Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems (muscles, bones and nerves of the body), and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.
Doctors of Chiropractic (aka chiropractors or chiropractic physicians) practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.
Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) care for patients of all ages, with a variety of health conditions. DCs are especially well known for their expertise in caring for patients with back pain, neck pain and headaches. They also care for patients with a wide range of injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, involving the muscles, ligaments and joints. The benefits of chiropractic care extend to general health issues, as well, since our body structure affects our overall function.
A referral is usually not needed to see a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). Chiropractors are considered primary care givers much like your family Medical Doctor (MD) or Dentist (DDS or DMD). The biggest difference between chiropractors and medical doctors lies not in their level of education, but in their preferred method of caring for people. Medical doctors are trained in the use of medicines (chemicals that affect your internal biochemistry) and surgery. Consequently, if you have a chemical problem, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or an infection, medical doctors can be very helpful. However, medicine (prescription drugs) by itself cannot fix a misalignment of the spine or muscle damage; it only masks the pain. You need a physical solution to correct a physical problem.
Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive treatment of neuromusculoskeletal complaints (nerve, bone, and muscle). Although chiropractic care has an excellent safety record, no health treatment is completely free of potential adverse effects. The risks associated with chiropractic care 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 manipulation typically fades within 24 hours.
Neck pain and some types of headaches are treated through precise cervical manipulation. Cervical manipulation, 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. Neck manipulation is a remarkably safe procedure. While some reports have associated upper high-velocity neck manipulation with a rare kind of stroke, recent evidence suggests that this type of arterial injury often takes place spontaneously following everyday activities such as turning the head while driving, swimming, or having a shampoo in a hair salon. Patients with this predisposition experience neck pain and headache that leads them to seek professional care—often at the office of a doctor of chiropractic or family physician—but that care is not the cause of the injury. 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.
Yes! Children are great chiropractic patients and can benefit greatly 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.
Doctors of Chiropractic are educated as primary-contact health care providers, with an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, ligaments and joints of the spine and extremities). Educational requirements for doctors of chiropractic are among the most arduous of any of the health care professions.
The typical applicant for chiropractic college has already acquired four years of undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding. Five academic years of professional study are the standard. Doctors of chiropractic are educated in orthopedics, neurology, physiology, human anatomy, clinical diagnosis including laboratory procedures, diagnostic imaging, exercise, nutrition rehabilitation and more.
Chiropractic care includes highly skilled manipulation/adjusting techniques; a significant portion of time is spent in clinical technique training to master these important manipulative procedures. In total, the chiropractic college curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom and laboratory study, and with over 1000 hours of supervised clinical training. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency that is fully recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Once chiropractic students graduate, they have to pass four sets of national board exams as well as their state board exam.
The hands-on nature of the chiropractic treatment may require a patient to visit the chiropractor a number of times. 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 multiple visits necessary. Your doctor of chiropractic should tell you the extent of treatment recommended and how long you can expect it to last. Unlike standard medical doctors with whom you visit once you have symptoms, chiropractors offer adjustments to improve spinal alignment and overall well-being before symptoms develop. Often patients will discover that returning when they first notice discomfort can prevent the progression of the problem and the return of pain.
Adjustment (or manipulation) of a joint may result in the release of a gas bubble between the joints, which makes a popping sound. The same thing occurs when you “crack” your knuckles. The noise is caused by the change of pressure within the joint, which results in gas bubbles being released. There is usually minimal, if any, discomfort involved.
The American Medical Association’s opposition to chiropractic was at its strongest in the 1940s under the leadership of Dr. Morris Fishbein. Yet over the past 25 years, the opinion of most medical doctors has changed; several major scientific studies have shown the superiority of chiropractic in helping people with back and neck pain. Medical doctors now have a better understanding of the benefits chiropractors provide patients. Many people have returned to their medical doctors and told them about the great results they experienced at their chiropractors office. Hospitals across the country now have chiropractors on staff, and many chiropractic offices have medical doctors on staff. Chiropractors and medical doctors are now much more comfortable working together in cases where medical care is necessary as an adjunct to chiropractic care. Both professions strive to provide patients with the best possible care.