By: Melissa Trost, DC
What is chiropractic care?
Chiropractic care is a conservative, non-invasive health care profession that focuses mainly on treating neuromusculoskeletal disorders (nervous system, muscles, bones, and joints). The main type of treatment used is called a chiropractic adjustment. This is a specific, high velocity, low amplitude force that is applied to a joint in order to restore its function and mobility as well as its connection to the nervous system.Aside from the adjustment portion of treatment, which is what makes Doctors of Chiropractic unique in their approach to treating patients, chiropractic care may also include, but is not limited to the following:
-heat and cold therapy
-corrective and therapeutic exercise and stretching
-soft tissue therapies both manually or with the use of professional tools
-motor nerve stimulation
-TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation)
-x-ray imaging and imaging interpretation
-nutritional counseling and lifestyle modification
Is chiropractic safe?
Chiropractic care is recognized as one of the safest non-invasive forms of treatments for many neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Cervical (neck) adjustments are used very commonly (often at every treatment visit) to help improve neck function and mobility, reduce muscle tension and spasms, and alleviate pain. There have been very, VERY rare reported cases where upper cervical adjustments have caused vertebral artery dissections (a type of stroke). Many of these cases however have taken place in patients who had a pre-existing arterial disease. Vertebral artery dissections are associated with everyday activities such as turning the head to look over the shoulder or tilting the head back to have a shampoo at a hair salon. Studies show that the incidence of these injuries which occur after a high velocity upper cervical adjustment are extremely uncommon – approximately 1 in 100,000 patients – similar to the incidence of stroke in the general population.
Doctors of Chiropractic are very careful to take a thorough history as well as perform specific tests to gain as much information about their patients as possible to ensure maximum safety. It is just as important for a patient to be very honest and specific with their doctor if they are experiencing or have experienced any type of extreme neck or head pain. When performed by a skilled, well-educated Doctor of Chiropractic or other trained professional, cervical spine adjusting is a remarkably safe procedure. Chiropractors are well trained in not only the treatments that they provide, but in the ability to identify patients who may have risk factors associated with something more serious that would necessitate referral.
What is that loud “cracking” noise?
When a joint is manipulated (adjusted), a change of pressure occurs within the joint causing gas to be released. This “cracking” or “popping” noise is simply the sound of those gas bubbles releasing. It is the same concept as when you “crack” your knuckles. Your knuckles are not actually “cracking”, you are manipulating that joint and therefore causing a pressure change leading to released gas. Pretty neat, huh?
Will chiropractic care hurt me?
There is typically little to no pain during a chiropractic adjustment. Generally speaking, if you are not in pain prior to the adjustment, you most likely will not be in pain during the adjustment. Minor soreness after a visit however is completely normal. Drinking plenty of water, icing any sore areas, and performing light stretching can all help relieve any discomfort following treatment.
Are there any negative side effects to chiropractic care?
Soreness in the muscles or joints is a normal side effect following a chiropractic adjustment. The soreness experienced is due to the body adapting to the adjustment – the joints are now in a different, more aligned position, and the muscles that once may have been less active are now activated (similar to the concept of exercising the same muscle groups every day and not experiencing soreness, then swapping your routine to work out different muscle groups, and suddenly experiencing a new sense of soreness). Headaches or dizziness have been reported as a side effect following a cervical adjustment, however this is not common. It is always recommended to communicate with your doctor and inform them of any concerns you may have following treatment.
Will I be required to remove any clothing during my appointment?
Some procedures may require you to remove parts of clothing (such as during a shockwave or IASTM treatment), but most the time you will be fully clothed. If you ever have any concerns or feel uncomfortable, bring them up immediately with your doctor.
Are all patients adjusted/treated the same way?
No. Each patient’s care plan is unique and specific based on their health condition, age, body type, etc. Your chiropractor will design a specific care plan for you to fit your needs.
What kind of education/training does my chiropractor have?
Doctors of Chiropractic typically go into chiropractic college with a prior 4 year degree already obtained – usually in a healthcare related field of undergraduate study. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, DC’s are educated in numerous areas of study over the course of 3-4 years including such courses as anatomy, physiology, neurology, orthopedics, diagnostic imaging, exercise and rehab, nutrition, clinical diagnoses, and adjusting/technique classes. The last year of schooling is spent in an outpatient clinic treating patients under a licensed physician.
Does my medical doctor need to refer me to a chiropractor?
No, although some medical doctors may refer their patients to a chiropractor, no referral is needed.
How often should I see my chiropractor?
This varies from individual to individual. However, chiropractic care should be treated similarly to any other type of care. This question is similar to asking “how many times should I exercise at the gym?” If you want to enjoy the benefits of chiropractic care and remain pain free or be proactive about treating or managing current injuries or pain, then a steady regime of chiropractic care is recommended. Getting treated one time will only cause a very short term, temporary relief of symptoms and is not recommended for maximum benefits. The duration and frequency of treatment will vary based on a person’s current condition. Your chiropractor will customize a proper treatment plan that is specific to your personal health needs.
Can I receive chiropractic care if I’m pregnant or breast feeding?
Yes! During pregnancy, many physiologic changes occur within the mother’s body in order to prepare an environment for the baby to grow in, and later to prepare the mother’s body for labor. Postural changes, pelvic misalignments, and muscle imbalances are all common occurrences during pregnancy. A misaligned pelvis may limit the amount of space available for the developing fetus. This limited space is known as intrauterine constraint, something that chiropractic care may be able to help with. Keeping the joints of the body, especially the pelvic joints, mobile and in alignment as well as helping to keep the muscles relaxed can help to alleviate some of the discomfort that the mother may experience during pregnancy. Chiropractic care has also been shown to help relieve symptoms of nausea, reduce labor time, prevent cesarean deliveries by keeping the baby out of breech positioning, and maintain an overall healthy pregnancy.
Can my children receive chiropractic care?
Yes! Chiropractic care is safe for people of all ages, including babies and children. Babies undergo one of the most traumatic experiences of life during the process of birth and providing chiropractic care early on can help to ensure proper and healthy development of the forming joints. The first five years of life is when the body is producing the highest amount of neural pathways. Chiropractic care can benefit by aiding in proper communication of the nervous system to the musculoskeletal system. In babies, it has also been shown to help with colic, sleep issues, and nursing dysfunction. Children are usually very active, and chiropractic care for them is important as well! The joints in a child are the same as the joints in an adult, except that they are not fully formed yet. They are much more cartilaginous making them more flexible. The adjustments are the same as with an adult, but simply require less force.
What type of conditions can chiropractic care treat?
Chiropractors treat a very wide variety of conditions, mainly focusing on the musculoskeletal system. Some of the most common conditions treated however include back pain, neck pain, headaches or migraines, shoulder pain, knee pain, sciatica, and overall muscle pain. Hundreds of other conditions may be treated or managed by a chiropractor.