What Do Chiropractors Do
May 27, 2012 Chiropractic Care
First and foremost, chiropractors evaluate an individual. They seek to diagnose any possible problems and, of course, seek out causes for the problem that brought the patient in. This evaluation begins with a thorough health history for the patient and then continues with a complete physical evaluation, possibly including x-rays for a more complete picture of any abnormalities. Then the chiropractor continues based on the information gathered. Assuming that this step has been completed and it has been ascertained that the patient will benefit from chiropractic care then the real work begins.
Chiropractors crack backs. This is not all there is to it, but it is a good starting point. Chiropractors actually perform spinal manipulation on patients. This manipulation seeks to restore the proper alignment of the spine and, with it, the patient’s health. By health, this primarily means an improvement in the condition that caused the patient to seek treatment in the first place although this act of spinal manipulation can be used as a preventative measure and a way to improve overall health.
It is good to mention now that if a chiropractor does not feel that chiropractic treatment is the appropriate method of treatment then the chiropractor will refer the patient to an expert in another, more appropriate field. Chiropractic care can be helpful in many instances but not necessarily all. When chiropractic care is not the method of choice then the patient will be referred to another specialist. Chiropractic care is often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
If chiropractic care is the appropriate method of treatment then the chiropractor uses techniques of spinal manipulation. The process of restoring proper spinal alignment may seem rather simple and even a bit simplistic, but the effects are far reaching.
The process of spinal realignment is sought out through adjustments. During an adjustment, a chiropractor applies sufficient pressure to joints to give them back their mobility and to give them a chance to properly heal. This application of pressure is the common method of affecting changes in spinal alignment.
What chiropractors do is try to seek out the root cause of the symptoms that a patient experiencing. They do not content themselves with the simplest method of pain management, such as medication, although other avenues including medication may be used as adjuncts to chiropractic treatment. Instead, they seek the problem at its source so that the weed may be pulled out at the root and balance may be restored. The restoration of balance is the key. Medication may be used to help manage symptoms, but it is viewed as a temporary measure. The end goal is to correct the problem so that the patient may function without medicinal aid. Every case is different so this may not always be possible or advisable.
The chiropractor does not just look for the source of the immediate problems, however. They will also make an appraisal of the spine as a whole to discover any and all problems that could benefit from chiropractic care. Today’s spinal misalignment could lead to tomorrow’s health issues. By catching them early, these problems of tomorrow have a chance to be corrected before they become fully realized. Pain may be averted and treatment is often simpler in all fields of medicine when problems are caught early.
Ideally, the action of spinal manipulation will serve on an immediate level to restore mobility to joints. When they have reached a state of restricted range of motion, joints may produce discomfort. Restoring the range of motion and releasing the tension that builds up from pain and disuse can provide relief. On a larger level, this process of spinal manipulation will also hopefully allow the damage to heal even as pain is lessened and mobility is restored.
This damage or pain may be the result of a tissue injury. This tissue injury may have been caused by a single event, an acute trauma, or it may be the result of repetitive actions that have stressed the body. This precipitating situation may have included a person remaining in a stationary position with poor posture for extended periods of time or some form of awkward repetitive hand movements that were also paired with poor posture.
The result of such an injury is pain and inflammation along with an often decreased range of motion in the affected joints. The purpose of chiropractic care is returning these joints to their natural state of functioning, restoring range of motion, decreasing pain, and permitting the affected tissues to heal.
THE TRUTH ABOUT ADJUSTMENT
You might wonder if a patient will feel pain while these adjustments are being performed. The majority of patients will not. There may be some slight discomfort initially as they adjust to the treatment process, but this is minor and will pass. Actually, many patients report a rapid sensation of relief following adjustments for the conditions that they seek treatment for.
As stated earlier, the chiropractor does not merely seek to treat the condition that a patient came in for but checks for any misalignments that may be present. This way any possible problems or positioning that could lead to future problems are all treated. The treatment is not limited to attempts at treating the problem at hand.
In fact, it is not uncommon for patients to experience an improvement in symptoms that they thought were unrelated to their original complaint or just in their overall feeling of well being. The integrated nature of the body and the way that the spine influences the body as a whole makes this a very real occurrence.
Adjustments may be used be used to deal with acute conditions, chronic conditions, or they may be used as more of a preventative measure. A patient does not necessarily need to wait until a problem is fully developed before seeking out treatment for spinal misalignment. Developing or potential conditions may be caught early and rectified before they can come to fruition. Also, the general health and feeling of well being may be improved through chiropractic intervention even if there is not one discernable problem to treat. Because of the all inclusive nature of spinal health, preventative chiropractic adjustments are thought to be quite beneficial for many patients.
During the course of a session, the chiropractor introduces the appropriate amount of pressure using their hands to the patient’s body to complete each adjustment. This is where the extensive curriculum that a chiropractor undergoes when training pays off. These somewhat simple movements require a comprehensive background in physiology and related subjects to be performed correctly and safely.
A patient may find it disconcerting to hear a loud cracking or popping noise coming from joints as adjustments are made. This sound is created by small amounts of gas being moved about the joints during the adjustments. The movement of the gas creates the sound. This sound may not always be present when an adjustment is made and is not an indication of the efficacy of the treatment.
It is similar to a person cracking their knuckles. The release of the gas creates the cracking sound and does not necessarily indicate anything more that the movement of the gas.
The amount of force required to complete an adjustment is not the same from one patient to the next. The amount of pressure necessary to perform the appropriate spinal adjustment depends largely on the person and the adjustment to be made.
If the problems are concentrated in the neck then a chiropractor may focus efforts in that area. Cervical adjustments are utilized to free up the neck muscles, relieving the tension that may be present and aiding the mobility of the neck. Clearly, neck adjustments are not likely to require as much force as adjustments performed on the lower parts of the spine. It is the chiropractor’s training that allows for the assessment of the situation and the application of the correct amount of force.
Although the popularized image of chiropractic care may be one that includes a loud cracking or popping sound, the force applied varies and is highly controlled. The amount of force necessary to create changes in one person may be too much for another and what is the right amount of force for another person may not be sufficient for yet another. The treatment, while consistent, is individualized.
Chiropractors require the physical strength to make the necessary adjustments. The amount of strength needed may vary depending on the individual patient and the adjustments that are necessary. The physicality of this profession is another prerequisite for chiropractors. They have to not only know how to perform the adjustments but be physically able to complete them as well.
These actions are not intended to cause the patient any pain although they may result in a feeling of soreness for a patient. This soreness is often likened to the feeling a person has after an exercise session.
Some patients may wonder if they are able to perform adjustments on themselves. Often individuals can create a similar popping sound with their joints if they try. This is not advisable. Chiropractic adjustments are precise and require years of study to perform correctly. The creation of this popping or cracking sound is not an indication that anything is being accomplished and is certainly not an indication that anything is being done correctly. Such movements may not be doing anything or may be creating adverse effects. Adjustments should always be left to trained professionals.
The question of safety will likely arise when discussing adjustments. Knowing that the spine is a sensitive and essential part of the body, one would rightly wonder if manipulating it in this manner is safe. Clearly, the nature of chiropractic adjustments does introduce an element of risks just as any treatment protocol would.
Still, chiropractic care is recognized for being safe, medication free, and a non-invasive way of correcting problems caused by improper spinal alignment. Chiropractic care has a track record for being a safe method of treatment. With any treatment there is always a chance that there may be unforeseen consequences, but chiropractic care is known for being a method of treatment that is reliably without harmful effects the majority of the time.
A special case is that of pregnant women. Patients may wonder if chiropractic care can be administered when a woman is pregnant. The improved functioning of the body is advantageous for anyone. Because chiropractic care is individualized, the proper adjustments and amount of pressure are evaluated on a patient to patient basis and are therefore adjusted to any special needs of a patient, including pregnancy. Pregnant women who receive chiropractic treatments often report that the delivery goes more smoothly. There are even studies that indicate that chiropractic care can reduce the need for pain medications during the labor process and may even reduce the total time of the labor.
This discussion has focused mainly on adult and how they experience and can benefit from chiropractic care, but do the same truths apply to children? Children are typically smaller and are still going through periods of rapid growth and development so can they benefit from chiropractic intervention? Indeed, the answer is once again an emphatic yes. Any individual who can benefit from proper alignment of the spine can benefit from some degree of chiropractic care.
Children may be subject to the same precipitating factors than can bring adults in for treatment. They may experience the same injuries or other causes of spinal misalignment and can likewise benefit from chiropractic adjustments.
Because the amount of force applied is already adjusted on a patient by patient basis, children are treated in the manner that is most suitable to them. The art of chiropractic care is individualized and transfers well to children. The application of pressure may be lessened, but the underlying principles are the same.
You may think of other special cases where you may think that the potential for chiropractic care may be questionable. You may wonder if everyone can truly benefit from chiropractic intervention. Again, the individualized nature of chiropractic treatment makes it all possible. By adjusting every treatment to the patient, chiropractic care remains as safe and as effective as possible. Anyone can benefit from correct spinal alignment so anyone who needs help in that area can benefit from chiropractic care.