Unlike standard medical doctors whom you visit when you have a symptom to be treated, chiropractors can offer adjustments (and other treatments) to improve spinal alignment and overall well-being before symptoms develop. Because many people are unfamiliar with this type of treatment, many questions often arise. Chiropractic can also been seen as a prevention option, before you are in pain. Some of the most common questions are answered below.
WHAT IS CHIROPRACTIC?
Chiropractic is based on the scientific fact that your body is a self-regulating, self-healing organism. The brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves of the body control these important functions. The skull protects the delicate tissue of the brain. The moving bones of the spine protect the vulnerable communication pathways of the spinal cord and nerve roots. If the nervous system is impaired, it can cause malfunction of the tissues and the organs throughout the body. Doctors call this the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. Vertebral, meaning the bones of the spine. Subluxation, meaning less than a total dislocation. And complex, meaning consisting of more then one part. Chiropractic is the science of locating offending spinal structures, the art of reducing their impact to the nervous system, and the philosophy of all things natural.
WHAT IS AN ADJUSTMENT?
A chiropractic adjustment is the art of using a specific force in a precise direction, applied to a joint that is fixated, “locked up”, or not moving properly. This adds motion to the joint, helping the bones gradually return to a more normal position and motion. The purpose of this safe and natural procedure is improved spinal function, improved nervous system function, and improved health. There are many ways to adjust the spine. Usually the doctor’s hands or a specially designed instrument delivers a brief and highly accurate thrust. Some adjusting methods are quick, whereas others require a slow and constant pressure. After years of training and clinical experience, each chiropractic doctor becomes highly skilled in the delivery of a variety of adjusting approaches.
HOW DOES CHIROPRACTIC WORK?
Chiropractic works by restoring your own inborn ability to be healthy. When under the proper control of your nervous system, all the cells, tissues, and organs of your body are designed to resist disease and ill health. The chiropractic approach to better health is to locate and help remove interferences to your natural state of being healthy. A common interference to the nervous system is dysfunction of the 24 moving bones of the spinal column. A loss of normal motion or position of these bones can irritate or impair the function of the nervous system. This can disrupt the transmission of controlling nerve impulses. With improved spinal function there is often improved nervous system function. Your chiropractic doctor can help remove interferences that may be impairing normal health. Since the primary focus of your care is improved nervous system function, chiropractic can have a positive effect on many health conditions not normally thought of as “back” problems.
IS CHIROPRACTIC CARE SAFE?
In the words of the New Zealand government’s inquiry, chiropractic care is “remarkably safe.” Chiropractic has an excellent safety record. It is the result of a conservative approach to health that avoids invasive procedures or addictive drugs. A thorough case history and examination help reveal areas of the spine that may be causing nervous system malfunction. This information will be used to determine the best course of care for each patient. Chiropractic care is a natural approach to better health that is proven safe and effective.
WHAT DO CHIROPRACTIC DOCTORS DO?
Helping to restore proper spinal biomechanics and improved nervous system function begins with a case history. This gives the doctor a background about your health, such as surgeries, accidents, the onset of your condition, and other details affecting your current health. After reviewing your history and discussing your specific problem, a thorough orthopedic, neurological, and chiropractic examination is performed. X-rays may be taken to uncover structural and functional problems associated with the spinal column. These examinations help identify areas of spinal malfunction and resulting nervous system deficit. The findings of these examinations are explained and a plan of chiropractic adjustments may be recommended. Progress is monitored with periodic examinations and follow-up reports. Since the word “doctor” comes from the Latin word meaning teacher, regardless of your approach, he or she has a strong commitment to patient education.
WHAT TYPE OF EDUCATION DO CHIROPRACTORS GET?
Today’s doctor of chiropractic is well educated. The science of chiropractic requires a special emphasis on anatomy, physiology, and pathology, neurology, biomechanics, X-ray, spinal adjusting techniques, and related subjects. This demanding curriculum prepares chiropractic doctors to locate the Vertebral Subluxation Complex and help correct the resulting nervous system dysfunction. To graduate with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, each candidate passes the demanding National Board Examination. Then, a doctor applies to a governmental or professional licensing board and passes a still more difficult test before being granted the privilege to practice. A chiropractic education never ends. Doctors complete postgraduate instruction for license renewal and to stay current on the latest scientific research.
HOW LONG WILL I NEED CHIROPRACTIC CARE?
Spinal problems neglected from early childhood may require ongoing supportive care for optimum spinal function. These, long standing problems are often associated with muscle weakness, soft tissue damage, and degenerative changes to the spine. Most patients find that periodic chiropractic checkups help keep them in tip-top shape. Those who are active, have stressful jobs, or want to be their very best, find that a schedule of preventive visits are helpful in maintenance of good health. Some patients seek chiropractic care only when their ache or pain becomes unbearable. While this style of “crisis management” is usually more costly and time consuming, our office stands ready to help all patients, regardless of their health goals. How long you decide to benefit from chiropractic care is always up to you.
AM I TOO OLD TO RECEIVE CHIROPRACTIC CARE?
More and more people are consulting chiropractic doctors, especially in their later years. With growing concerns about over medication and side effects of combining various prescription drugs, safe natural chiropractic care is growing in popularity. Restoring better spinal function can help improve mobility, vitality, endurance, and patient appetite. Many patients report improvement with arthritic symptoms and other chronic ailments often associated with the aging process. The adjusting technique used by your doctor will be modified for maximum comfort and result. As we get older and wiser, the simplicity and effectiveness of chiropractic care becomes more and more obvious.
CAN I SPEED THE HEALING PROCESS?
Since significant spinal trauma can occur at birth, many parents have their newborns checked for the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. Later, learning to walk, ride a bicycle, and other childhood activities can cause spinal problems. While a bandage and some comforting words can help a skinned knee, the unseen damage to the child’s spine is the unique domain of a chiropractic doctor. Many childhood health complaints that are brushed off as “growing pains” can often be traced to the spine. Regular chiropractic checkups can identify these problems and help avoid many of the health complaints seen later in adults. Naturally, chiropractic adjusting procedures are modified to a child’s spine. Most parents report that their children enjoy chiropractic adjustments and seem healthier then other children.
CAN I ADJUST MYSELF?
Since a chiropractic adjustment is a specific force, applied in a specific direction, to a specific spinal joint, it is virtually impossible to adjust oneself. It is possible to turn or bend or twist in certain ways to create a popping sound, like the sound that sometimes accompanies a chiropractic adjustment. Unfortunately, this type of joint manipulation is usually counterproductive, often making an already unstable area of the spine even more unsteady. Adjusting the spine is not for amateurs! The best way to enjoy the healthful benefits of chiropractic is to receive adjustments from a doctor of chiropractic. Even your doctor must seek out services of another colleague to help restore and maintain proper spinal function.
SO, I'M NOT ADJUSTING MYSELF?
“Cracking” or “popping” your neck gives relief for a while, but soon the urge to “pop” or “crack” reappears because the cause of the spinal tension hasn’t been corrected.
ARE ALL PATIENTS ADJUSTED THE SAME WAY?
The doctor evaluates each patient’s unique spinal problem and develops an individual course of care. The resulting recommendations are based upon years of training and experience. Some patients, who complain of headaches, may actually have a lower back problem that is causing a compensation reaction at the base of the skull. Other patients may be experiencing numbness and tingling in their fingers, when the actual problem is in the neck. Every patient presents a uniquely different spinal pattern. Patients notice that their chiropractic care is delivered with confidence and precision. Each visit builds on the one before. And while visits may seem similar, each patient’s care is uniquely different from every other patient.
DO I HAVE A SLIPPED DISC?
Technically a disc can’t “slip.” The intervertebral disc is a pad of cartilage-type material situated between spinal bones. Each disc serves as a connector, spacer, and shock absorber for the spine. A soft, jelly-like center is contained by outer layers of fibrous tissue. Healthy discs help allow normal turning and bending. Because of the way each disc is attached to the vertebrae above and below, a disc cannot “slip.” However, trauma or injury to the spine can cause discs to tear, bulge, or worse, rupture. This can be quite painful, as the soft center of the disc leaks, putting pressure on the adjacent nerve roots and spinal cord. While results cannot be guaranteed, many patients have avoided needless surgery or a dependency on pain pills, by choosing chiropractic care for their disc-related health problems.
DO I HAVE A PINCHED NERVE?
Many patients consult a chiropractic doctor because they think they have a pinched nerve. Because of the way your spine is designed, abnormal spinal function caused from physical trauma, emotional tensions, or chemical toxins can affect the delicate tissues of the spinal cord and nerve roots. While commonly associated with the spine, the pinched nerve (compressive lesion) is actually rare. Researches suggest that only 10% to 15% of spine related problems are caused by direct pressure of bone on nerve tissue! This can result in numbness, burning or a “pins and needles” feeling. More frequently, nerves are irritated (facilitative lesion). This is caused when nerve tissue is rubbed, scraped, stretched by a loss of spinal curve, or irritated by malfunctioning spinal joints.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD CHIROPRACTIC BEGIN?
Newborns have received spinal adjustments especially after difficult traumatic births. There are case histories of infants close to death who were adjusted in hospitals with seemingly miraculous recoveries.
IS IT BAD TO "CRACK" YOUR BACK?
The desire to “crack” or “pop” the neck or back is caused by tension from a jammed or fixed vertebrae, which causes another part of the spine to compensate by moving too much and “popping” or clicking a lot. The jammed part should be adjusted by a chiropractor so that the rest of the spinal column will balance being so movable and noisy.
CAN SPINES AUTOMATICALLY GO BACK IN PLACE?
Yes. There are verified instances of blind people recovering eyesight after a fall, of individuals able to walk again after their wheelchair was thrown amnesiacs who remember their past after receiving a trauma – these are examples of “accidental adjustments.” A visit to the chiropractor is a lot safer. Massage, acupuncture, meditation, various types of body work, as well as a cathartic emotional release can also reduce stress, sometimes permitting the spine to automatically realign. Occasionally, even a good night’s sleep can correct a subluxation.
Can I tell if I have a subluxation without consulting a chiropractor?
Not always. A subluxation is like a dental cavity – you may have it for a long time before symptoms appear. That’s why periodic spinal checkups are so important. Although it may be possible to know you have a subluxation, it is rarely possible to be sure you don’t. An occasional spinal checkup is always a good idea.
Is chiropractic similar to massage?
No. Chiropractic deals with the spinal column, nervous system, meninges and body structure. Massage therapists deal with muscle tension, circulation and body fluid drainage.
DO CHIROPRACTORS WORK IN HOSPITALS?
Today chiropractors have privileges in many hospitals. Ideally, doctors of chiropractic would go through every ward and check all patients spines; after all, who needs healthy spines more than people facing life-threatening diseases? The presence of D.C.s in hospitals is a welcome beginning – hopefully paving the way toward making drugless, natural methods of chiropractic care available to all hospital patients.
DO CHIROPRACTORS HAVE MD DEGREES?
Chiropractors have Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degrees granted from chiropractic colleges. Chiropractic education and medical education are similar in some respects and different in others because chiropractors do not prescribe drugs and medical doctors do not correct the vertebral subluxation complex.
Can a person with a broken back or neck see a chiropractor?
After the break heals, yes. In fact, a broken bone forms a callus or bone scar when it heals that is stronger than the rest of the bone. This should dispel any concerns about the safety of an adjustment. People who have had broken bones need chiropractic checkups because accidents usually cause subluxations.
Do chiropractors believe in medicine and surgery?
Certainly, as Norman Cousins says: “There are times when intervention in the form of medicine or surgery is absolutely necessary but there is never a time when the nourishment one puts into one’s body or one’s mind is not essential to health.” Chiropractors would add spinal care to Mr. Cousin’s observation.
Can I go to a chiropractor if I’m under medical care?
Yes. Having your subluxations corrected is important, no matter what other type of healthcare you are receiving. Today many D.C.s and M.D.s are working together in clinics and on joint research projects. M.D.s are quite likely to have patients who are under chiropractic care; in fact many medical doctors see a chiropractor themselves.