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It's a good question and one that many people world-wide are asking more and more. Something else that many are becoming aware of and moving toward is the regimen that dealing with the cause of a condition or illness is more logical than just attempting to attack the symptoms. Symptoms are just that – the obvious result of an underlying condition, the cause of which is needing attention.
Where chiropractic care is coming more and more to the fore is from this very position – take care of the condition, not only the symptoms. Care for the symptoms while the cause is being dealt with, yes; however it is vital that we do not lose sight of the more natural and logical path to follow in the area of the human body.
Chiropractic care is based on the premise that the body is governed by its nervous system. In cases where this has been upset from its normal, healthy function by a subluxation in the body's skeletal (bone) structure is where we naturally turn to chiropractic – to help restore normal, ‘natural’ function to the joints and reduce nerve message distortion! The result of this successful adjustment is a body in harmony with itself and with its surroundings. Bodily harmony in relation to the spinal vertebrae and other bones can result in 'reduced pain'. In turn, reduced pain also leads to physical and mental harmony; each one feeds (or serves) the other.
Rather than resorting to drugs or even surgery, many people are discovering that chiropractic care can often help out the problem, and in a relatively short period.
Just some examples of where chiropractic research is heading include its affect on:
As can be seen from this list of a few of the conditions found to be assisted through chiropractic attention, it isn't only the most obvious 'bone-related' disorders that can receive lasting benefits from chiropractic care.
Chiropractors work on the principle of reducing interference so the nervous system and body can work better. Providing that any symptom or condition is occurring as a result of nerve interference from vertebral subluxation, there is a very good chance that it will improve with chiropractic care.
A subluxation in chiropractic terms is merely another word for a slight dislocation, misalignment or joint dysfunction of one or more of the spinal joints. They tend to irritate or aggravate the nerve roots coming from the spinal cord itself. The results of a subluxation may by pain, muscle changes or organ dysfunction – depending on which nerves are being affected.
The simplest description for a chiropractic adjustment is that it is a specific movement of the spine or other area of the body to correct the lost or aberrant movement of vertebrae or a joint. There's really nothing more complicated about an adjustment than this. Of course there are many ways for a chiropractor to effect an adjustment and just as many ways to describe the procedure.
Depending on where on the body the adjustment has to be made determines the style and form of the procedure. Generally speaking, though, a chiropractic adjustment involves a specific and controlled pressure or force being applied in a specific direction to a fixed or locked joint in order to 'unseize' it. The purpose of this procedure is to improve the spinal function, nervous system function, remove muscle tension, and boost general health.
After years of training and clinical experience, each chiropractor at our practices is highly skilled in delivering a variety of trusted adjustment methodologies for your health and wellness.
Knowing what to expect when you visit a chiropractor helps to dissipate any apprehension or even fear you may have beforehand. Being prepared for that rather unnerving 'pop' as your joint or back undergoes an adjustment is half the battle to relaxing and getting better!
So what causes the loud popping sound you hear as you're being adjusted?
It's all a matter of gases – more accurately the sudden release of gases around the joint being adjusted - as simple as that. As to what causes the gases to make this sound is also simple: each joint, especially in the spinal joints, is lubricated by a fluid not unlike egg white. This fluid ensures smoothness of movement and cushioning of the joint from shock and stresses. It essentially permits a silky action for the joint, reducing friction on the bone through all its planes of movement.
As with most fluids there are air bubbles (carbon dioxide and nitrogen) contained within its flowing substance. As your chiropractor carries out the adjustment the joint opens and releases the gases with a 'pop'.
The fluid then returns to its proper location around the joint and continues to carry out its function of lubrication and carrying waste products away from the area.
A question asked only rarely of chiropractic procedures these days. One could just as easily ask "How safe is it going to the gym"? Or, "How safe is indoor rock-climbing"? Even, "How safe is it getting out of bed"? Yes, chiropractic is safe, possibly safer, than most things. With everything there's a risk of sorts – chiropractic is no different. In the same way as you risked your neck putting it out, there's a very minimum risk when it goes back in! Seriously, chiropractic care is very safe, if only for the fact that those who practice the art do so from a highly trained standpoint.
Chiropractors perform their adjustments or re-alignments on millions of people around the world every working day with the resulting relief and easing of pain provided for countless sufferers. The very rare risk of infrequent strain/injury to a ligament or disc in the neck (less than 1 in 139,000) or the lower back (1 in 62,000) is really too low to be too concerned over. The comparison of chiropractic care and a course of anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate the pain of a mis-alignment has demonstrated conclusively that chiropractic is 250 times safer (1).
Yes, you may feel a little sore for a day or two after your chiropractic adjustment. This is mainly due to the body's process of re-adjusting itself after its period of being subluxated. As to there being any particular concerns over visits to the chiropractor and the care you receive at their hands, it has been shown that there is no more risk having gone to see your friendly chiropractor for an adjustment than visiting your local GP for a medical consultation.
By comparison with other medical disciplines, where chiropractic care is concerned cases of serious injury are practically nonexistent.
Global risk-aware insurance companies recognise the safety of today's chiropractic care; the premiums for malpractice insurance paid by chiropractors are a mere fraction of what medical practitioners must pay - chiropractic care is safe.
1 Maigne R. Orthopedic Medicine: A New Approach to Vertebral Manipulations. Springfield, Illinois, Charles C. Thomas. 1972; 155, 169.
Cyriax J. Textbook of Orthopaedic Medicine. Vol 1. Diagnosis of soft tissue lesions (7th edition). London, Bailliere Tindall. 1978; 165.
Hosek RS, Schram SB, Silverman H, Meyers JB. Cervical Manipulation. J Amer Med Assoc. 1981; 245:922.
Gutmann G. Verletzungen der arteria vertebrailis durch manuelle therapie. Manuelle Medizin 1983; 21:2-14.
Dvorak J, Orelli F. How dangerous is manipulation of the cervical spine? Manuel Med 1985; 2:1-4.
Regardless of the adjusting technique, chiropractic care is tailored to each individual's age, condition and spinal problem. An example of this is with children under care. Children generally have more mobile joints, and therefore, require less force in order to attain the desired effect of the adjustment.
In addition to varying the amount of force used, adjustment frequency will also be customised to the individual. Different conditions require different intensities in visit schedules. Our chiropractors will tailor a specific care plan for you that takes into account a number of factors. These factors include (but are not limited to), the results of x-rays, physical examination findings, what tissue is involved (eg. ligament, tendon, muscle, disc, organ), how long you have had the condition, the amount of inflammation and intensity of pain being experienced, and the presence of any unavoidable aggravating factors to your condition (eg. your occupation or degeneration).
The chiropractor evaluates each patient's unique spinal problem and develops an individual course of care. Each visit builds on the one before. While visits may seem similar, each patient's care is uniquely different from every other patient's.
These days what is elderly? What used to be considered 'old' at 60 is now only 'senior' at 80! How many people can you think of who look as though they're in their fifties, and then you discover they are well over 65 or even 70?
To find that you're adding on the years can be a little daunting for some – but it doesn't mean that you have to put up with the discomfort of aching backs, shoulders or limbs. What tends to happen though is that aching limbs and joints are often disregarded due to the "I'm just getting old" syndrome. Well, just because you may be adding a few years, is no reason to put up with pain or even discomfort.
Senior age groups often ask whether they can take advantage of chiropractic care and if it will help to alleviate problems with shoulder, hip and other joints without jeopardising them. The answer is a definite 'yes'. There are a number of treatable conditions of the body as age increases; we just have to know precisely where the condition is and what is causing it. The first step is to ask the question of a chiropractor – if you don't ask the question you will never know the answer. "Can you do anything for me"(?) is probably the simplest approach to your chiropractor. He or she will then be able to examine the facts of your individual circumstances, assess the pain and its causes and then tell you what, if anything, can be done for you. More often than not, regardless of your age, a remedy of care can be found for your specific condition. The result will invariably be greater mobility and your body's ability to function better.
Many modern seniors are tending to shy away from over-medication for pain-relief, realising that through chiropractic care they are becoming pain-free and mobile to do the things they want to do, but without the fear of side-effects.
The concern that some have is in connection with chiropractic care and osteoporosis or other ailments – this doesn't have to be a concern because, with the necessary modifications applied to the individual's condition, chiropractic nurture is being used on a regular basis to alleviate such conditions with no after or side effects. Indeed, many senior recipients of chiropractic care are consistently reporting freedom from pain and a markedly improved mobility, coupled with a noticeable reduction in arthritic symptoms.
Another often-asked question in our practice is "How safe are chiropractic procedures during pregnancy"?
Many women experience back pain during pregnancy due to the extra and unusual weight placed on the spine. Provided that the chiropractic procedure is carried out gently and with the extra care required in order not to create any detrimental affect on the expectant mum or baby, there is no good reason why chiropractic wouldn't provide relief from discomfort.
In fact studies have shown that by providing a consistent programme of chiropractic care for the mum-to-be in pregnancy the nervous system and spine display healthy benefits before, during and after the birth. There is certainly no need to cease chiropractic care due to pregnancy – posture is equally important at any time, perhaps even more so during pregnancy. As with anything else in life where common sense rules should be applied, and particularly involving the body, provided that care is sensitively followed there is little likelihood of anything untoward resulting.
Regular adjustments as deemed necessary by the chiropractor should be carefully considered allowing for the individual circumstances. Post natal chiropractic has also been found to have beneficial effects for a return to normal spine and pelvic posture.
In short, and as a general rule, chiropractic care may be applied safely through all stages of pregnancy and thereafter.
Chiropractic procedures, as mentioned elsewhere, are created for individuals. Whereas there is no 'standard' treatment for heart surgery in medicine so it is with chiropractic care and how your spine is affected by the stress or injury to it. You, as an individual, need to be cared for as such. It is common sense that someone aged 11 with a subluxation in the spine will require less pressure during the procedure to correct, and possibly fewer adjustments than, say, a 50 year old whose muscles and skeleton may not be as pliable.
Chiropractic procedures are tailored to the individual patient's general condition, spinal situation and age. Also taken into consideration would be any special circumstances or illness the patient may have that could affect the care provided by the chiropractor. Naturally differing circumstances will, to a certain degree, dictate the type of procedure offered and the frequency. These circumstances will vary from the type of tissue requiring attention – nerves, muscles, organs, ligaments or tendons – the level of damage and pain and what effects there may be, if any, of the patient's occupation.
However, when we compare the actual quality of care we find no difference between those in receipt of chiropractic care – each individual receives the same care according to the individual!
Pain, although generally a good indicator that something within the body needs attending to, is not always the best method for judging what condition it enjoys. Sometimes we can become 'acclimatised' to the body's state and what ordinarily would be considered 'pain' is what we regard as a normal part of our daily life – a mild discomfort that's to be endured because...we've had it for a while! It has become just something that you accept.
The lack of pain per se is not necessarily a good signpost to the condition your spine is in. To use an example most of us are familiar with – a water leak may not always show us immediately where it starts. Often water will enter at point 'A' but not be seen until it reaches point 'F'. We say that it 'tracks' from its point of entry and winds and finds it way to an exit point. Pain has a similar habit of originating at a certain point, say, on the spine where either bad posture over a period of time or an injury we didn't even notice sets up an irritation of the nerves. The pain then tracks up or down to a point at which we now feel it. It may be severe or, in many cases, hardly felt at all except for the occasional 'twinge'.
The only way to establish if your spine is 'where it should be' in relation to the rest of your body is to ask someone trained and experienced in the art of chiropractic to check you over. It isn't such a bad idea to get yourself some regular maintenance checks, in the same way as you do your car – if it's good enough for a collection of metal, plastic and glass it is surely good enough for a bundle of bones, especially when its the only bundle you possess.
If your wish is for your body to function at its best, free of pain or disability it makes great sense to get it checked out. Some people wait for teeth to start aching before they visit the dentist, by which time it is invariably too late to save the tooth. Not only that but a tooth filled with decay slowly affects the whole body eventually, and that means its physical and mental performance. Quality of life is important for peak fitness and vice versa; only by having a spine that's functioning properly can we enjoy a full and active life. This entails getting someone who knows to give regular chiropractic care checks to establish your true state of fitness.
Well, of course, the straight answer to this is that you can continue your visits to the chiropractor for as long as you wish to benefit from chiropractic care. It is all a matter of consideration of the prevailing circumstances and your condition – not forgetting your frame of mind once your chiropractor has brought your body back to a normal happy state.
There are essentially three ways of looking at the question:
Any of these scenarios would work well, except that the latter two would probably make more sense because by following this course your risk of the condition worsening would be less.
There are several factors which could influence the 'healing time' once you've had your adjustment. These include, but aren't restricted to: your age, the severity and length of time you've had the condition; nutrition – what you eat can make a difference to your recovery; occupation, posture and stress. All things considered it is probably wise to speak with your chiropractor to determine the after-care your individual condition will require and if it is best served by continued visits.