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Everything You Need To Know About Chiropractic Care

If you suffer from back pain, it is highly likely that you have come across advises from your friends and relatives hinting at back pain relief alternatives, one of them being chiropractic form of treatment. The cause of back pain could vary - accidents, sports injuries or muscle strains. People also tend to seek chiropractic care for issues such as pain in the neck, legs, arms and headaches.

Chiropractors are people who practice and provide chiropractic care. Chiropractic is referred to as a therapy that is designed to focus on the structure of the body (the spine, in particular). Chiropractors are trained professionals who manipulate the body's alignment to relieve pain and improve functionality [1] . Read on to know more about how this therapy lays its focus on helping the body heal itself.

What Is Chiropractic?

With a theory of keeping the body's musculoskeletal structure (in particular, the spine) in proper alignment, the body is directed towards self-healing without medication or surgery [2] . Chiropractors make use of spinal manipulation (apart from other alternative treatments) to aid the healing process. The manipulation done is used to restore mobility to the joints that might have been restricted due to tissue injury (caused after a fall or through repetitive stress) [3] .

Chiropractic as a therapy finds its primary use as a pain-relieving alternative for muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues (ligaments, cartilage and tendons). Sometimes, medical experts recommend chiropractic care alongside conventional medical treatment.

Chiropractic Care For Pain Relief

Although the mainstay of chiropractic is spinal manipulation, this form of therapeutic care can also include treatments like manual or manipulative therapies, ergonomic training, postural and exercise education, etc [4] . The most positive researches on chiropractic therapy have had their focus primarily on spinal manipulation for low backache. Many physicians recommend spinal manipulation along with heat, massage and acupuncture for low back pain [5] .

In general, chiropractic care includes treating issues involving the following [6] :

  • Back pain
  • Bowel irregularity
  • Neck pain
  • Headache
  • Disturbances with mental clarity
  • Scoliosis
  • Asthma
  • Blood pressure
  • Organ functionality issues
  • Ear infection
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Pregnancy-related complications

What Is Spinal Manipulation?

Spinal manipulation is more of a generalized term that indicates the therapeutic movement of the spine. It usually involves the application of strong and quick pressure on a joint present between two vertebrae of the spine [7] . If you have ever heard that 'cracking your back' could heal your backache, then 'spinal manipulation' is something that you should seek.

Also known as spinal manipulative therapy, it involves the combination of moving and jolting joints, massaging, exercising and indulging in physical therapy.

Although each chiropractor could use different styles of spinal manipulation (from the existing over 100 types), it basically would involve forcing and twisting or in some extreme cases use of gentle techniques that are referred to as spinal mobilization [8] .

Spinal manipulation [9] : The practitioner uses his or her hands and applies a sudden, yet controlled, force to a specific joint. The patient might hear a popping noise (something like how it is when you crack your knuckles).

Spinal mobilization [10] : The practitioner uses less forceful thrusts (compared to spinal manipulation) and more stretching. Sometimes an 'activator' is used. An activator is a small, metallic tool that can be used to apply force directly to one vertebra.

How Chiropractic Treatment Works

Chiropractic adjustments help to place one's body in the required, proper position so that the body can begin to heal. Being a holistic and alternative treatment mechanism, these adjustments can reduce the stress that exists on a person's immune system. It helps in freeing up energy that can be used towards prevention of a disease and to maintain homeostasis [11] .

Chiropractic therapy addresses the wellness factor of the entire body. It enhances the patient's ability to think, perform and move around efficiently. It is the chiropractor's job to create an environment that can facilitate the inner healing process of the patient and at the same time ensure complete safety.

In cases wherein the spine has shifted from its original place, then adjustments are put into use to help bring the spine back into alignment. One concept that is repeatedly used by chiropractic professionals is 'vertebral subluxation ' [12] . This phrase is used to refer to mechanical compression and irritation that occurs to the spinal joints and nerves.

Why Should You Get Chiropractic Adjustments

Vertebral subluxation can be caused due to a variety of factors. The following are some of the common causes that might hint at you requiring chiropractic adjustments [13] :

  • A fall or slip that has resulted in the vertebra going out of place
  • Poor posture resulting in the entire spine getting misaligned
  • Damage to the intervertebral joint causing joint swelling
  • Psychological stress, poor diet and lack of pure water causing an inflammatory response
  • Degenerative changes (osteoporosis) of the spine
  • Vertebrae gone out of place due to trigger points and tight back muscles.

Treatment Procedure Followed By Chiropractors

During the first examination, the chiropractor would usually make a note of the patient's health history along with a physical examination (with the primary focus on the spine). Your chiropractor could also recommend an x-ray before proceeding with the therapy [14] . Only after proper diagnosis is reached, if chiropractic treatment is considered appropriate, a treatment plan will be created.

After your initial check-up, your follow-up visits would involve the practitioner performing one or more of the many different kinds of adjustments and other available therapies used in chiropractic care. The chiropractic adjustment is designed such that it uses the hands or a device to offer a controlled but rapid force to the joint (especially that of the spine) [15] . The idea behind doing this is to increase the range and quality of motion in the area being treated. This aids in restoring health. Another manual therapy that has also been used is joint mobilization.

It is usually seen that chiropractors combine the use of spinal adjustments along with other approaches such as [16] :

  • Electrical stimulation
  • Application of heat and ice
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Rehabilitative and general exercises
  • Use of dietary supplements
  • Counselling about diet, current lifestyle and weight loss-related factors

Safety Aspects

  • Use of spinal adjustments is usually safe as long as they have been performed by a trained and licensed practitioner.
  • Few people report having certain side effects from spinal manipulation. These usually are in the form of tiredness, temporary headaches or discomfort in the parts that have received the treatment [17] .
  • In some rare cases, there have been reports of few serious complications such as stroke, cauda equina syndrome (CES) and herniated disc getting worsened [18] .

The following people should avoid spinal manipulation or adjustments [19] :

  • People with severe osteoporosis
  • People with high stroke risk
  • People with spinal cancer
  • People with an unstable spine
  • People who experience tingling, numbness or loss of strength in an arm or leg

Tips When Seeking Chiropractic Care

  • Ensure that the chiropractor whom you are approaching holds a medical license for providing chiropractic assistance.
  • It would be beneficial to have an idea if the chiropractor has dealt and treated a similar condition like yours before. It is okay to ask a few questions before you decide to seek the therapy.
  • Inform the chiropractor about any medication that you have been prescribed or in case you have opted for any over-the-counter drugs. Also, inform about the intake of dietary supplements, if any.
  • In case you are being suggested a dietary supplement by your chiropractor, then inquire about its potential interactions with the existing medication that you take [20] .
  • In general, your chiropractor would need to have a full picture of your lifestyle and how you manage your overall health and well being. This will ensure that the approach taken by the expert is safe and coordinated.

On A Final Note...

If you have to frequently deal with issues such as headaches, backaches or joint pain and have not yet consulted a chiropractor for it, then you are seriously missing out on a natural and effective treatment option. Millions of people worldwide vouch for the incredible benefits of chiropractic care. This seems to be the best non-invasive and holistic approach that can help in the treatment of a dozen of different conditions. Chiropractic care ensures a complete drug-free and natural healing to the body.

View Article References
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  2. [2] Salehi, A., Hashemi, N., Imanieh, M. H., & Saber, M. (2015). Chiropractic: Is it Efficient in Treatment of Diseases? Review of Systematic Reviews.International journal of community based nursing and midwifery,3(4), 244-254.
  3. [3] Lefebvre, R., Peterson, D., & Haas, M. (2012). Evidence-Based Practice and Chiropractic Care.Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine,18(1), 75-79.
  4. [4] Tuchin P. J. (1997). The efficacy of chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) in the treatment of migraine. A pilot study.Australasian chiropractic & osteopathy : journal of the Chiropractic & Osteopathic College of Australasia,6(2), 41-47.
  5. [5] Standaert, C. J., Friedly, J., Erwin, M. W., Lee, M. J., Rechtine, G., Henrikson, N. B., & Norvell, D. C. (2011). Comparative effectiveness of exercise, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation for low back pain.Spine,36, S120-S130.
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  8. [8] Lascurain-Aguirrebeña, I., Newham, D., & Critchley, D. J. (2016). Mechanism of action of spinal mobilizations: a systematic review.Spine,41(2), 159-172.
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  14. [14] Jenkins, H. J., Downie, A. S., Moore, C. S., & French, S. D. (2018). Current evidence for spinal X-ray use in the chiropractic profession: a narrative review.Chiropractic & manual therapies,26, 48.
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  16. [16] Hurwitz, E. L., Morgenstern, H., Harber, P., Kominski, G. F., Yu, F., & Adams, A. H. (2002). A randomized trial of chiropractic manipulation and mobilization for patients with neck pain: clinical outcomes from the UCLA neck-pain study.American journal of public health,92(10), 1634-1641.
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Story first published: Thursday, April 4, 2019, 12:02 [IST]
Read more about: back pain therapy