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
A whole host of things can go wrong with a vertebral disc over a lifetime. A traumatic injury can crush or misplace a disc. An excessive pulling or lifting accident at home or on the job can force a disc out of position. And for some of us, simply getting older can cause a disc to deteriorate. This is usually called degenerative disc disease.
The vast majority of disc injuries occur in the lower back or lumbar region. When a damaged lumbar disc presses on a nerve root, it can cause radiating pain, numbness and weakness in other areas of the body, including the buttocks, leg, ankles and toes. Ironically, in many cases, a person with a herniated disc will not feel back or neck pain.
Cervical (neck) discs that have herniated can cause radiating pain and numbness down an arm and into the wrist and hand. Other types of symptoms include shoulder pain and numbness, as well as muscle and reflex weakness.
Chiropractic care entails a conservative, nonsurgical approach to treating disc injuries and other disc-related problems, and is often a course of treatment prior to any surgery, if recommended by a primary care physician or surgeon. And in other cases, disc injuries may heal themselves without any intervention.
Before undertaking any course of chiropractic treatment for a disc problem or injury, patients are thoroughly examined. This examination includes such things as analysis of posture, limb measurements, and pelvic balance, gait and reflex analyses. It is important to know whether the disc problem is a result of an injury or disease. If more information is needed, a diagnostic test, such as a MRI or X-ray, may be required to accurately pinpoint the source of the problem.
Treatments may include spinal adjustment or manipulation, and therapies, such as electrotherapy and ice/heat therapy.
Specific techniques for treating disc injury include:
- Flexion-distraction - The patient lies on a specialized table that gently stretches the spine, allowing the chiropractor to pinpoint the affected disc while slightly flexing the spine. These procedures gently move the disc away from an affected nerve, slowing or eliminating inflammation, and pain.
- Pelvic blocking - This method employs cushioned wedges that are placed under each side of the hips. The chiropractor gently maneuvers the pelvic area, allowing gravity to pull the disc away from the affected nerve.