What is chiropractic?

Most people think chiropractic is simply a treatment for headaches, neck or lower back pain. In reality, chiropractic is a straightforward and effective way to help the body repair itself and to function at its maximum capability. Simply put, chiropractors are doctors who correct abnormal alignment and motion of spinal joints thus restoring normal nervous system function. This abnormal alignment and movement of the spine is called the vertebral subluxation complex.

Subluxation – Subluxation occurs when one or more of the vertebrae move out of position, or become fixed in place, and irritate or press on the spinal nerves. These sensitive nerves emerge from between each of the bones in your spine. This pressure or irritation may cause dysfunction and can interfere with the signals traveling back and forth through these nerves.

Why is this important? Your nervous system controls and coordinates all the functions of your body. If interference occurs within the electrical signals traveling over the nerves, some parts of the body may not receive proper communication from the brain, the brain may not get the correct signals back from the organs, tissues and muscles. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, abnormal or restricted spinal joint motion causes an increase in stress signals to the brain which directly leads to a systemic “Fight or Flight” response causing chronic stress in a person.

sublux-69On the other hand, healthy spinal joint function causes an increase in healthy signals to the brain which has profound effects on our brain function and our health!

The diagram shows the bony vertebrae stacked one above another. The blue cushions are the discs, which serve to separate the bones creating holes where the nerves come out. Subluxations frequently occur in or near those holes, interfering with the nerve flow and reducing communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

Want to find out more?

We have lots of information for you in the sections below.

Chiropractic Care Philosophy

Courtesy of Chiropractic Wellness Magazine

The Chiropractic model of health is centered on the philosophy that the human body, being knit together in a wonderful way, will heal itself given the right opportunity and circumstances.

Chiropractic health care is a branch of the healing arts based on the scientific fact that our nervous system controls or influences the function of every cell in our body. Interference to the nervous system (caused by the vertebral subluxation complex) will effect how the nervous system relates to the cells to which it travels.

That term “chiropractic” comes from the Greek words “cheiro and praktikos” meaning “done by hand”. The chiropractic model of health is centered on the philosophy that the human body, being knit together in a wonderful way, will heal itself given the right opportunity and circumstances. Doctors of chiropractic (DC’s) essentially promote the healing process by minimizing nerve interference.

The purpose of the chiropractic approach to health care (the wellness model) is to uncover the cause of your health condition, not merely cover up your symptoms. The absence of symptoms (pain) does not equal good health! The clearest way to illustrate this is by reviewing the statistics on heart attacks. Research reveals that in approximately 33% of all heart attacks the first symptom of the attack is death!

Wellness care encompasses several aspects of overall health, which can be physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Most Americans are unaware that today’s doctors of chiropractic undergo an intense educational process that is similar to medical doctors or the first two years of schooling. Medical students and chiropractic students alike spend a tremendous amount of time studying anatomy, physiology, neurology, and other basic sciences. The main difference during the first two years is that medical students have a heavy emphasis on pharmacology, the study of prescription drugs, and chiropractic students emphasize nutrition and natural alternatives to drugs.

The programs take a different turn after the first two years. Medical students prepare for their trade by rotating each month to a different medical specialty such as pediatrics, orthopedics and family medicine.

The second two years of education for chiropractic students focuses on learning the tools of their trade – manual and physical methods of treatment. This is learned through the chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT or “adjusting”), physiotherapy devices (such as electrical muscle stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound) and rehabilitative techniques.

Both doctors of medicine and chiropractic are very well trained to treat their respective patients utilizing the skills of their profession. The most promising and encouraging changes in today’s treatment environment is that many healthcare clinics provide both chiropractic and medical care for their patients.

The human body was fashioned together in an absolutely incredible way. We contain approximately 11 trillion cells, each interconnected and intimately functioning together. The central nervous system (brain, brain stem, and spinal cord) is connected to the peripheral nervous system (spinal and peripheral nerves) and controls the way we move the and function. Our skull protects our brain and most of our brain stem, and our spine and provides protection to the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

The spine is a column of small bones called vertebrae, which support the entire upper body. The column is grouped into three sections, the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back) and lumbar (lower back) spine regions.

The neck consists of seven spinal bones created for movement. There are 12 vertebrae in the middle back connecting to the rib cage. The lumbar vertebrae are the five lowest and largest bones of the spinal column. Most of the body’s weight and stress falls on the lumbar vertebrae. Below the lumbar region is the sacrum, a triangular bony structure that connects with the pelvis. At the end of the sacrum are two to four tiny, partially fused vertebrae known as the coccyx or tailbone.

Vertebrae in the spinal column are separated from each other by small cushions of cartilage known as the discs. Inside each disc is a jelly like substance called the nucleus pulposus, which is surrounded by a fibrous structure called the annulus. The disk combines a protein with approximately 80% water giving it an elastic quality and provides the spine with an excellent shock absorption quality.

The vertebrae and discs combined to create a space for each spinal nerve two exits from the spinal cord on its way to the body. Abnormal motion or positioning of the vertebrae (known as the vertebral subluxation complex or VSC) can compromise this space and create nerve irritations or nerve interference. The nerve will still go to the muscle or organ however, the quality of the nerve transmission is affected. Think of a VSC like a dimmer switch on the lights. If the dinner is turned down, the lights are still on, but at a decreased intensity. If it is turned up too high for too long, the light bulb may burn out prematurely. Therefore, the muscle or organ still receives the nerve impulse, however it is altered.

This helps to explain why when a VSC exists in the upper back region an individual can experience the condition known as asthma because the nerves in the region go to the small air tubes in our lungs called bronchioles.

There are five parts to the Vertebral Subluxation Complex (commonly known as “Subluxation”). Given enough time, all five parts may exist.

  1. Loss of normal position or alignment of the vertebrae leads to restricted movement.
  2. Abnormal positioning may lead to shortened muscle tissue with decreased strength and flexibility, as well as to scar tissue development.
  3. Continued pressure on the nerve due to the subluxation, may lead to numbness or tingling in the area in which the nerve travels.
  4. Swelling or inflammation may develop in the disc, joints, or surrounding tissues.
  5. Degenerative Joint Disease – known as DJD or osteoarthritis – may occur in the affected area leading to the development of bone spurs.

Being Treated & Adjusted

Doctors of Chiropractic deliver 94% of all manipulative procedures.

If your doctor determines that your condition would benefit from chiropractic care, part of the treatment plan will most likely include a form of spinal manipulation called chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) or ”adjustments”. The purpose of the adjustment is to normalize the improper spinal motion found within the vertebral subluxation complex, therefore reducing nerve interference.

Doctors of Chiropractic are not the only health care professionals to utilize spinal manipulation. Physiotherapists, osteopaths, and even some medical doctors incorporate spinal manipulation in their treatment plan as well. The difference, however, is that Doctors of Chiropractic are uniquely trained to apply spinal manipulation. Doctors of chiropractic spend years mastering the art and science of spinal manipulation, and in fact, deliver 94% of all manipulative procedures.

Although there are many chiropractic styles or techniques utilized by DC’s in practice today, they all share a common goal; correcting the VSC for the purpose of eliminating nerve interference associated with the Vsc.

Many chiropractic offices utilize the various complimentary therapies to assist in treating the five parts of the VSC. Physiotherapy modalities (common ones are ultrasound, electric muscle stimulation, heat and ice) massage therapy, rehabilitative exercises and stretches, as well as nutritional counseling are commonly found in the chiropractic office setting.

What to Expect on your First Visits

Consultation. The most important question for your doctor to answer is whether or not you are a candidate for care in their office. Doctors Of Chiropractic are interested in trying to completely understand your health condition. They will ask you questions related to how your condition started, what makes your symptoms better or worse, the severity of your symptoms, how long you’ve had them and other related aspects of your health condition.

Physical examination. A physical examination will follow your consultation. This may or may not lead to services such as X-rays, blood work or other diagnostic testing. After ruling out conditions that require an immediate medical referral, your doctor will perform an evaluation of your neuromusculoskeletal system (a long word for nerves, muscles and bones).

Report of findings. Upon completion of the physical examination, and assessment of your condition will be given to you in what is known as the “report of findings”. During the report of findings, your doctor will discuss your diagnosis, your treatment plan, including the duration and number of visits, as well as outline your financial responsibility.

There are three steps in rehabilitating the spine from these incorrect postural conditions:

Step 1 – Adjusting
Creating proper motion within the involved joint is best accomplished with a specific chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT or adjusting).

Step 2 – Stretching
Specific stretches for the shortened muscles comes in next. Although there are numerous protocols for stretching, 3 sets holding 15 seconds each works well.

Step 3 – Exercises
Finally, specific exercises are performed to strengthen the weakened muscles. Again, many exercise protocols exist, 3 sets of 12 repetitions is appropriate.

My X-Rays

X-rays provide information that will assist your doctor in planning your treatment. X-rays can reveal fractures, spinal misalignments, joint and bone disease, and other facts regarding your health status.

X-rays or radio graphs are not always necessary. Your doctor will decide if your specific case warrants their use. If your doctor decides X-rays are appropriate, it is important for you to know that several safety precautions are utilized to make today’s X-rays extremely safe.

It taken, your doctor will typically review your X-rays during your report of findings. Your X-rays will become a very valuable part of your health records.

Facts and Figures about Chiropractic

  1. Chiropractors are real doctors.
    Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) comprise the second largest health care profession with over 50,000 practitioners in the U.S. They earn the title “doctor” along with medical doctors (MD), doctors of osteopathy (DO) and dentists (DDS).The educational process leading to the title Doctor of Chiropractic is quite similar to that of an MD and DO. In order to earn a DC degree, a student must complete several years of pre-chiropractic studies at colleges or universities, followed by 5 academic years of chiropractic education (totaling a minimum of 7 years of study). The chiropractic student’s last year is spent in a clinical internship (similar to MD or DO “rotations”). During this time the chiropractic intern, under the supervision of a licensed DC, will consult, examine and treat patients in a clinic setting. Upon graduation and earning the Doctor of Chiropractic degree, a state licensing exam must be passed in order to practice.Chiropractic students study many of the same textbooks as medical and osteopathic students. As a matter of fact, a chiropractic student accumulates more course hours in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics (how the body moves), neurology, and nutrition than their medical and osteopathic colleagues.
  2. Chiropractic care is safe and effective.
    The safety of chiropractic care has been well documented in professional journals of all kinds. Serious side effects of chiropractic manipulative therapy occur approximately one out of every one million adjustments. Compare this to the serious side effects of medicines and surgical errors to put safety in perspective. Research reveals that some 100,000 people die each year from the effects of prescription drugs prescribed by their doctors. This isn’t meant to be ”MD bashing”, it’s just the simple truth about the safety of prescription medications, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (April 1998). The article continues to say, “Discovering new dangers of drugs after marketing is common. Overall, 51% of approved drugs have serious adverse effects not detected prior to approval. Merely discovering adverse effects is not by itself sufficient to protect the public. Each year prescription drugs injure 1.5 million people so severely they require hospitalization and 100,000 die, making prescription drugs the 4th leading cause of death in the United States.” So the question was about the safety of chiropractic care?
  3. Chiropractic is part of a wellness lifestyle!
    Chiropractic care is like “orthodontics” for the spine. Clinically, repeated chiropractic adjustments “train” the vertebrae to maintain their proper alignment and movement. Like the time required for braces to achieve correction depends on an individual’s teeth and mouth structure, the time required for proper positioning to occur depends on the condition of the patients spine, their job, and other lifestyle activities.Think of your spinal adjustments like maintaining your car. It’s recommended that you changed your car’s oil every 3000 or so miles. For how long you ask? For as long as you own the car! While some individuals drive 3000 miles in a week, others do so in a month or two. The point is, however, that we change our oil on a regular basis. The same goes for caring for your spine. Whether to give adjusted weekly, monthly or quarterly depends on each patient’s specific health condition. Remember, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”. Don’t let your car’s engine fall out before changing its oil!

It’s all in the Research

Gone are the days when it could be said that chiropractic care is unscientific. The chiropractic profession leads the way in research related to the conservative treatment of lower back pain. The RAND Study led by Dr. Paul Shekelle (a medical doctor at UCLA) revealed “Spinal manipulation is the most commonly used conservative treatment for back pain supported by the most research evidence of effectiveness in terms of early results in long-term effectiveness”. The study went on to say that doctors of chiropractic treated twice as many back pain patients as medical doctors for 30% of the cost!

The MEDSTAT Project lead by Miron Stano, PhD (health care economist and professor) analyzed a database consisting of almost 400,000 chiropractic patients. The results were astonishing! Health plans that had limited or no chiropractic coverage had the highest total cost per patient! Moreover, broader coverage of chiropractic services results in dramatically lower healthcare costs as follows:

  • 35% lower hospital admission rates
  • 42% lower in patient payments
  • 23% lower total healthcare costs

The Utah Study evaluated 3062 separate work related injuries and found that chiropractic care was 73% more cost effective and medical care, and returned patients to work 10 times sooner and those under medical care!

It doesn’t take a scientist to see that chiropractic care is no longer just an alternative treatment method, but instead a vital part of the Healthcare System!

Why does my back ache?

U.S. Dept of labor estimates that 100 million workdays per year are lost due to low back pain!

Carrying the kids on your shoulders, cleaning the floors, lifting groceries out of the car, or a little extra upfront (that’s the pendulous abdominal syndrome). Lifting, bending and twisting, or worse yet, sitting all day at work. And to this a slip and fall or a previous car accident and it’s not difficult to understand why studies show that approximately 80% of Americans will suffer from lower back pain at some time in their life. Many times back pain begins after just bending over to pick up a pencil. Now, it’s not the pencil causing your back pain, but rather your lower back’s structure (meaning the muscles, joints, discs, and vertebrae) has lost its normal functioning, and therefore could not provide the necessary support to your spine. Doctors of Chiropractic specialize in finding the cause of your lower back pain. Combining spinal adjustments with proper exercises and stretches, and a well balanced diet are the keys to reducing or eliminating your lower back pain.

The Stress Factor

In today’s fast paced society few of us are free from the effects of stress on our bodies and lives. The key to winning the war on stress is understanding how to manage it. Here are three steps that will help:

  1. First, know that stress will come. You know your “hot buttons” and who pushes them. So why stress out over something you know is going to happen? Sounds easy enough.
  2. Next, take 10 minutes at night to organize the things that must get done the next day. Don’t make your list too long or vague. Be reasonable in what you can achieve in one day.
  3. Finally, proceed through your day with quiet confidence and humility. Proactively setting goals and completing them is very helpful in decreasing stress. Staying focused is a necessity.

Studies show that the inability to handle stress is a major cause of headaches, neck pain, and lower back pain. Ask your doctor for other helpful tips for reducing stress.

Chronic Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are common in today’s active society. Due to increases in athletes’ size, speed, power and strength, greater stress is placed upon an athlete’s muscles, tendons and ligaments. The key to properly treating a chronic sports injury is to identify the complete cause, not simply to treat the injured area.

If an individual suffers from multiple chronic sports injuries, dehydration must be ruled out. This is found in individuals that have a tendency to sweat more than average. In this case, increasing water intake is good, but not sufficient to ward off potential injuries. Electrolyte balance is very important because sweat contains salts that must be replaced. When the body is dehydrated and imbalanced from an electrolyte standpoint, pulled muscles are very common.

Chronic sports injuries are often due to overuse syndromes. In year-round warm climates, like California and Florida, athletes can play the same sport throughout the year, making overuse and repetitive stress injuries such as tendinitis (painful inflammation of the tendons), and arthritis (joint inflammation) commonplace.

Do I have Arthritis?
Many people suffering from arthritis pain find relief with glucosamine!

Arthritis is a general term meaning “joint inflammation”. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). There are several causes for OA, such as trauma as a child or young adult, postural imbalances, repetitive stress, and heavy manual labor to name a few. It is also possible that long standing vertebral subluxation complexes may cause degenerative joint disease or arthritis.

There are two major classifications of arthritic conditions – inflammatory (such as rheumatoid arthritis) and non-inflammatory (such as osteoarthritis). The most common medical treatment for OA is over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. NSAIDs have many side effects with chronic use, such as ulcers.

Most Americans are familiar by now with a natural supplement called glucosamine. It is a very good alternative to NSAIDs for controlling joint pain. Many studies on glucosamine versus ibuprofen have been performed, and they reveal that after 6 weeks glucosamine actually works better for joint pain relief than does ibuprofen.

What Kind of Headaches?
Headaches are the #1 reason consumers use over the counter drugs!

Almost all people experience a headache at some time in their lives. One study estimates that over 50 million people in the US suffer from headaches! Although most headaches do not indicate serious illness, they are a major cause of suffering and missed work, and rank as one of the most common reasons people consult a doctor. The international headache society has actually classified 129 different types of headaches! The most common headaches come from the muscles (muscle tension), blood vessels (migraines), joints (from the neck, called cevicogenic), or systemic conditions (such as with fevers or low blood sugar).

Doctors of chiropractic have had considerable success in relieving the cause of headache pain. If you suffer from headaches, you owe it to yourself and your family to have them evaluated for their cause. The only thing you have to lose is your pain!

Pain in the Neck

Your neck was created with a built in shock absorber.

Imagine trying to balance a bowling ball on a stick. To make it more difficult, tilt the stick forward while trying to maintain balance of the bowling ball. That’s what it’s like trying to support your head on your neck if it loses its natural curve!

Your neck was created with a built in shock absorber called a curve or lordosis. This was formed by design because the curve acts like a spring and absorbs the shock of your head resting on your neck. Think of the same bowling ball now resting on a large spring. Can you see and feel the difference?

When your neck loses its curve, the ligaments supporting your neck become stretched and lose their ability to maintain the curve. This can occur from a major motor vehicle accident, chronic poor posture or uncorrected vertebral subluxation complexes.

Once your neck has lost its normal curve, your neck and shoulder muscles attempt to hold your head in the proper position. Unfortunately they were not created for this and they tire easily. Unless you decide to let your head drop into your lap, your neck muscles will have to continue holding up your head long after becoming fatigued. That’s precisely when muscle spasms occur, and tightness begins in your neck and shoulders.

Ask your doctor of chiropractic to assist you in restoring your neck’s normal curvature. This can include stretches and exercises, cervical traction, and an orthopedic pillow created specifically for maintaining the proper curve in your neck.

Pinched Nerves and Disc Herniations

The most common cause for a true “pinched nerve” is a disc herniation. A herniated disc is sometimes, although not accurately called a slipped disc, and is the most common cause of severe back pain and sciatica. A disc becomes herniated when the jelly doughnut-like inside ruptures out to the point that it pinches the nerve.

Special testing such as CT scans or MRIs are recommended to assess the severity of the disc disorder, and can be very helpful in determining the best treatment plan.

Your doctor of chiropractic may use a special technique to treat your pinch nerve, such as traction, and specialized spinal rehabilitation exercise and stretching programs.

Needing Surgery

The New England Journal of Medicine reported that surgery is overused for the treatment of back pain!

If you or someone you know is suffering from back pain, don’t rush off to get surgery. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that surgery is overused for the treatment of back pain. In fact, the rate of all types of back surgery is more than 40% higher in the US than in any other country. Furthermore, it should be noted that surgery does not always improve the outcome and in some cases can even make the condition worse.

There is considerable evidence supporting the use of conservative, non-surgical treatments for back pain. Consult with your Doctor of Chiropractic to see if conservative care to correct the cause of your lower back pain is an appropriate option for you.

Our Children

If the birthing process itself isn’t traumatic enough for the spine, the first few tries at walking surely is! Did you know that some deliveries are so traumatic that the child actually fractures their collar bone (clavicle) during the birthing process?

As our children grow and become active in sports such as gymnastics, soccer, football, tennis, or when they begin to play a musical instrument, their growing spines are subjected to a tremendous amount of stress. Chiropractic care can help to keep our precious little one’s spine in line.

Spinal alignment is so important, especially when we grow. Many of the spinal problems that we see in adults can be traced back to a childhood fall, injury, or more commonly, poor posture resulting from carrying backpacks or spending endless hours playing video or computer games. It is very important at this developmental stage of their lives for you to seriously consider regular care for your child.