Chiropractic is a holistic treatment which emphasizes the body’s natural ability to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. In the preservation and restoration of health, chiropractic focuses particular attention on subluxation.
A subluxation is a complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological changes to the joints that compromise optimal function of the nervous system, which also influences organ function and general health. The purpose is to keep your spine and all the associated nerves healthy. Most chiropractors also treat all peripheral joints, including elbows, knees and shoulders. Proper nerve function allows your body to continually regenerate and maintain optimal health, and prevent disease.
Ancient societies applied spinal adjustments unsystematically for thousands of years. In 1895 a systematic approach was developed. It all began when Dr. D. D. Palmer adjusted the spine of a deaf client named Harvey Lillard. The result seemed like a miracle. Harvey’s seventeen years of deafness were cured. Palmer named this new profession chiropractic, derived from two Greek words meaning “done by hand,” and he opened his own school in 1910. He reasoned that when the spine is fully aligned, there is a free flow of nerve energy to every cell and organ in the body, thus allowing the body’s innate ability to work effectively and coordinate normal body functions. Conversely, a dysfunctional spine results in nerve interference that inhibits all functions of the body.
B. J. Palmer, D. D.’s son and also a chiropractor, is known as the developer of chiropractic, and brought to the field such methods as the Palmer recoil adjustment technique, and the Meric system, which associates different parts of the spine with nerves that control different organs. He recognized that dealing with major subluxations will consequently fix minor ones. B. J. introduced X-rays to the Palmer School in 1910 and they became an important diagnostic tool.
Willard Carver started a rival school of chiropractic. Unlike the Palmers who believed that all disease can be cured by spinal adjustment, Carver used chiropractic in conjunction with such things as diet, massage and heat therapy. Those who were in line with the Palmer School thought this to be an adulteration of true chiropractic. Carver was a remarkable pioneer especially known for his studies of the body mechanics of the spine and the pelvis which led to the development of new chiropractic methods. Carver was one of the first to ascribe the benefits of good posture as a preventive chiropractic treatment.
Today, a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in North America is licensed and regulated, but a long battle was fought to become recognized by the medical establishment. In the early years, many chiropractors were jailed for practicing medicine without a licence. Public desire for the availability of chiropractic services helped win the struggle for official recognition.
How Can It Help Me?
Most chiropractors have clients ranging from newborn babies to centenarians. Babies are checked from birth to ensure there is no trauma to the spine and neck due to the birth process.
Adult clients seek periodic chiropractic adjustments for a variety of reasons. As a result, many have experienced relief from conditions such as migraine headaches, colds, digestive disorders, nervous dysfunction, vertigo, hay fever, allergic asthma, blurred vision, ear ringing, sinus trouble, insomnia, depression, allergies, stiff neck, shoulder and arm pain, whiplash, constipation, urinary problems, diarrhea, fatigue, lower-back pain, arthritis, bursitis, neuralgia, sciatica, scoliosis, disk problems, poor posture, sports injuries, bedwetting and menstrual cramps.
Healthy individuals also benefit from chiropractic care. After all, it is easier to stay healthy than it is to get well.
What Causes Spinal and Neck Alignment Problems?
There are numerous reasons why proper alignment of the spine is compromised at some point in a person’s life. The birth process is recognized as one of the causes of spinal dysfunction. As there is often trauma to the neck and spine after birth, chiropractors recommend that babies should have their spine checked soon after birth. By age five, children have had hundreds of falls. Many of these accidents may be harmless, but some may impair the normal function of the spine. Poor posture, emotional stress, accidents, sports and nutritional deficiencies can cause further alignment problems. Vertebral misalignments, or vertebral subluxation, refers to one or more of the spine’s twenty-four vertebrae shifting out of their normal position to the extent that there is interference with the delicate spinal tissues and nerves, which in turn impedes proper blood and nutrient supply to the body. Ultimately, irritations to the spine result in premature degeneration of the nerve system, if left unattended. When proper care of the spine is neglected, the body becomes susceptible to disease. A dysfunctional spine inhibits all functions of the body
How Is It Done?
A thorough assessment and examination of your spine is standard on your initial visit. A history of your overall health is recorded. A diagnostic X-ray may be necessary to determine the exact location of the spinal nerve damage and provide you with accurate adjustments. The chiropractor uses X-rays to confirm diagnoses. X-rays are an important diagnostic tool that show both spinal alignment and pathology such as tumors, osteoporosis and infective arthritis.
Chiropractic adjustments are applied according to specific techniques to restore optimal spinal function. When the spine is aligned and healthy, the nerve system functions better and, consequently, overall health improves.
During each visit, the chiropractor puts his or her hands over your misaligned vertebrae and shifts it back to its natural position. After the diagnostic session, a course of treatments averaging seven to eleven visits will usually follow. The diagnostic session lasts about twenty to forty-five minutes, including X-ray time, and subsequent sessions last about ten to twenty minutes. A course of treatment should bring permanent improvement.
A once- or twice-yearly visit to the chiropractor for check-ups is recommended. It is also common for chiropractors to provide you with information regarding natural approaches to prevent disease and degeneration. Some chiropractors suggest nutritional supplements to correct mineral imbalances that prevent manipulation from holding.
There are hundreds of ways or techniques to adjust the spine. After years of training and clinical experience, each chiropractor becomes highly skilled in a variety of adjustment procedures that are most suitable for your age, body type and condition. These are the most common chiropractic techniques used today:
Detailed analysis of spinal X-rays is used to determine correct adjustments to be administered.
Detects and corrects dysfunction using a small tool which delivers a light and measured force to correct misalignments.
Bio-Energetic Synchronization Technique (BEST):
A non-force technique using subtle, yet precise pressure applied by hand to remove blocked nerve energy, eliminate physiological interference and balance sensory signals to the central nervous system.
Involves traction or stretching of the spine designed especially to correct lower-back pain.
Light massage is given to various reflexes and sometimes to acupressure points. (For more information, see “Kinesiology” later in this section.)
Thompson Terminal Point:
A full-spine technique using a special drop table.
Palmer Toggle Recoil Technique:
A speed and precision adjustment in which the hands are placed over the subluxation and the elbows snapped to give sudden pressure. There is no joint cracking.
Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT):
Padded blocks are placed under the patient in the pelvic area to allow the body to adjust itself, since muscle tension at the pelvis affects the neck.
Logan Basic Technique:
A gentle, sustained pressure is exerted at the base of the spine. Correcting the sacrum corrects the rest of the spine.
Application of simple pressure to tender areas to release muscles from localized spasm.
Custom-made devices placed in the shoes to treat posture problems, such as uneven leg length, spinal curvature and tilted pelvises.
Joints felt as they are moved to determine fixations.
Is Chiropractic Care Safe and Effective?
Chiropractic is becoming fully integrated into the health care system around the world. A 1993 Canadian Government study funded by Health Canada supported the effectiveness of chiropractic care. This study was based on scientifically proven clinical studies.
Because of the years of training chiropractors receive, chiropractic spinal adjustments are considered to be extremely safe. Chiropractic is considered safer than taking over-the-counter medication or driving your car.
Are Chiropractors Well Trained?
Doctors of Chiropractic are the only health care professionals trained to correct a dysfunctional spine. Chiropractors are trained in the use of physical therapy and specific exercises beneficial to the structure and function of the spine. Three years of an undergraduate degree is required prior to attending an accredited institution where completion of four more years of training, totaling about forty-five hundred hours will provide a degree in chiropractic medicine. In all, chiropractors receive instruction in sciences equivalent to that of medical doctors
What Can I Do?
Be sure you are eating a proper diet. Nutrition is the key to a healthy body.
Ask questions, follow recommendations for exercise, posture and lifestyle. Take advantage of information available at your chiropractor’s office to help you stay inspired, informed and healthy.
Where Do I Go Next?
Because of the years of extensive training, Doctors of Chiropractic are considered primary care practitioners, so you can consult a chiropractor without a referral. The best way to find a practitioner is to ask friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances who personally consult a chiropractor or contact your local chiropractic association.