Many don’t realize that chiropractic treatment can be helpful in mitigating different types of back and neck pain, as well as pain stemming from other parts of the body as well. Chronic pain sufferers with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, or people injured in accidents often find they can get relief with chiropractic treatments.
Chiropractic may be a helpful alternative or a complementary approach to conventional medical management for those suffering from either acute or chronic pain.
What Does a Chiropractor Do?
Doctors of Chiropractic are licensed healthcare professionals who commonly treat patients experiencing musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. They use a combination of traditional medicine approaches and tests, including diagnostic tests like bood work, x-rays and MRIs. They will also employ spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic adjustments) by hand or with assistive instruments, physical medicine and therapeutic modalities similar to physical therapy, and Eastern practices to help relieve pain around the back, shoulders, neck, and hips. They will often address other factors that may be related to symptoms like posture and ergonomics, lifestyle modification as well as nutrition and supplement recommendations.
Chiropractics is based on the premise that every cell tissue and organ in the body is controlled (or influenced) by the central nervous system. The spine houses the spinal cord which is where the junction of the central nervous system meets the external peripheral nerves. Spinal misalignment or dysfunctional spine movement patterns in the spine can influence normal nerve function and lead to aches, pains, and possibly even lead to other disease processes. Chiropractors typically take a more holistic approach to health. They view the body as multiple systems synergistically working together to balance and maintain the health of the whole body, as opposed to a nearsighted approach of treating the body in parts.
With an initial presentation of pain, a Doctor of Chiropractic will likely commence by reviewing the patient’s current and associated symptoms, reviewing their medical history, performing an examination, and ordering any appropriate diagnostic tests like X-rays or MRI. From here, chiropractors are able to recommend a treatment plan, which may involve a combination of treatments and therapies, lifestyle modification, nutrition and supplement recommendations. They may also refer out to other medical specialists to co-manage symptoms with additional treatments like injections or prescription medications.
Types of Chiropractic Treatment
Some of the common techniques used by chiropractors include:
- Spinal Manipulation: Also known as a chiropractic adjustment, spinal manipulation is a manual or instrument-assisted technique where a joint is manipulated past its physiologic range of movement, but not past its anatomical limits. A dynamic and safe thrust is what defines this type of treatment, as it aims to improve the patient’s range of motion of certain joints. There is commonly a popping sensation that accompanies this technique. Though this is often and erroneously associated with bones being “cracked” or popped into place”, it has been proven that the sounds actually originate in the fluids that bathe the joints between bones. When a joint has a reduced pressure within the cavity from manipulation, the lubricating joint fluid within the joint releases oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide gasses. This release of gas is what creates the popping sound when a chiropractor adjusts your neck or back.
- Spinal Decompression Traction: Mechanical and intermittent traction device that can be utilized on patients that creates negative pressure on the spinal discs and joints that can relieve pain in the back and spine-related pain that radiates into the arms or legs (radiculopathy).
Other therapies offered may include myofascial therapy & massage, nutrition plans for losing weight, supplements for pain, inflammation, or nutritional deficiencies as well as other therapies like dry needling or acupuncture. Some chiropractors use Applied Kinesiology, a method that uses muscle strength testing to examine how the patient’s body is functioning in different areas, including structural, mental, and chemical. It is a more holistic approach that other practitioners debate over in terms of its legitimacy.
Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic
There are many benefits to using chiropractic to treat back pain. Some may include immediate pain relief without the use of prescribed medication. In addition, it’s also a great alternative to undergoing surgery to treat chronic pain, including those in the lower back or neck. Chiropractors are readily found throughout the country and often accept most forms of insurance, including Medicare, allowing greater ease of access.
Like most forms of medical treatment, there are risks involved in receiving chiropractic treatment. Some more common risks include minor events, such as sore muscles or increased pain. More serious risks associated with spinal manipulation are very rare but include paralysis and stroke with upper neck manipulation.
In most cases, patients can access Doctors of Chiropractic without a referral but some insurances like HMOs may require you to get a referral from your PCP for chiropractic treatment of back or neck pain. Though many chiropractors can build a reputable practice by word of mouth you can also search a reputable source like the American Chiropractic Association for one in your area. Lastly, it is a good idea to do your research on any physician you plan to visit by checking your state’s licensing board to ensure your doctor is appropriately licensed to practice and free of disciplinary action.