According to the American Chiropractic Association, more than 90 percent of past-year chiropractic patients consider it to be an effective treatment.
The word “chiropractic” literally means “done by hand,” which is a perfect way to describe an approach to pain management that’s based on strategic manipulations. Primarily, the various adjustments associated with chiropractor care are meant to support and restore optimal functioning of the nervous system. Appealing benefits commonly associated with chiropractic treatment include the ability to possibly delay or avoid surgery and the possibility of relying less on medication for ongoing pain management.
Reasons for Chiropractic Care
While chiropractic care isn’t usually advised for patients with severe arthritis of the spine, cancer in the spine, or excessive spinal instability, there are many other conditions and sources of discomfort that often respond well to adjustments. One of the most common reasons to schedule a chiropractic session is because of non-specific low back pain (LBP) that’s likely related to muscle tension or misalignment of the spine. Other issues that may be treated or managed with appropriate manipulations include:
- Hip, pelvic, or shoulder pain
- Upper and middle back and neck pain
- Plantar fasciitis and some other sources of foot or ankle pain
- Disc herniation
- Pain related to disc degeneration or mild arthritis
- Headaches or migraines
How Chiropractic Treatments Work
During an initial visit, expect to be asked questions about your health and the nature of your discomfort. You’ll also undergo a physical examination. Image tests may also be performed to determine or confirm the source of your symptoms so adjustments can be correctly performed. Adjustments typically take place while lying down on a specially designed table. A certain amount of pressure is applied strategically to specific areas to relieve tension, stimulate the nervous system, and realign joints or bones of the spine.
There are many different types of chiropractor adjustments that may be used, with common ones including the direct thrust technique (spinal manipulation), spinal mobilization performed with slower, gentler motions, and articulatory adjustments that target affected joints to increase range of motion. With myofascial release, membranes that cover, support, and connect muscles are targeted. Functional techniques are performed to improve overall mobility. Special handheld tools may be used during some sessions. Treatments may also involve:
- Stretching exercises
- Massage therapy
- Electrical stimulation
- Hot or cold applications
- Lifestyle recommendations (e.g., weight loss, regular exercise, posture improvements, diet changes)
Chiropractic Care Benefits for Patients
Physically adjusting vertebrae and performing other treatments may result in a noticeable reduction in discomfort, improved mobility, and increased range of motion with certain joints. There’s also research suggesting chiropractic adjustments may lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation around joints, vertebrae, nerves, and discs, and facilitate the body’s natural healing process by improving circulation.
Dating to the late 1800s, chiropractic care is now something more than 50 million Americans take advantage of each year. When performed by a trained and licensed professional, chiropractic adjustments are widely considered to be safe for most individuals within various age groups. Results will vary based on patient-specific factors and the reason for seeking chiropractic care.