What is Chiropractic Therapy? Chiropractic therapy is a health care profession that focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how this relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills encompassing all systems of the body as well as screening for contraindications to spinal manipulative therapy. The main therapeutic tool employed by chiropractors is manipulation/adjustment of the spine, other joints, and soft tissues.
Chiropractic Therapy procedures are carried out without drugs or surgery. They are non-invasive therapies that are viewed as one among several options for the treatment of conditions caused by problems with bones, muscles, nerves, joints, ligaments, and tendons. The specific problem within the body can be assessed and treated by a combination of spinal manipulation, mobilization, massage, and/or stretching exercises.
Chiropractors also use other alternative treatments such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, rehabilitation exercises, and lifestyle counseling to complement their care.
Many people use the words “chiropractic” and “back pain” or “neck pain” together in sentences, but this is a little misleading. Chiropractors do treat back and neck pain with spinal manipulation, which can be incredibly helpful for certain kinds of aches and pains. However, chiropractors also use other therapies that may help alleviate your back or neck pain without manipulating your spine.
If you’re experiencing non-severe lower back pain from muscle strain or ligament sprains, a skilled manual therapist may be able to relieve much of your discomfort. If you have a herniated disc in your lumbar spine, there’s a good chance that spinal manipulation will not be gentle enough to use on you.
Chiropractic therapy is the largest alternative medicine profession, with approximately 60,000 practitioners in the United States alone. One of its main principles is that misalignment of the spine can interfere with a person’s nervous system and rob them of their health.
According to chiropractors, many conditions are related to problems in the spine or “subluxations” (a term meaning slight misalignments). They often include general back pain and some types of neck pain. A small percentage of cases even claim relief from other ailments like allergies, asthma, acne, colic, flu, menstrual cramps, ulcers, restless leg syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In a chiropractor’s office, patients typically lie on a special table as the chiropractor applies gentle to moderate force to the spine. In addition, some chiropractors use other therapies such as massage and ultrasound, while others take x-rays of the spinal column. Chiropractors who promote manipulation as a remedy for health problems beyond back or neck pain may be viewed skeptically by mainstream medicine. Some chiropractors also offer dietary advice and vitamin supplements, which have not been scientifically shown to relieve symptoms of illness.
Several studies have looked at how well manual therapy works to treat lower back pain. A 2016 study that combined data from 19 previous studies found that was “an effective treatment” for lower back pain. A 2011 review of the research found that spinal manipulation may help with acute low back pain, but “it seems doubtful that SM is effective for CLBP [chronic lower back pain].”
Doctors and chiropractors agree that it’s important to strengthen the muscles surrounding your spine and to maintain healthy back habits — such as moving properly and getting enough exercise — in order to avoid future discomfort. However, most medical doctors say there isn’t enough proof yet to recommend chiropractic therapy as a main treatment option for anything beyond short-term muscle or joint problems.
A chiropractor’s training in medical diagnosis is very different from that of a medical doctor, and they may not spot important health issues unrelated to the spine. The American Chiropractic Association provides more information about chiropractic benefits.
Chiropractors are primary care providers for many patients. However, most mainstream doctors do not recommend using chiropractors as primary treatment for anything beyond muscle or skeletal problems. The reason for this is simple: There isn’t enough scientific evidence yet to show that chiropractic therapy helps with anything beyond back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions, such as neck pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, athletic injuries, bursitis, fibromyalgia, ankle sprains, arthritis
Finally, when you visit a chiropractor, keep in mind that:
A chiropractor cannot bill Medicare and most health insurance companies for the treatment of non-musculoskeletal conditions. Medicare and other insurers do not pay for chiropractic services except when they are used to treat neuromusculoskeletal problems, such as back pain.
A chiropractor cannot legally claim to be able to cure diseases. Be wary of chiropractors who say that their treatments can help a wide range of conditions. Finally, always ask your doctor about changes to your treatment plan and what work you should have next. You should not rely on a chiropractor’s advice as a substitute for sound medical judgment.
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*** Chiropractors are not adequately trained in dietary counseling, which means they are inadequately qualified to give such advice. Furthermore, there is no evidence that chiropractic treatment has any additional benefits beyond treating back pain and other musculoskeletal problems.