Chiropractic is a holistic health care discipline, firmly grounded in science, that concentrates on maintaining the body’s proper functioning and its ability to heal itself. The brain and nervous system control your organs and muscles, keeping the heart pumping, the lungs breathing, the stomach digesting, etc. The information your organs and muscles need to function travels along your nervous system from the brain through the spinal cord, and from specific segments of the spinal cord to specific organs. The goal of chiropractic is to achieve “whole body” health by maintaining the spine’s proper anatomical position and mobility in order for the nervous system to continue working properly and efficiently.
Subluxation (also called vertebral subluxation) is the chiropractic term for misalignment of one or more vertebrae in spine. The spinal cord is protected by the spine, which is made up of 24 individual bones, or vertebrae. When the vertebra move out of their normal position they can push against the spinal nerves, interfering with the proper functioning of the nervous system to specific areas of the body and causing muscle and nerve tension. You may or may not experience pain or discomfort when a vertebra is out of place, which is why you should be checked regularly by your chiropractor.
Most people tend to associate injuries with displaced vertebrae — a fall, sudden jar, or trauma. However, there are many other causes, including an inherited weakness of the spine, improper sleeping conditions or habits, poor posture, occupational hazards, improper lifting, obesity, lack of rest or exercise, and even stress.
To correct misaligned vertebrae, the chiropractor puts corrective yet gentle pressure on precise locations along the spine or other misaligned joint. This manipulation, or adjustment, typically realigns the joint and promotes healing.
When performed correctly by a qualified practitioner, a chiropractic adjustment should not be painful. If you are already experiencing pain from, for example, an acute muscle spasm, there may be some discomfort while that particular area is manipulated. Sometimes patients will feel sore after a session while their body starts to adjust. This can be relieved by applying a cold compress. We’ll let you know if this is likely in your particular case.
Each adjustment session takes about 15 minutes, but this varies according to each patient’s condition. Your treatment plan may require multiple treatments each week over two or three weeks or two or three months, depending on how severe your condition. Every patient’s plan is unique and structured specifically for their condition.
When pressure is applied during an adjustment, both sections of a joint may move apart rapidly. This causes a change of pressure within the joint space, occasionally causing a bubble of gas to ‘pop.’ The sound isn’t significant and doesn’t hurt.
Absolutely not. Chiropractic is both an art and a science, and training takes many years to complete. Adjustments are applied to specific segments of the spine with a specific amount of force and in a specific direction. For someone inexperienced to attempt any spinal manipulation, to themselves or others, can create significant additional problems.
You probably don’t see your primary care physician unless you aren’t feeling well or have been injured. However, you likely visit your dentist regularly and, if you are a woman, visit your gynecologist regularly. Why? Because health problems in these areas often have no associated symptoms or discomfort until they are in an advanced stage, which can be more difficult to treat than if they were caught early on. The same goes for seeing your chiropractor. Subluxations frequently exhibit no symptoms. It is often only after the subluxation has caused additional stress on the body or nervous system that you begin to feel discomfort. At this stage the condition frequently requires a more lengthy treatment than if it had been caught early on.
Chiropractic is a conservative approach to health care that supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself within certain limits. Chiropractors avoid medications, which can interfere with the body’s own healing processes, produce unwanted side effects, create dependence and lead to drug-related disease or complications. Chiropractic’s principles maintain that the first and best response in most illnesses and injuries should be noninvasive conservative care.
Today, at least six years of highly specialized college training, including about 600 hours of externship, are required to graduate from an accredited college of chiropractic and earn licensure as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Chiropractors must also pass a rigid chiropractic board examination for the state in which they practice. The basic educational requirements for those studying chiropractic is extremely similar to the requirements for those studying medicine.
In Maryland, applicants who entered chiropractic college after July 1, 1991, must also have earned a bachelor’s degree. Licenses are renewed every two years and licensed chiropractors are required to complete 48 hours of continuing education within each two-year period.
Think of the difference between a physician and a dentist. Both are health care practitioners but in different medical professions. Both are legally entitled to use the title “doctor.” Chiropractic is complementary to other areas of primary health care, as are an obstetrics or dermatology. It is not a replacement for medical care, but its emphasis on non-invasive and preventive measures may offer an alternative to medication and surgery in many circumstances. There is a growing trend of close cooperation between medical practitioners and chiropractors.
In general, chiropractors focus more on manipulating the spine, while osteopaths work on the whole body, focusing more on soft tissues, muscles, ligaments and joints. Chiropractors also tend to use x-rays in their diagnosis and treatment more frequently than osteopaths. Both are legally entitled to use the title “doctor.”