What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic care is a specialized branch of health care that studies the close relationship between the nervous system (the nerves) and the musculoskeletal system (the spine, extremities, and all the muscles of the body). Chiropractors are primary health care practitioners (ie. doctors) that have expert knowledge and training to detect misalignments of the spine that cause improper functioning of these systems in the body. Chiropractors maintain that normal function of the nerves, joints and muscles, along with a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, proper nutrition and a positive attitude will keep the body performing at maximum efficiency and feeling great!
Most people describe the pain that they feel as “having a nerve pinched” or “having something out of place”. These descriptions are the best way to visualize how spinal misalignments affect a person and, although not totally accurate, are the best way to think about how a chiropractor helps people. The underlying cause of the pain that most people experience in these cases is exactly like a “pressure” or “pinching” on the nerve – chiropractors term this the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. Chiropractors fix this by correcting the alignment of a vertebrae that has caused locking of the joints, which affects the tissues that surround the nerve, which results in muscles overworking or going into spasm and this is what causes most people their pain. Sometimes the pain is very acute. Other times, it takes a long time for the compensation and adaptation patterns to occur.
Either way, CHIROPRACTIC WORKS because we focus on the cause of the problem. We restore the mobility of the locked joints, realign the spine, and release the spasm of the muscles. This ultimately takes the pressure off the nerve and your body can then function and move as it did before – often even better than before !!
How do Spinal Misalignments Occur?
Spinal misalignments (or Vertebral Subluxations, as they are scientifically named) occur when excessive loads are placed on the spinal column. Everyday activities, or specific injuries, such as trauma, sports, and improper sitting at the computer can cause stress and strain to the joints, muscles and discs of the spine to cause excessive wear and tear. Therefore, people of all ages are prone to the effects of vertebral subluxation. The signs of misalignment include pain, limitation of movement, muscle spasm, tender areas, locking of joints and even swelling. In some cases, you may not know you have a misalignment. Over many years, the spine can continue to deteriorate and become arthritic, especially in the lower neck and lower back areas of the spine, as well as the knees. This is much the same as dental cavities that can be present for a long time before causing pain, or heart disease that exists for years before causing a heart attack. That’s why regular spinal check ups are important for all ages.
Chiropractors receive extensive training to be able to detect and correct subluxations of the spine and extremities. Chiropractors maintain that normal functioning of the nervous system, along with proper diet, exercise and positive outlook on life can keep the body performing at maximum efficiency. Our job as chiropractors is to not only relieve your pain and correct your problem, but we also have a very important role in maintaining your health and in the prevention of disease processes.
How Does Chiropractic Work?
Chiropractors correct the misalignments in the spine and extremities by performing a chiropractic “adjustment”. The adjustment is a treatment where the chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply a very quick, precise, and safe amount of pressure directly on the problem area to correct the biomechanical alignment. The adjustment allow the joints to separate, often allowing a gas bubble to escape (this is the popping or cracking noise that you often hear during an adjustment).
The adjustment relieves the pressure on the joint and surrounding nerves, and allows better mobility and alignment. The adjustment can also be done with a small, spring-loaded instrument, called an ActivatorTM or very gently by using slow, controlled stretch of the muscle. The adjustment is generally painless and often provides immediate relief, regardless of the method used to adjust your spine. Since every person is built differently, and each person has a unique circumstance, treatments can vary greatly from one person to the next.
Chiropractors often use other modalities and physiotherapy equipment, such as ultrasound or electric muscle stimulation, to help relieve muscle spasm before or after an adjustment. Soft tissue therapies are also used, or a patient will be referred to the massage therapist for further muscle work, especially in chronic conditions. Laser therapy is excellent for many of the acute injuries and chronic conditions. If a patient’s health problem requires diet or nutrition counseling or there are other health issues, the chiropractor may also refer to the naturopath. Each patient’s health concerns are unique and must be addressed that way.
Qualifications of a Chiropractor
Chiropractors are primary health care practitioners, meaning that they are able to diagnose health conditions and carry the title “Doctor”. Therefore, no referral from a medical doctor is required to see a chiropractor. Chiropractic is the third largest provider of health care in Canada after medicine and dentistry, and it is the largest drugless health care profession in the world.
Chiropractors must have a minimum of two years University education and usually a three year post graduate degree before attending four years of specialized training at a Chiropractic College. Training for a Doctor of Chiropractic requires hundreds of rigorous hours and licensing examinations in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology, psychology, chiropractic technique and philosophy, clinical diagnosis, x-ray technology, nutrition, pediatrics and geriatrics. The focus of a chiropractor’s education is on anatomy and diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions (ie. conditions of the nerves, muscles and joints) of the body.
Low Back Pain And Chiropractic
Chiropractors are back specialists. Research studies show that chiropractic care is increasingly recognized as the most safe and effective treatment for most patients with low back pain. Chiropractic care is drug-free, hands on treatment that can treat the source of your pain.
Low back pain affects eight out of ten people at some point in their life. It is the most common reason for disability in the workplace, and will prevent many from enjoying their day-to-day activities. One of the reasons back pain is so common, is that it can be caused by so many different things, such as work injuries, car accidents, lifting, stress, poor posture and sports injuries.
Early subluxation is often the first sign of a back problem. This is why chiropractors advocate spinal check ups for all ages, including children. Small misalignments in the spine and early hints of low back pain or headaches in children can indicate more chronic problems that will surface later in life. Inactivity, heavy backpacks and high impact sport activities all put a child at greater risk for low back and neck problems later in life.
Back Problem Warning Signs
These are some symptoms which might indicate that you suffer from a back problem that can be helped by chiropractic care:
- difficulty standing up after any prolonged period of sitting
- low back pain/stiffness first thing in the morning
- pain in the hip, buttock, thigh, knee or foot
- leg pain with numbness, tingling and/or weakness
- back or leg pain with coughing or sneezing
- inability to turn or bend to each side equally
- unbalanced posture, especially with curvature of the spine
- pain that persists or worsens after 2 – 3 days
Always be assured that if your pain cannot be resolved by chiropractic care, or if your symptoms require further testing and imaging, such as a CAT scan or MRI, the chiropractic doctors at the Momentum Healing Arts Centre will make sure you receive an appropriate referral to another health care practitioner. We have a large network of medical and health care practitioners to refer to for investigation of your health problem.
Conditions Helped By Chiropractic
Remember that chiropractors treat the cause of your pain, not just the pain as a drug would by covering up the symptoms. Many conditions occur as a result of the stress to the spine and nervous system from the vertebral subluxation. These can be painful conditions, such as low back pain, sciatica, headaches, neck pain, leg or arm pain and numbness, and can be acute or chronic, depending on how long the spine has been compromised. Spinal curves and muscle imbalances are often a common consequence of chronic vertebral subluxation.
Other people, including children, may manifest their symptoms with conditions such as ear infections, colic, asthma, premenstrual syndrome and digestive problems. These are signs that the body’s immune system is not working well directly or indirectly due to stresses that the body and nervous system are under. For example, when a female with low back pain has the mobility restored to her spine with chiropractic adjustments, often one of the “side effects” is the improvement or disappearance of her premenstrual pain. This occurs because the nerves that cause low back pain are the same nerves that supply the female reproductive system, and once the stress is removed, the body can work better and without nerve interference! Many people report relief with digestive problems after receiving chiropractic care. Research over the last several years has studied chiropractic care for children with colic and found that symptoms often are relieved in just a few visits. More research is coming for children with ear infections and asthma as more and more chiropractic patients report good results with chiropractic care. By removing the nerve interference, the body can work better.
Many chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, scoliosis, and migraines are relieved and managed well with chiropractic care. Athletes, in particular, use chiropractic care for treatment of sports injuries, as well as performance enhancement.