What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractors are primary healthcare practitioners that focus on injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system(1). People often seek out chiropractic treatment for complaints such as back pain, neck pain, headaches or pain in the shoulders, arms, legs or feet(1).
An initial chiropractic consultation will involve a full patient history, examination and diagnostic testing. If required X-Rays may be requested, and a referral can be provided by the chiropractor.
Treatment should focus around manual therapy, primarily joint adjustments, manipulation or mobilization, with the goal of restoring mobility to the joints. Additionally soft tissue techniques are often included to support the adjustments. There is a strong connection between the skeletal and muscular systems and if one is not functioning correctly, it is likely that the other is also being affected.
Chiropractic adjustments should not cause discomfort. However some patients may experience mild soreness following a treatment, which usually resolves within 24-48 hours(1).
One of the most common patient presentations to a chiropractor is for low back pain. Research has shown the use of chiropractic care, specifically spinal manipulation, for acute and chronic low back pain to be beneficial when compared to general practitioner care, placebo and prescription NSAID medication(2).
What is spinal manipulation?
Spinal manipulation is one of the primary therapies used by a chiropractor and they spend 5 years learning and mastering how to perform spinal adjustments. The accuracy and specificity in adjusting the spine is what sets chiropractors apart from other spinal manipulative therapists. Spinal manipulation or adjustments can be best described as a high velocity, low amplitude thrust that is applied to a specific joint in a specific direction. We move the joint into a certain position and the term thrust is then used, but picture a very small scale, not metres, not centimetres, we are talking millimetres. The movement is very small, controlled but specific and done with speed, this is important as it serves to release, reset or restore movement to the joint.
Thus the purpose of spinal manipulation it to restore mobility to an area of the spine that has some restricted movement. This can be from direct trauma like a fall, lifting heavy objects or a sports injury(1). In contrast injuries can also come from repetitive stress such as sitting or sleeping for prolonged periods in awkward postures(1).
1. American Chiropractic Association; http://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Why-Choose-Chiropractic/What-is-Chiropractic, 2016
2. Bronfort G, Haas M, Evans RL, Bouter LM. Efficacy of spinal manipulation and mobilization for low back pain and neck pain: a systematic review and best evidence synthesis. Spine Journal; 2004 May-Jun;4(3):335-56.