Chiropractic has been around for more than a century, and yet many Americans still have only the vaguest notion about what chiropractors actually do.
In fact, chiropractic medicine was highly stigmatized until the end of the 20th Century, and remains suspect by some even today. Yes, an estimated one in six American adults regularly visit a chiropractor, many with positive outcomes of reduced pain and better overall wellness.
Chiropractic is a complementary alternative therapy used to correct disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system. While many people no doubt think of chiropractors in connection to back pain, chiropractic manipulation can be used to successfully treat disorders throughout the body. A good chiropractor can realign not only the spine, but also the skull, most joints, and even muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Manipulation of these areas can relieve not only musculoskeletal pain caused by subluxation, or structural misalignment — in layman’s terms, your garden variety aches and pains in the joints and muscles — it can also relieve the effects of misalignment on overall health.
While pain caused by misaligned bones or structural misalignments most often causes pain in the immediate area, pain, and even other symptoms, can also radiate to other areas and show up in unexpected ways.
Because the body’s central nervous system runs along the skeleton, misalignments can mean pinched or otherwise compromised nerves. That can lead to pain in remote parts of the body, tingling, weakness, and even symptoms like twitches and tics. Chronic headaches are another common symptom of subluxation, particularly of the neck. Even pains inside the body, seeming to originate from organs, are sometimes a heavily disguised symptom of skeletal misalignment.
That said, the most common symptoms that lead people to seek chiropractic adjustment are lower back pain, neck pain, and chronic headaches.
Chiropractic is based on the following principles: that the human body has a natural ability to heal itself, the body’s structure and health function are closely interwoven, and manipulation of that structure can help to promote self-healing.
If you think chiropractic adjustment might be the cure for something that ails you, start by asking your primary care physician for a referral. You can also ask friends, family members, and acquaintances for recommendations.
You should also check your health insurance policy. While many health insurance policies now cover chiropractic care, some don’t, and others cover it only for specific reasons or for a set period of time. Be sure to find out how many treatments are covered, and at what level, so you don’t have an unexpected surprises after your treatment.
During your initial consultation, your chiropractor will likely perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history. Depending on the reason for your visit, he or she may also recommend other tests, including x-rays.
Most chiropractic treatments require a series of visits over a specified period of time. Your chiropractor should be able to give you an idea of how many appointments you may need during your consultation.
During an adjustment, the chiropractor places patients in specific positions to make the affected areas accessible for manipulation. Most often, this will involve lying face down on a padded chiropractic table, though you may be sitting upright on in some other position. The chiropractor will then use his or her hands or an instrument to apply a sharp but controlled force to a skeletal joint. This force pushes the joint beyond its normal range of motion in an attempt to release the subluxation. It’s not uncommon to hear popping or cracking sounds during an adjustment. This is nothing to become alarmed about.
Chiropractic adjustment is not usually painful, but some people do experience minor side effects afterward, including headache, fatigue, or mild pain.
Though chiropractic adjustment is safe for most people, some people should not seek this type of care, including those with severe osteoporosis, spinal cancer, or who have an increased risk of stroke.