Chiropractic care is an alternative healthcare approach that focuses primarily on disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Chiropractors use a hands-on approach to diagnose and treat problems that affect the nerves, muscles, bones, and joints of the body by mechanically adjusting the spinal column. While spinal manipulation is the basis of chiropractic care, chiropractors use many other types of therapy to relieve pain and restore mobility. Doctors of chiropractic (D.C.) typically receive four years of pre-medical undergraduate work, then four years of chiropractic college followed by one year of internship. Chiropractic care involves a holistic approach to patient treatment.
Reasons for Chiropractic Care
The primary reason patients seek chiropractic care is to relieve pain in the back or neck. Such pain, which may not be responsive to typical medical treatment, may respond well to realigning the subluxations (dislocations) of the vertebrae. Many patients also consult with chiropractors for help with:
- Pain, tingling or numbness in the limbs
- Migraines and other headaches
- Discomforts of pregnancy
- Athletic injuries
- Menstrual problems
- Mobility or range of motion issues
- Underlying disease conditions, such as fibromyalgia
For many patients, chiropractic care becomes an integral part of their lifestyle, lessening stress, improving overall health, and strengthening immune response.
Chiropractors normally take a medical history at the first visit, during which the practitioners makes note of past illnesses and injuries, medications, and lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise, sleep patterns, use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, and overall mental and physical health.
During the first visit, which includes a physical examination, the chiropractor will evaluate whether chiropractic treatment will be helpful and also whether the patient has any conditions that may contraindicate chiropractic care, such as severe osteoporosis, bone fractures, joint diseases, or damaged blood vessels in the neck. During this assessment, the doctor may administer other diagnostic tests, such as taking the patient's blood pressure or taking X-rays.
While undergoing a chiropractic treatment, which usually takes an hour or less, the patient lies on a table so the doctor can manipulate the spine. The chiropractor's movements may sometimes be gentle and feel like a massage and may sometimes be more abrupt as pressure is applied to correct spine misalignment. A click is occasionally heard, but this is normal and not dangerous.
Prior to, during, or after some sessions, the chiropractor may employ other techniques, like ultrasound or heat therapy. Although some patients experience a bit of muscle soreness in the hours or days after an adjustment, this is short-lived. The patient usually experiences pain relief, increased mobility, and a sense of well-being following chiropractic care
Several treatment sessions are usually necessary to provide long-term assistance in treating symptoms with chiropractic care. Most patients in acute pain have to visit the chiropractor three times a week for a few weeks and then can taper off to once a week until the condition that brought them for treatment is resolved. When the patient is chronic, the patient may have to continue treatment or may require periodic adjustments when acute episodes occur.