What Is Chiropractic?
Welcome to the exciting world of Chiropractic. If you have never heard of the term chiropractic, it means, ‘done by hand’. It is a natural, complimentary /alternative, hands-on, drug free, surgery free approach to health.
Chiropractic has a very long history dating back to 1895 when the first official manipulation/adjustment was given. Since its inception, Chiropractic has risen to become the third most used primary health care profession in the world after medicine and dentistry.
Chiropractic works on the premise that good health is partially dependent on a normally functioning spine and nervous system.
How does Chiropractic work?
A Chiropractor’s main concern is your spine and nervous system and how well both are functioning. The spine is made up of 24 individual moveable vertebrae. It starts just below the base of your skull and ends in the centre between the hips.
Although each vertebra is separate, they are all connected together by ligaments and muscles, which enable the entire spine to function as one dynamic unit. There are 7 neck (cervical) vertebrae, 12 mid back (thoracic) and 5 lower back (lumbar) vertebrae, with a cartilaginous disc in between each vertebra. This disc is there to help cushion and absorb shock, reduce friction between the vertebrae and to allow increased movement to occur within the spine.
A pair of spinal nerves exists between each vertebra. Each one of the 31 pairs of nerves comes from the spinal cord, which runs the length of the spine, and extends outward to form a complex network which ultimately supplies and influences every organ, tissue and cell in the body.
It is a Chiropractor’s task to evaluate the biomechanical structure of the spine to ensure that each one of the individual vertebra are moving freely and are not displaced or fixed in any way. Any such displacement or jammed vertebra can cause the spinal nerve that exits from the intervertebral foramen/opening, to become irritated either through direct pressure or through indirect stimulation/irritation. Therefore any problem in any one of the vertebral joints can affect the related part of your nervous system which in turn can lead to such symptoms as pain in the back or neck as well as many other spinal problems.
It is a Chiropractor’s task to evaluate and identify any problem that might exist within the spine and to correct any dysfunction that might be present.
What causes such Neuromusculoskeletal conditions?
An everyday action, such as a fall or an accident, lifting of heavy objects or even high stress levels, can cause any of the moveable vertebrae to lose its normal motion. This causes the joint to become fixed or jammed, which in turn can lead to further irritation of both the joint and the nerve. Irritation of the joint may result in spasm of the surrounding muscle, which can lead to a trigger point developing within the muscle.
Irritation of the nerve can lead to pain in the vicinity of the joint or it nay cause referral of pain elsewhere in the body. Alternatively the nerve’s functioning may be altered causing either an increase or decrease in nerve sensitivity.
Who can benefit from Chiropractic Care?
Due to the fact that chiropractic is a non-invasive treatment option, virtually anyone can benefit from chiropractor care. This includes:
- Babies and Children: who suffer from spinal problems, as they grow older and their nervous system adapts.
- Pregnant women: chiropractors can help insure an easier delivery and minimize backache.
- Office workers: who often sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time. Computer work often results in back and/or neck problems because of poor posture and very little physical exercise.
- Factory Workers: who spend much of their time performing repetitive activities.
- The elderly: who have years of wear and tear on the body which can leave them more susceptible to different spinal problems.
- Athletes: who are constantly striving to improve their performance and who often push their bodies to the limit in order to achieve their goals. Such constant stress on the body can, in time, cause much strain and in later years many neuromusculoskeletal problems can develop.
When should I see a Chiropractor?
Chiropractic care has been known to treat and help almost any condition that is nerve, muscle or joint related. Such neuronusculoskeletal conditions, can range from neck pain, headaches including migraines, whiplash, shoulder pain, arm and elbow pain tingling in arms and hands, all the way to back pain, hip pain, leg pain, sciatic, knee pain and even foot pain. Therefore any condition that is related to any joint in the body can potentially be helped through Chiropractic care.
Although most Chiropractors predominantly focus on the spine and how it is functioning, the biomechanics of the upper and lower limbs is also of great importance.
How will the Chiropractor Locate My Problem?
Your Chiropractic care will start with the taking of a complete health history. Questions such as what type of pain do you have, where the pain is, how did the pain start and so forth will be asked. He/she will also ask questions about your past health history, family history, and any other conditions that you might previously have suffered from.
After the case history has been taken, a complete physical exam will be performed in order to assess your condition. It will include analyzing your posture, testing your range of motion, testing reflexes and carrying out other neurological; and orthopaedic tests. Together, all these tests will help give your Chiropractor a greater knowledge of what the cause of the problem might be. If needed X-rays or laboratory tests may be required,. This is not always necessary and your Chiropractor will determine if and when such tests are necessary.
How will the Chiropractor treat my problem?
If your Chiropractor determines that your case can be treated through Chiropractic care, he/she will seek to remove any fixations present. Treatment generally consists of highly specialized manipulative techniques often referred to as adjustments. Such adjustments are performed by hand and consist of a high velocity; low amplitude thrust being applied to a specific vertebra in the spine.
Adjustments are safe and some patients can experience immediate relief as the normal joint motion is restored and the nerve is freed of any restrictive pressure or irritation. However, some patients require a few treatments in order to correct the problem. No two patients are the same, so be a patient patient as your body starts to realign itself and learns to adapt to the changes that are occurring.
What does the research say?
Over the past few years, much research has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of Chiropractic manipulative treatment. Research has shown that 80 – 90% of people will suffer from lower back pain at least once in their lifetime and that it is the second leading reason why people will visit a health care professional.
Lower back pain is second only to the common cold. Furthermore, lower back pain is the most common reason for visits to orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and medical practitioners and the third most common reason for surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions?
Are Chiropractors opposed to medical treatment?
Certainly NOT. Chiropractors recognize that there are many things that can go wrong with the body and frequently either medication or surgery are the only appropriate option. Each Chiropractor is trained to know when they can help and when it is time to refer the patient to another health care provider.
What causes the sound of a manipulation/adjustment?
When some adjusting techniques are applied, a popping/cracking sound may be heard. This sound is merely due to the gas and fluid inside the joint shifting around. It’s much like opening a can of coke. However, the sound has nothing to do with the quality of the manipulation/adjustment.
Will my medical aid pay for Chiropractic care?
Virtually all medical aids provide reimbursement for Chiropractic care. However, it depends on each person’s payment plan as to the extent to which they are covered. The best option to find out if you are covered to receive Chiropractic care is to contact your medical aid and ask them yourself.
Is Chiropractic care covered by workman’s compensation (COIDS)?
Yes, since 1994, Chiropractic care has been covered by Workman’s Compensation also known as COIDS (Compensation for Occupational Injury and Disease). Therefore any injury which occurs whilst on duty may be treated by a Chiropractor without referral from another physician. All costs, including X-rays, if necessary, will be reimbursed by COIDS.
Second only to the common cold, lower back pain is the most common cause for loss of man hours at work each year. Experience in the USA shows that Chiropractic care costs up to 50% less than comparable medical care and requires 50% less sick leave before returning to work.
Are there any risks associated with Chiropractic care?
As with everything in life and every medical intervention, Chiropractic care does have its own set of risks. These can include an aggravation of any inflammatory condition, neuromusculoskeletal sprain/strain, osseous dislocation or fracture and very rarely a vertebral artery syndrome. These potential risks should be considered when making your decision to receive Chiropractic care, however, it is important to know that you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning (1>100 000) than suffering from a complication of a Spinal manipulation (1>1 000 000).
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Spine!
- You suffer from continuous back ache, neck ache and headaches.
- You have constant stressful feelings and tension in your muscles and joints.
- You feel stiffness throughout your spine.
- You cannot twist or turn your head or hips on either side, easily and equally.
- You have to crack your neck, back and other joints a lot.
- You have poor posture and when standing upright, your chin sticks out, one shoulder is higher than the other and one hip is higher than the other.
- Your heels wear out unevenly.
- Your foot or feet flare out when walking as opposed to facing forward.
- Sitting, standing or walking for any length of time is uncomfortable and sometimes even painful anywhere in the spine.
- You struggle to stand upright after bending forwards for any length of time.
Extract taken, with permission, from CASA 2008-2009 booklet.