Introduction to Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic is based on the concept that good health arises, in part, from a healthy nervous system and proper skeletal alignment.
Although many different chiropractic styles exist, all focus on the relationship between the spine and the nervous system. Through manual adjustments to the spine and other joints, chiropractic treatment may affect a wide variety of bodily functions. The goal is to support the body's own healing systems, toward health and balance.
Why Should You Consider Chiropractic Treatment?
- Chiropractic care is especially useful for pain conditions, such as back or neck pain, and headaches.
- Chiropractic is a primary choice for pain resulting from accidents or health conditions affecting skeletal structures.
- When done by a trained, licensed and experienced Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), chiropractic treatments are quite safe.
- Chiropractic care may be useful in a wide variety of disease conditions, including digestive complaints and stress-related disorders.
- Chiropractic works very well in complement to other therapies, including acupuncture, massage, and herbal treatment.
Basic Chiropractic History
The term chiropractic is from Greek words meaning "hand action," describing well the hands-on adjustments that are at the foundation of chiropractic care. D.D. Palmer established this health care practice in 1895. It is based on the concepts that:
- Health is a product of the body's own self-healing abilities.
- The skeletal system, as the framework upon which all other body functions take place, is a profoundly important part of good health.
- Misalignment of the skeletal structure interferes with the nervous system, which controls nearly every function in the body.
The basic concepts and hands-on adjustments that are the hallmark of modern chiropractic are ancient in origin. For over two thousand years, in China, India and Greece, doctors used adjustments of the skeletal structure to influence health. One such system, Chinese Tui Na and "Bone-setting," is still practiced.
Patients who choose chiropractic treatment largely suffer from pain-related health conditions. Low back pain, neck pain, repetitive stress injury, and headache are common complaints in every chiropractors office.
What is Subluxation?
Subluxation occurs when the spinal vertebrae move out of a normal position in relation to other vertebrae, creating pressure and irritation of the spinal nerves. Spinal nerves, emerging between the vertebrae, are the "root nerves" of the nervous system, the network by which the brain communicates with much of the body. Irritation of these nerves causes interference with the electrical signals passing through them, leading to pain or dysfunction in the part of the body controlled by that nerve.
Chiropractors also use the terms vertebral subluxation (VS) and vertebral subluxation complex (VSC), to refer to this misalignment. Subluxation, as a theory of health, is somewhat controversial in the chiropractic community and opinions vary widely on its clinical application.
What To Expect From a Chiropractic Appointment
During the first visit, chiropractors will gather a health history and perform physical examinations, including orthopedic assessments. The doctor may also take x-rays of the spine or other structures. From this information, a treatment plan will be formulated. The physical and x-ray examinations are important aspects of chiropractic care: some conditions of the bone and/or joints make adjustments riskier. This is why amateur chiropractic care remains a risky, even dangerous, activity.
Follow-up visits consist of further manual adjustments toward correcting the problems found in the initial diagnosis. Until the body "learns" the adjustment, follow-up treatments are needed.
Treatment may also include heat or ice packs, TENS or other micro-electrical stimulation, exercise, herbs and other dietary substances, and trigger point therapy.
How Many Visits Will Be Needed?
The number of visits required to effectively treat a given condition varies widely by individual and condition. For acute pain from a recent injury, a condition may be resolved in as few as two or three visits. For chronic, degenerative conditions, such as many back pain and headache complaints, a longer course of treatment will be required. An oft-quoted guideline for chronic conditions is that one month of treatment will be required for each year of the chronic ailment.
During the early years, as chiropractic established itself as a profession, there was much discussion of risks, especially concerning cervical (neck) adjustments. More recent research has found, however, that chiropractic is a low risk procedure. As one study described: A common medical treatment for pain is NSAIDs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. The risk of death, per year, due to abdominal bleeding from NSAID use is 400 in 1,000,000. The risk of death from a chiropractic adjustment is 1 in 4,000,000.
Costs and Insurance Coverage
Unlike other complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, chiropractic care is often covered by insurance. Many HMO and PPO providers cover chiropractic, though the number of visits per year may be limited. All state workers' compensation systems and Medicare/Medicaid cover the costs of treatments, at least in part. Chiropractic care is also frequently covered as a medical expense in personal injury cases.
The cost of a chiropractic visit varies by the specific techniques used during therapy. The basic adjustment is the most common item, with average costs ranging from $60 to $100. Additional fees may be applied for hot or cold packs, electrical stimulation, trigger point therapy, and other techniques.
Compared with other treatment options, chiropractic remains quite cost effective. The average cost of a chiropractic visit compares well against the average cost of an office visit to a primary care physician ($125-$250) plus prescriptions.
How Do I Find a Chiropractor?
There are many resources to find a chiropractor near you. Many are listed here on altMD.com.
Most chiropractors have clinic listings in your local yellow pages.
Other useful sites include: