What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a hands-on therapy based on the theory that subluxations in the spine may cause many medical disorders (especially disorders of the nervous system). Chiropractic medicine originated in the late 1800s in the United States.
Chiropractic treatments usually involve adjusting the joints and bones in a person's spine using twisting, pulling, or pushing movements. Some chiropractors use heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to help relax the person's muscles before doing a spinal adjustment.
The primary theory behind chiropractic therapy is to help the body heal itself by correcting subluxation of the joints, particularly the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
What is chiropractic used for?
Research has shown chiropractic therapy to be effective in treating low back pain and to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. The effects of chiropractic treatment on nonspinal conditions, such as high blood pressure or ear infections, have not been scientifically proven.
Is chiropractic safe?
Discuss with your chiropractor any potential risks associated with chiropractic treatment. Side effects may include minor pain or discomfort at the point of manipulation, headaches, and fatigue. Most of these effects go away within a day.
Chiropractic students must have a minimum of 3 years (90 credits) of undergraduate study before applying to a chiropractic college. After completing a 4-year program, the chiropractic student receives a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. Chiropractors are licensed in every state and must pass a four-part examination with the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.
What Does Chiropractic for Back Pain Involve?
A chiropractor first takes a medical history, performs a physical examination, and may use lab tests or diagnostic imaging to determine if treatment is appropriate for your back pain.
The treatment plan may involve one or more manual adjustments in which the doctor manipulates the joints, using a controlled, sudden force to improve range and quality of motion. Many chiropractors also incorporate nutritional counseling and exercise/rehabilitation into the treatment plan. The goals of chiropractic care include the restoration of function and prevention of injury in addition to back pain relief.
What Are the Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Care?
Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care is considered a safe, effective treatment for acute low back pain, the type of sudden injury that results from moving furniture or getting tackled. Acute back pain, which is more common than chronic pain, lasts no more than six weeks and typically gets better on its own.
Research has also shown chiropractic to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. In addition, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia respond to the moderate pressure used both by chiropractors and practitioners of deep tissue massage.
Studies have not confirmed the effectiveness of prolotherapy or sclerotherapy for pain relief, used by some chiropractors, osteopaths, and medical doctors, to treat chronic back pain, the type of pain that may come on suddenly or gradually and lasts more than three months. The therapy involves injections to strengthen loosely connected tendons and ligaments.
People who have osteoporosis, spinal cord compression, or inflammatory arthritis, or who take blood-thinning medications should not undergo spinal manipulation.
All treatment is based on an accurate diagnosis of your back pain. The chiropractor should be well informed regarding your medical history, including ongoing medical conditions, current medications, traumatic/surgical history, and lifestyle factors. Although rare, there have been cases in which treatment worsened a herniated or slipped disc, or neck manipulation resulted in stroke or spinal cord injury. To be safe, always inform your primary health care provider whenever you use chiropractic or other pain relief alternatives.