About Chiropractic: Questions and Answers

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). Discovered in 1895 in Davenport, Iowa, Chiropractic is the third largest and fastest growing natural health care profession in the world.

Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.) specialize in locating and correcting a serious condition known as Vertebral Subluxation. A Vertebral Subluxation(s) is a misalignment of one or more of the twenty four moveable bones of the spine. They are commonly caused by stresses and impacts to the body from poor posture, poor sleeping habits, slips and falls, vehicular accidents, sports impacts, strenuous exercise, work injuries, childhood falls, even the birth process. Subluxations cause dangerous stress to the spinal chord and the delicate spinal nerves which exit the spine between the spinal bones. This causes irritation to the nerves and interferes with their ability to function properly. This nerve interference causes the body to lose it's ability to function optimally and ill health eventually results. Though serious even in their early stages, subluxations are often not painful. It may be obvious that you need to see a Chiropractor if you are experiencing neck pain, back pain, hip pain, headaches, numbness or curvature of the spine. However, many people don't realize that Chiropractic care has an excellent record of success helping many health conditions. Maintaining a healthy and well-aligned spine is extremely important and is the most often overlooked key to staying healthy. Doctors of Chiropractic use a standard procedures of examination to diagnose a patient's condition and arrive at a course of treatment using 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 is to evaluate the body's structure and function, and this 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 derangement's 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. Chiropractic 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 practices.

Chiropractic treatments called spinal adjustments or manipulations are comfortable, safe, and highly effective. People of all ages can receive chiropractic care to stay healthy, including infants and the elderly. Years of training, education, and experience enable your Chiropractor to determine if Chiropractic care can benefit for you and your family. Chiropractors are highly educated, caring professionals sensitive to the natural health care needs of your family.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chiropractic Care

What is a Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment a.k.a. Manipulation? Chiropractic Spinal Adjustments are the hallmark of Chiropractic care. An adjustment is a gentle, controlled and directed pressure applied to the spine intended to release a vertebral segment from its abnormal motion and/or position thereby reducing the vertebral subluxation. There are more than 20 adjusting systems utilized in chiropractic today. Each system has a specific adjusting rationale to restore the spine to normal function. This reduces the negative neuralgic impact, and returns the body to more normal efficiency. Spinal adjustments, regardless of which system is utilized, are tailored to the patient's age and spinal condition.

What do Spinal Adjustments do? Adjustments help correct vertebral subluxations. Correcting subluxations reduces pain and inflammation, reduces muscle spasm and tension, normalizes spinal biomechanics and more importantly, can remove nerve irritation and interference which can improve overall health and wellness of the individual. Chiropractic adjustments are the only way to eliminate vertebral subluxations and only the chiropractor is trained to detect subluxations and deliver the chiropractic spinal adjustment to correct subluxations.

Are Adjustments Safe? Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal complaints. Although Chiropractic has an excellent safety record, no health treatment is completely free of potential adverse effects. The risks associated with Chiropractic, however, are very small. Many patients feel immediate relief following chiropractic treatment, but some may experience mild soreness or aching, just as they do after some forms of exercise. Current literature shows that minor discomfort or soreness following spinal adjustments typically fades within 24 hours. Neck pain and some types of headaches are treated through precise cervical manipulation. Cervical adjustments, often called a neck adjustment, works to improve joint mobility in the neck, restoring range of motion and reducing muscle spasm, which helps relieve pressure and tension. A cervical adjustment is a remarkably safe procedure. While some reports have associated upper high-velocity cervical adjustment with a certain kind of stroke, or vertebral artery dissection, there is not yet a clear understanding of the connection. The occurrence appears to be very rare —1 in 5.85 million manipulations — based on the clinical reports and scientific studies to date. If you are visiting your doctor of chiropractic with upper-neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms. This will help your doctor of chiropractic offer the safest and most effective treatment, even if it involves referral to another health care provider. It is important for patients to understand the risks associated with some of the most common treatments for musculoskeletal pain -- prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) -- as these treatments may carry risks significantly greater than those of Chiropractic adjustments. According to a study from the American Journal of Gastroenterology, approximately one-third of all hospitalizations and deaths related to gastrointestinal bleeding can be attributed to the use of aspirin or NSAID painkillers like ibuprofen.

How is a chiropractic adjustment performed? Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed during the intensive years of Chiropractic education. The chiropractor typically uses his/her hands to move the joints of the body, particularly the spine, in order to reduce pain, and restore or enhance joint function. The Chiropractic adjustment is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort. The chiropractor adapts the procedure to meet the specific needs of each patient. Patients often note positive changes in their symptoms immediately following treatment.

Is Chiropractic treatment ongoing? The hands-on nature of the chiropractic treatment is essentially what requires patients to visit the Chiropractor a number of times. To be treated by a Chiropractor, a patient needs to be in his or her office. In contrast, a course of treatment from medical doctors often involves a pre-established plan that is conducted at home (i.e. taking a course of antibiotics once a day for a couple of weeks). A Chiropractor may provide acute, chronic, and/or preventive care thus making a certain number of visits sometimes necessary. Your Doctor of Chiropractic should tell you the extent of treatment recommended and how long you can expect it to last.

Are Adjustments Safe for Children? Yes, children can benefit from chiropractic care. Children are very physically active and experience many types of falls and blows from activities of daily living as well as from participating in sports. Injuries such as these may cause many symptoms including back and neck pain, stiffness, soreness or discomfort. Chiropractic care is always adapted to the individual patient. It is a highly skilled treatment, and in the case of children, very gentle.

Are Chiropractors practice in hospitals or use medical outpatient facilities? Chiropractors are being recognized to admit and treat patients in hospitals and to use outpatient clinical facilities (such as labs, x-rays, etc.) for their non-hospitalized patients. Hospital privileges were first granted in 1983.

Do insurance plans cover chiropractic? The majority of all insured American workers have coverage for chiropractic services in their health care plans. For example, the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management offers chiropractic coverage for federal employees in both the Mail Handlers and BCBS benefit plans. In addition, there is a chiropractic benefit in Federal Workers’ Compensation, and chiropractic care is available to members of the armed forces at more than 40 military bases, and is available at nearly 30 veterans’ medical facilities.

Are chiropractors real doctors? Yes and No. They are doctors similar to non-medical "doctors" in other allied health care professions like podiatry, dentistry, optometey,  and psychology.  However, medical doctors prescribe medication while chiropractors do not (except in a few states, usually nutritional and homeopathic items). The scope of what types of medical treatment and procedures chiropractors can perform varies by state.

What type of education and training do chiropractors have? Chiropractors are educated as primary contact health care practitioners, with an emphasis on musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment. Educational requirements for doctors of chiropractic are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions. It takes a minimum of 7 to 8 1/2 years of study to receive the degree Doctor of Chiropractic.

Prior to acceptance, the typical chiropractic college applicant a will have acquired nearly four years of undergraduate college education, including upper level courses in biology I and II, organic chemistry I and II, inorganic chemistry I and II, physics I and II, related lab work, mathematics and psychology.

Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding requiring and additional four to five academic years of professional study.

Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training. In total, the chiropractic college curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience.

The Doctor of Chiropractic Course of Study is accredited by The Council on Chiropractic Education (CAE) and is fully recognized by the United States Department of Education.

My MD/DO told me I shouldn't get adjusted. Why? We still hear this on occasion, and it's usually from the older doctors who haven't kept up with the times, and know very little if anything about Chiropractic. I usually tell my patients to ask the medical doctor specifically just how much chiropractic training they have had, or even how much research they have done themselves for them to have arrived at their opinion to recommend against chiropractic adjustment. This should embarrass the doctor since the research, as well as the experience of over 25 million chiropractic patients annually, overwhelmingly supports the benefits of chiropractic adjustments.

Does Chiropractic treatment require a referral from an MD/DO? No, a patient does not need referral by an MD before visiting a doctor of chiropractic. Chiropractors are first contact physicians, and are so defined in federal and state regulations. Following a consultation and examination, the Doctor of Chiropractic will arrive at a diagnosis for Chiropractic Care, or refer the patient to the appropriate health care provider.

Can I adjust myself? No. Since a chiropractic adjustment is a specific force, applied in a specific direction to a specific joint, it is virtually impossible to adjust oneself correctly and accurately. It is possible to turn or bend or twist in certain ways to create a "popping" sound that sometimes accompanies a chiropractic adjustment, but a "crack" is not an adjustment. This type of joint manipulation is usually counterproductive; often making an already unstable spine even more unstable, and can sometimes be dangerous. Adjusting the spine is not for amateurs!

I am an athlete, I’ve heard chiropractic can raise my game – why is that? Professional and amateur sports involve large numbers of talented athletes. To ensure that they can play at their peak without hurting themselves and to assist them if they do experience injuries, often rely on chiropractors. Many pros, top amateurs and famous champions in professional, intercollegiate and Olympic sports loyally turn to their chiropractors for assessment, adjustment, guidance and treatment to get a performance edge by enhancing their strength, flexibility and endurance.

Can I exercise my problem away? If a spinal mechanical problem exists in your spine which, a chiropractor refers to as a subluxation, exercise will not remove the problem. When a bone of the spine stops moving appropriately it becomes fixated. This fixation is located in a range of motion of the joint that is outside the dimensions of the active range of motion. Each spinal joint has 3 ranges of motion. The active range is that motion that you can achieve on you own by bending or stretching. The passive range of motion is just beyond that of the active range. It is the range of motion that someone else can take the joint through once the active range is at its maximum point. Finally the third range of motion is joint play this is where the fixation of the joint occurs. It is impossible to reach this point with exercise. It is a this point that a chiropractor renders an adjustment. Although exercise is an important part of a persons’ health and well-being it is contraindicated as a means to correct a spinal problem. This approach is not only ineffective but it can even lead to further exacerbation of the problem. Delaying treatment only worsens the damage.

Can other types of professionals also perform adjustments? Some osteopaths (DOs) are trained perform some forms of manipulation, but not Chiropractic adjustments/ manipulations. Doctors of Chiropractor perform 95% of all adjustments performed throughout the world. Be careful of physical therapists, massage therapists, family members and friends who make similar claims but do not have the credentials, qualifications, and experience of a Doctor of Chiropractor.

My medical doctor has recommended surgery as my only option, Is it possible that chiropractic could help me? Different health care professionals will often approach treatment for similar conditions along different avenues. Chiropractic is the fastest growing and second largest primary health care profession. Chiropractors are licensed and accredited by national and state board examinations. The practice of chiropractic is based on proven scientific principals. Chiropractors have comprehensive knowledge of all bodily systems. They are fully trained to diagnosis through standard treatment procedures. Chiropractors refer to other health care providers as necessary. The practice of chiropractic has consistently been useful and effective in treating lumbar disc problems and sciatica in cases where surgery has been recommended. Carpal Tunnel surgery has been on the rise with the increased use of computers. Patients frequently avoid unnecessary surgery for this condition by seeking chiropractic care. It’s always prudent to get information from a chiropractor as to the possibility of a less invasive means of correcting a musculoskeletal condition where surgery has been recommended.

Can a person who had back surgery see a chiropractor? Yes. It's an unfortunate fact that up to half of those who had spinal surgery discover a return of their original symptoms months or years later. They then face the prospect of additional surgery. This too common occurrence is know as "Failed Back Surgery Syndrome." Chiropractic may help prevent repeated back surgeries. In fact, if chiropractic care is initially utilized back surgery can often be avoided in the first place. Return to Top

Low Back Pain

If you are experiencing low back pain, you are not alone. More than 65 million Americans suffer from low back pain every year. Back aches are the most common reason for doctor visits, after cold and flu symptoms. Fifty percent of all patients who suffer from an episode of low back pain will have another occurrence within one year. In the vast majority of cases back pain is caused by the irritation of a nerve root near the spine, not by problems with the muscles, ligament or bone. A nerve that travels from the spinal cord through the openings between the bones of the spine gets pinched or irritated, the surrounding muscles tense up and the patient experiences low back pain. Surgery, a common treatment a generation ago, is now considered necessary for only a very small percentage of back pain patients.

How Low Back Pain Occur? A basic understanding of the spine is needed to understand back pain. The spine or spinal column is the body''s backbone, a column of cylindrical bones known as vertebrae. The spine protects the spinal cord, which begins in the brain and runs most of the way down the back. The spinal cord controls every movement and function of the body. Motor nerves leading out of the spinal cord are responsible for controlling movement in the body, while Sensory nerves entering into the spinal cord are responsible for communicating messages from the body back to the brain. Together, the Motor and Sensory nerves form more than 50 nerve roots, which run through holes (foramina or windows) between the bones of the spine. Irritation of these nerve roots causes back pain. Research shows that most back pain problems often begin with an injury; after lifting a heavy object or moving suddenly. People who do not exercise regularly face an increased risk for back pain, as do obese people. Sciatica can be caused by blood clots, tumors and abscesses. Arthritic back pain can be the result of infections such as Lyme disease and viral arthritis. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can cause back pain when arteries in the legs are clogged.

What is a Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc)? A herniated or slipped disc is a frequent cause of mild or moderate low back or leg pain. Soft flexible discs separate the bones in the spine. The discs, which have a rigid outside rim and a soft, gel-like center, act as shock absorbers and protect the spinal cord. Activity, stress, or a mechanical problem in the spine can cause a disc to bulge and become misshapen. The damaged or bulging disc may pinch or irritate a nerve root, causing pain.

What is a Disc Degeneration (Osteoarthritis in the Spine)? Another common disorder of the lower spine is disc degeneration, or osteoarthritis in the spine. As the body ages, the discs in the spine dehydrate or dry out, and lose their ability to act as shock absorbers. The bones and ligaments that make up the spine also become less flexible and thicken. Degeneration in the discs is normal and is not in itself a problem. But pain occurs when these discs or bone spurs begin to pinch and put pressure on the nearby nerve roots or spinal cord. Sciatica: The sciatic nerve, composed of several lumbar nerve roots, is one of the nerves most likely to become irritated, usually by a herniated disc. Each of the major branches of sciatic nerve travels through the pelvis and deep in the buttocks, then down the hip and along the back of the thigh to the foot. The pain of sciatica ranges from a mild tingling to a sharp ache severe enough to cause immobility.

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis? Degeneration of the spine also can result in lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). This disease involves a narrowing of the canal that houses the spinal cord and nerve roots. A narrowed spinal canal may compress nerve roots in the lower back, resulting in pain and weakness in the legs and a dull pain in the lower back. Patients often find relief by sitting or standing in a hunched over position, as if leaning on a shopping cart. Symptoms of LSS usually do not occur until after the age of 50.

Spondylolisthesis: Degeneration in the spine also can lead to spondylolistheses, a condition characterized by slippage of a vertebra in the spine where a slips forward over another, stretching or pinching the sciatic nerve and causing pain. Retrospondylolisthesis: Backwards slippage of a di

Will Surgery Help Your Back Pain? Everyone experiences back pain at some time in their life. In fact, it is in the top three complaints that people bring to the doctor’s office. In most cases there is soft tissue inflammation, muscle spasms, or degenerative arthritis. These respond well to conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medicines, stretches, and osteopathic manipulative therapy. Physical modalities such as heat or cold, massage, and acupuncture are also helpful.

So when should you worry? Any loss of bowel or bladder control needs immediate attention. Surgery can release the pressure on the nerves and full function usually returns. The longer the loss of bladder or bowel control continues without treatment, the higher the risk of permanent damage. This also includes weakness of any muscles in the legs or feet. Plus you can reduce the risks of falls and fractures. Contrary to popular opinion, a thorough history, neurological and structural exams, plus basic X-rays of the spine can diagnose the problem 80-90% of the time. Expensive MRI studies certainly can be helpful looking at the cross-sections of the spine into the discs and spinal cord. But, in most cases it will not change the eventual conservative treatment anyway. Consider an MRI if surgery is likely. Certainly if there is no improvement in your symptoms after several weeks or there is worsening of your pain.

Besides the obvious causes of low back pain from muscle spasms, degenerative discs and osteoarthritis, chronic structural imbalances play a major role. Wear and tear to the spine from old trauma, sports, and obesity cause the discs to lose their cushioning ability. They also may bulge or protrude backwards.

Over 50 years of age almost everyone has changes I the discs loosing height and acquiring some bone spurs. However, not everyone has pain. Again, unless the nerve root coming out of the spinal cord or the spinal cord itself is squeezed, surgery will not help. Even radiating leg pain called sciatica along with numbness and tingling in the legs can go away over time with proper treatment that includes osteopathic manipulation therapy.

Studies show that back pain sufferers who have surgery have no better pain relief or function than those who didn’t have surgery after five years passed. Certainly if surgery is recommended it is wise to get a second opinion. Source: Katherine A Martin, D.O. - Board Certified Family Practice Physician. http://yourhealthresources.com

Athletes, Dancers and Musicians Benefit From Chiropractic Care

The benefits of chiropractic care for athletes, dancers and musicians are widespread and numerous. Repetitive performance injuries can destroy careers and crush dreams. The body’s nervous system can set up patterns of response to injury that, while intended to protect the body from further injury, can become part of the problem and produce additional painful conditions. Ironically, the better you get, the greater the toll it takes on your body Doctors of Chiropractic are trained to evaluate and analyze structural problems with an understanding of human anatomy, physics and how gravity and distorted postures can place stress on the neck, shoulders, arms, wrist, spine, ribs, hips, legs, knees and feet. The treatment protocols for Repetitive Use Pain includes, but is not limited to gentle chiropractic spinal, adjustment, extraspinal adjustment / manipulation, specific exercise, ergonomics and nutrition.

High Patient Satisfaction with Chiropractic Care

High levels of patient satisfaction was reported by those who went to chiropractors with severe to moderate pain in either the back or neck. In a clinical survey, a total of 369 patients who had gone to chiropractors with these problems were sampled.

The results showed a very positive response from the study group in both the results they felt and their overall level of satisfaction with their care. This was reported in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.

Based on the results of this survey, the researchers concluded that patients suffering from back and or neck complaints experience chiropractic care as an effective means of resolving or ameliorating pain and functional impairments.

The patients surveyed demonstrated a high degree of satisfaction with the care they received. They further stated that, "Numerous other studies have demonstrated that chiropractic is as effective, if not more effective than conventional medical management of such complaints." A three-year study showed that chiropractic care is more effective with higher patient satisfaction than outpatient medical care for lower back pain.

The study involved 741 men and women with low back pain. A 3 year follow up showed that there was 29% higher improvement in those receiving chiropractic care over those receiving outpatient medical care.

Source: The British Medical Journal.

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