain. Following an adjustment, some patients experience mild aching or soreness in their spinal joints or muscles, which can usually be relieved by an ice or heat pack.
Adjustments have been shown to:
- Increase blood flow
- Increase pain tolerance levels
- Increase range of motion
- Increase the body's secretion of "good" chemicals, such as melatonin and endorphins
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce tension and muscle pressure