Chiropractors diagnose and treat a broad range of physical conditions in patients with muscular, nervous, and skeletal problems, especially the spine.
Chiropractors make use of conventional diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and lab work, as well as specific procedures that involve manipulation by hand of various parts of the body. Chiropractors are best known for their ability to correct misalignments of the spine, which are called subluxations. But spinal manipulation is only a small part of what chiropractors do as part of an overall plan to manage and relieve pain and many kinds of ailments. Other kinds of treatments chiropractors are capable of providing include:
- Therapeutic exercise
- Ice/heat therapy, including therapeutic ultrasound
- Lifestyle and nutrition counseling
- Massage therapy
- Physical rehabilitation
- Stress management
Benefits of Chiropractic Care
One of the main causes of pain and disease in the human body can be traced to improper alignment of the vertebrae in your spinal column. This is called a subluxation. Through carefully applied pressure, massage, and manual manipulation of the vertebrae and joints, pressure and irritation on the nerves is relieved and joint mobility is restored, allowing your body to return to its natural state of balance, called homeostasis. Put another way, when the bones in your spine are allowed to go back to their proper positions, the nerve energy can resume its normal flow and your body’s natural healing processes can function properly.
In general, proper chiropractic treatment of your body’s lumbar, or lower back, region, involves very little risk and the rewards can be significant.
Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations can be especially helpful in relieving pain for facet joint injuries, osteoarthritis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, because such conditions respond well to mobilization. Moreover, scores of patients with chronic headaches, sinus problems, high blood pressure, ear infections, leg pain, arthritis, and many other illnesses have reported significant relief after chiropractic therapy.
Increasingly over the past few decades, the medical community has come to accept and recognize chiropractic care as a valid form of treatment for a variety of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, and as a conservative treatment option for patients with lower back pain. Moreover, many medical doctors recognize a chiropractic diagnosis and accept it as the first line of treatment for functional disorders of the entire musculoskeletal system.
Studies by leading medical journals in recent years have confirmed the benefits of chiropractic care:
- A 1993 report by the Ontario Ministry of Health concluded that chiropractic care was the most effective treatment for lower back pain. The agency also recommended that chiropractic care be fully integrated in the Canadian government’s health care system.
- In 1994, the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published its Clinical Practice Guidelines, which asserted that spinal manipulation was effective in reducing pain and speeding recovery among patients with acute low back symptoms without radiculopathy.
- A 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study of outcomes and costs for acute low back pain found that patients treated by chiropractors were significantly more satisfied than those who saw primary care, orthopedic or managed care practitioners.
- A 1996 study in the journal Spine echoed that study and found that patients who sought chiropractic care were more likely to feel that treatment was helpful, more likely to be satisfied with their care, and less likely to seek care from another provider for the same condition, compared to those who sought care from medical doctors.
- In 2001, the Center for Clinical Health Policy Research at Duke University concluded in a study that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for cervicogenic headaches, or those that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.