Chiropractic Care: Is it Right for You?

There are an estimated 70,000 chiropractors in the United States, though a person seeing a chiropractic office on practically every street corner might be tempted to think that is a conservative estimate.

Often called Doctors of Chiropractic and referred to as “doctor”, chiropractors usually go through 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience. Chiropractors must complete 5 years of schooling and pass 4 national boards to receive the degree Doctor of Chiropractic. Chiropractors are not licensed to prescribe drugs or perform surgery. Most practitioners will refer their patients to medical doctors if drugs or surgery is necessary.

But what does chiropractic care entail and will it benefit you?

Typically, a chiropractor, just like a medical doctor , will do a consultation, take a case history, perform a physical examination and if warranted take X-ray studies before beginning chiropractic treatment. A patient most often enters a chiropractor’s office with a musculoskeletal complaint such as lower back pain ,effects of whiplash from an automobile accident, or a sports injury.

Chiropractic is essentially manipulation of the spine by applied pressure of the hands, a device called an activator, or palpation of the affected spinal/muscular area. Some chiropractors utilize ultrasound, ice and other treatments such as massage and exercise to complement the spinal adjustment.

Most of the time when a spinal adjustment is made by a chiropractor, there is a release of gas that makes an audible cracking sound, similar to cracking one’s knuckles. This release after a chiropractic adjustment usually brings a sense of relief, though a few patients may experience temporary discomfort. When this gas release does not occur, the patient may not be sufficiently relaxed and the complementary treatments become necessary.

Two types of chiropractic practices are most commonly seen. One specializes in chiropractic care that focuses on specific complaints of the musculoskeletal conditions such as lower back pain, neck stiffness and pain, and tension headaches. Typically, these chiropractors feel that just a few visits should restore a person to their optimal self. There is some scientific evidence that this type of chiropractic care is effective for lower back pain, tension headaches, and migraines.
A second type of chiropractic care is more holistic in its approach. Practitioners believe that subluxations (a malposition of spinal bones that interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses) have a long-term effect on a patient’s health. Chiropractors who use this approach often offer nutritional counseling and/or supplements; prefer their patients to have long-term, on-going, “proactive” treatments; sometimes claim that their treatments prevent or even cure many diseases; and advocate eschewing medical treatments such as vaccinations or long-term medications.

There is very little scientific evidence for many of the claims presented. Some advocates of the holistic chiropractic approach say, among other claims, that chiropractic care reduces menstrual pain; ends infant colic; prevents ear infections in young children; cures asthma; prevents or cures food and environmental allergies. To date, there is only anecdotal evidence for these claims.

Once called “an unscientific cult”, chiropractic has gained acceptance and popularity in the last 40 years. More Americans want to live healthy lifestyles and are comfortable with the holistic, natural approach that chiropractic care offers in addition to traditional medical treatments.

Most insurance plans now offer some chiropractic coverage. And most chiropractors with the holistic approach to long-term care offer affordable monthly plans that are usually less than paying an insurance copay for each visit.

My family and I visit a chiropractor every other week. I have a predisposition to sciatica that runs in my family, and I believe that chiropractic adjustments keep the sciatica from getting worse. My daughters are healthy, but no healthier than their peers, and both of them have food allergies that chiropractic care does not address. But we believe that chiropractic care, practiced in conjunction with regular visits to our medical doctor, has benefits. It is my hope that my daughters do not have the family trait of sciatica as they grow up, and I believe that early chiropractic care can help with that.

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