What is it?
Chiropractic is a therapy that involves adjusting the spinal column (back). This adjustment improves posture, blood flow, and nerves.
In 1895 Daniel Palmer saw a man who became deaf shortly after an upper neck injury. Palmer examined the patient's neck and noticed one of the vertebra (bone in back) was out of place. He forcefully moved the vertebra back into place and the man's hearing returned after 17 years of deafness. This experience led Palmer to develop the chiropractic system and a school to teach chiropractic medicine.
Chiropractic means manual (hands on) practice. It is based on the idea that the spine is very important to one's health. A poorly functioning spine causes problems in the nervous system. A weak nervous system can cause a variety of illnesses, headache, asthma, and muscle, urinary, and digestive problems.
The nervous system regulates and controls the functions of organs in the body. Chiropractors believe that correcting the problems in the spine will correct nervous system problems. The body will heal the illness and prevent future diseases when the nervous system is properly working.
The spinal column has 33 vertebra that protect the spinal cord. Nerves leave the spinal cord between the vertebra and travel to the muscles, bones, organs and glands throughout the body and direct their actions. If the vertebrae are not in the right position, they can pinch or pull on a nerve and block the electrical signals that travel to the rest of the body.
Problems in the spine can also affect a patient's posture. A lower back problem may cause a person to lean forward. This poor posture may limit the movement of the rib cage and cause heart or lung problems. It may also cause strain in the neck muscles causing to strain, spasms, headaches, poor vision, or balance problems.
The main feature of a chiropractic treatment is called an adjustment. The chiropractor adjusts the joint by forcefully pushing the bone into the proper position. The adjustment is often heard as a painless click or pop. Some chiropractors adjust using non-force techniques that gently and slowly correct the position of the bones without the pop. Another chiropractic technique uses an Activator, which is a small rubber tipped tool that gently moves the vertebra.
A first visit to a chiropractor may be one hour and followup visits may take 10 to 30 minutes. During the first visit, the chiropractor will ask you many questions about your health and examine you. Your posture will be checked and the chiropractor will watch you bend your back. He will feel the tension of the muscles that move the spine. X-rays may be done to help diagnose the problem.
There are about 50,000 chiropractors in the United States. They have four years of training and must pass a national exam to be licensed to practice. Some chiropractors have additional training in sports medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, or massage techniques.
Scientific studies have proven that chiropractic treatments are effective for low back pain. The agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) recently named chiropractic as the preferred method of treatment for relief of acute back pain. Chiropractic therapy may be helpful in the treatment of addictions. Chiropractors have successfully treated muscle and joint pain, headaches, asthma, allergies, numbness, and disc, digestive, and urinary problems.
Chiropractic is not recommended for osteoporosis, bone or joint infections, bone tumors, or diseases of the spinal cord or bone marrow. Patients with a surgically fused spine, recent broken bones, or ligament damage should not be forcefully adjusted. See your medical doctor if you have pain that does not improve after chiropractic care. Your pain may be caused by a more serious problem. The chiropractor will send you to a medical doctor if a tumor, fracture, or other non-chiropractic problem is seen on x-ray.
1. Burton Goldberg Group: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup, WA; 1994.
2. Inglis B & West R: The Alternative Health Guide. Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY; 1983.
3. Kastner MA: Alternative Healing: The Complete A to Z Guide to Over 160 Different Alternative Therapies. Halcyon Publishing, La Mesa, CA; 1993.
4. Sifton DW: The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY; 1999.
5. Woodham A & Peters D: Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies, 1st ed. Dorling Kindersley, NY, NY; 1997.
Last Updated: 6/4/2018