Many people have heard about chiropractic but for those who have not yet experienced it, chiropractic may remain an elusive or misunderstood profession. Here is your opportunity to have things cleared up…
Chiropractic offers a natural, non-invasive and very safe alternative for the management of various musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. Whereas many treatment options provide symptomatic relief, one great thing about chiropractic is that it can often correct the source of a problem. In addition, chiropractors often have the ability to detect and treat mechanical problems before they become symptomatic. Chiropractors are back specialists. They primarily analyze the spine for aberrant joint mechanics, alignment and posture and help to correct these mechanical problems through spinal adjustments, mobilizations and by prescribing specific, corrective exercises. Through chiropractic care, back pain and joint stiffness are reduced and overall health and healing are optimized by balancing the nervous system. Many patients find chiropractic refreshing in that chiropractors often take the time to listen carefully and do a thorough analysis to truly understand one’s unique health picture.
What few people may realize is that chiropractic education is very extensive. These days, Canadian Chiropractors are required to have a minimum of seven years of postsecondary education and upon graduating are doctors. Following graduation, Canadian chiropractors must also take continuing education courses to ensure that they remain current in research and skills. Most chiropractors practising in Canada receive their education from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractor College which provides a rigorous and comprehensive program of study. This is where future chiropractors learn extensively about anatomy, biomechanics, orthopaedics, diagnosis, nutrition and many other courses which are relevant in recognizing need for care beyond the chiropractic scope of practice. It is also where chiropractors begin to develop their technique skills.
Central to chiropractic philosophy is the realization that the body truly has a remarkable ability to heal itself. To chiropractors, this vital force is understood as innate intelligence. Chiropractic is also about helping patients achieve their optimal state of wellness. Good health is not merely the absence of disease or symptoms. A lot of health problems in present day society are a direct result of poor lifestyle choices and there is a process that leads up to their development. Good health is about reaching an optimal state of physical, psychological and social well-being and it’s about being proactive. Chiropractors empower patients to take an active role in their health and guide patients in the necessary steps to achieve this. Some of these steps include regular physical activity, good nutrition, adequate rest, a healthy attitude and chiropractic care.
So what is a chiropractic adjustment? An adjustment is a high velocity, low force thrust that is applied specifically to hypomobile (“stuck”) or misaligned vertebrae. The adjustment may or may not create an audible sound as a result of rapidly stretching the joint capsule and the pressure/volume changes that occur.
When a joint is hypomobile, the joints above and below move more to compensate, so that global range of motion is unaffected. This leads to excessive/uneven wear and early degeneration of the segments above and below. The chiropractic adjustment is intended to restore normal motion to the restricted joint thereby gapping the joint, lubricating it and slowing down the degenerative process. In general, movement is beneficial and supports and helps to heal joint cartilage. As cartilage is a living structure and has no blood supply, all nutrients that support it are derived from the surrounding joint fluid. When movement is restricted, metabolic waste products are not removed and the necessary nutrients are not flushed through. The adjustment corrects this and also stretches and relaxes surrounding muscles.
As for the misaligned vertebra, according to chiropractic philosophy, applying an adjustment here restores hindrance in neurological transmission, balances the nervous system and enhances one’s natural healing capacity. Here is a brief anatomy lesson to explain: The brain is the computer that controls the human body. An extension of the brain is the spinal cord and an extension of the spinal cord are spinal nerves which come out on either side of the spine at every vertebral level. These spinal nerves send messages to all the muscles, organs and tissues of the body. If a misaligned vertebra pinches one of these nerves, the proper functioning of any structure in direct communication may be affected. Hence, if a chiropractic adjustment corrects misaligned vertebrae then function may be restored.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence in support of chiropractic treatment for problems of musculoskeletal origin which create symptoms such as neck pain, back pain, joint pain, headaches, and others. There are also many anecdotal reports that support chiropractic treatment for improvement of non-musculoskeletal problems such as asthma, ear infections, ADHD, infantile colic and many others.
Chiropractors also prescribe specific, corrective exercises. These are intended to correct faulty posture and muscle imbalance. Stretching exercises help correct tight muscles that can restrict range of motion. Strengthening exercises help return strength to weaker muscles. It is the combined effort between the chiropractor and the patient that ultimately restores normal function. Chiropractors are partners of health. Just as chiropractors must do their job, patients must do their homework to achieve maximum results.
Now, there are different types of chiropractors out there. Some chiropractors have different practice styles, target populations and perspectives about the profession philosophically. There are family wellness chiropractors who see a broad range of patients of all ages. There are sports chiropractors who focus on athletic populations. There are rehab chiropractors who help injured people recover from accidents. Some chiropractors may use modalities such as electrical stimulation, laser therapy or acupuncture. Some use soft-tissue techniques and some use different adjusting techniques. Regardless of the particular technique used or modality provided, the ultimate goal is the same: to get patients back on their feet, doing the things they love and keeping them well. When looking for a chiropractor, do your research to find one who will best be able to meet your needs as a patient.
All too often, patients visit a chiropractor as a last resort and are pleasantly surprised at how well their health is managed through chiropractic. Next time, make chiropractic your first resort!
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