Chiropractic is an emerging health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and how this affect the nervous system and general health. Its fundamental principles are based on structure and its functions.
Musculoskeletal conditions such as sprains/strains, joint restrictions and muscle hypertonicity, are common causes of discomfort/pain and often lead to poor health and chronic disability. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including neck and low back pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.
Doctors of Chiropractic, also referred to as chiropractors, practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have:
- broad diagnostic skills,
- basic training (usually three years) on musckuloskeletal radiology,
- advanced knowledge of therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises,
- professional duty to provide nutritional and dietary advice.
Chiropractors use a wide range of therapeutic techniques to treat patients, depending on the presenting complaint; these range from passive stretching of hypertonic tissues to deep tissue work, nerve stretches and dynamic muscle reactivation. However, the most common therapeutic procedure performed by doctors of chiropractic is spinal manipulation, also called “chiropractic adjustment”. This consist of applying a controlled force into the affected joints. Joints may cause discomfort or pain due to tissue injury that may not always be traumatic, i.e. improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture for an extended period of time.
The purpose of manipulation is to impact the pain receptors, present in every joint. Such stimulation has been showed to lead to:
- decrease of pain intensity
- faster healing,
- increase general health,
- restore joint mobility, (for those joints that have become hypomobile, or restricted in their movement,
Occasionally, following a chiropractic manipulation, patients may experience mild soreness or aching, similar to some forms of exercise, that resolves within 12 to 48 hours.
Recent National Health Services guidelines across Europe and World Health Organization, recommend chiropractic care as the primary method of treatment for conditions such as lower back pain. However, chiropractic treatment may also be found useful in complement of other medical treatments by relieving symptoms associated with the condition
Doctors of chiropractic must assess patients through clinical examination to determine whether, or not, chiropractic treatment is appropriate. To ascertain the patient's condition, other diagnostic investigations may be required such as X-rays, muskuloskeletal sonography or laboratory testing; in such cases, chiropractors will make the necessary arrangements. Chiropractors will refer patients to other health care provider when chiropractic care is not suitable for the patient's conditions.