As an alternative to a conventional doctor, a chiropractor is a medical doctor that practices what is typically considered alternative medicine. Focusing on the close relationship between the structural implications of the spine and nervous system, a chiropractor works to restore balance to the body, in turn treating many painful conditions and injuries. But what exactly does a chiropractor do? Below, let’s take an in-depth look at how a chiropractor works to heal painful backs and necks.
What is a Chiropractor?
Typically, considered alternative medicine, chiropractic care focuses on the treatment and care of neuromuscular disorders and conditions. While a chiropractor has several techniques and tools at his or her disposal, typically care is centered around manual manipulation and adjustments of the spine. The goal of a chiropractor is to reduce pain and to increase the overall functionality of the patients. A large portion of successful chiropractic treatment focuses on patient education so that patients can make healthy decisions through diet, exercise, and ergonomics.
A chiropractor centers his or her medical beliefs on the complicated relationship between the spine and the body’s nervous system. As a result, they believe that the alignment of the spine has a large influence on the central nervous system. Having a spine that is out of alignment can create unnecessary stress on different neurologic receptors. When pressure is applied to these receptors a person experiences pain or discomfort. By putting the spine back into correct alignment, the pressure is reduced, and painful symptoms alleviated.
How do chiropractors treat Pain?
Before a chiropractor begins any type of treatment a full evaluation is performed on the new patient. This includes three parts including the patient consultation, history of pain, and physical examination. The consultation includes learning about the source and severity of the pain, and what movements or habits create a painful sensation. Learning about the past history of the pain will examine the patient’s dietary habits and exercise routine, and past history of other injuries and conditions. Lastly, the physical examination will usually include some manual manipulation to determine if the joints are hypo mobile or fixated. In some cases, diagnostic tests may be performed including X-Rays.
Treating Back Pain
There are several back conditions and injuries that can be treated with chiropractic care. Injuries and conditions are usually classed into one of three categories. The first classification of back pain is potentially serious. This could be a fracture, tumor, or possible neurological condition. The second classification is a nerve related issue. Back pain that is related to nerve damage can include:
- Pinched Nerve
- Lumbar Herniated Disc
- Spinal Stenosis
Lastly, a back injury can be classified as non-specific, where the chiropractor cannot determine an immediate source of the pain.
Treating Neck Pain
Just like with back injuries and conditions, a chiropractor can help treat neck pain. Similarly, neck pain can be put into various classifications that help determine the severity and source of the pain. Common conditions or injuries that result in neck pain include:
- Herniated Disc
- Fractures, Sprains, and Strains
- Pinched Nerve
- Worn Joints
Just like the back, the neck is made up of various vertebra. Surrounding the structural elements of the back are neurological receptors that can cause pain sensations throughout the neck. If a receptor is compressed, stressed, or compromised, it can cause painful symptoms in the neuromuscular structure surrounding the displaced vertebra.
What are the Benefits of Chiropractic Care over Surgery?
The biggest benefit to working with a chiropractor instead of opting for surgery is the fact that chiropractic care is non-invasive. There is no need for an extended recovery period, as is the case with surgery. Further, chiropractor care leads to generally improved health. A chiropractor focuses on patient education to help improve exercise, ergonomics, and diet. Working with the patient to establish new, healthy habits promotes a lifetime of health while still healing and correcting immediate injuries and conditions.
Common Treatment Options
The most common treatment plan for chiropractic medicine is manual manipulation or adjustment. This involves manipulating faulty vertebrae that are either not functioning normally or have too much movement. This is done by short bursts of pressure applied by a short arm lever. There is a subsequent crack that occurs when gas within the joints is released, thus relieving joint pressure.
Typically, the most common side effect people experience following manipulation is mild muscle soreness or tenderness which subsides in 24 hours. Other possible techniques a chiropractor can use include massage, exercise, electric stimulation, hydrotherapy, and dietary management.