By the skilful use of their hands, chiropractors set out to correct disorders of the joints, muscles and – particularly – the spine. Spinal problems can cause pain not only in the spine itself, but in other parts of the body – including the shoulder, arm, hip and leg. In addition , the disorders can also sometime bring on sciatica as well as back problems such as lumbago and slipped disc. In same cases they are even said to cause migraine, constipation, period of pain and stress.
In some ways chiropractic is similar to osteopathy – for example, neither therapy uses drugs or surgery. But the major difference between them is that chiropractor make great use of X-Rays and conventional diagnostic method than osteopaths.
Chiropractic: who it can help
More than 90 per cent of a chiropractor’s patients suffer from some kind of musculoskeletal pain – especially low back and neck pain. People with whiplash injuries from car accident – in which the head has been abruptly jerked backwards or forwards – are also high on the list of those seeking treatment.
Headache are another common ailment treated by chiropractor. In most cases treated the headache is caused by tension contracting the neck muscles – for example, those which help to balance the head on the neck joints at top of the spine.
Sportsmen suffering from a range of injuries – including strained muscle, sprained joints, damage ligaments, injured tendons, wrenched knees and tennis elbow may also benefit from chiropractic. In some cases heat or ice applications are used, as well as specific joint manipulation.
There are no age barriers as far as chiropractic is concerned and anyone from babies to senior citizens can be treated.
Difficult births involving the use of forceps can injure a baby’s neck or strain its spine, although this may not be apparent at the time of birth. Chiropractors say that it can, however, lead to neck problems or head-aches later on in life.
Sometimes, in infancy or early childhood, a baby may fall from a cot, be accidentally dropped, or stumble against furniture when learning to walk. This can jar its spine, causing back pain to develop long afterwards. In some cases a baby’s spine can adapt after a short period of pain only to prove troublesome later on. Many childhood or adolescent discomforts are wrongly attributed to ‘growing pains’, when the root cause may be musculoskeletal injury.
If a child has had any such accidents, or suffers from puzzling aches or pains, it could be that he or she needs to see a qualified chiropractor – ask your doctor’s advice. In any case, chiropractors advise periodic checkups in childhood, to help to avoid spinal or pelvic problems later.
Many older people suffering from back or joint pain rely on painkillers to give them relief. However, this only deals with the symptoms – and the real cause of the pain is often not treated. Chiropractic, it is said, can often help these people considerably.
During pregnancy, women often suffer from backache due to the increased weight on the spine and difficulty in maintaining their balance. And in childbirth itself changes occur in the pelvis and the sacroiliac joints (the joints at the base of the spine which carry the weight of the body to the legs). Again, this can cause back pain; and the spine can be further damaged after childbirth, when the baby is lifted and carried.
In all these cases chiropractors say that they can help to ease, if not banish, the pain.
What do chiropractor do?
A chiropractor spinal adjustment is a method of applying a gentle, steady, controlled force to a joint. The chiropractor applies this force to manipulate the spine in order to bring it back into proper alignment. Chiropractors also treat patients who have neuromuscular problems such as spinal cord injury, spinal disc disease, lumbar herniation and vertebral subluxation. Chiropractor adjustments help restore proper movement, relieve pain and improve function. A chiropractor has to be licensed by the state in which he/she practices. To obtain an appointment with a chiropractor, patients should visit a doctor or chiropractor that is licensed by his/her state.
Finding a chiropractor
Increasingly, British doctors are sending patients with back pain to chiropractors for assessment and possible private treatment. Most people are recommended to practitioners by others who have benefited from the therapy themselves.
Always make sure that a practitioner is fully qualified. Most chiropractors today will have the letters DC (Diploma in Chiropractic)after their name, but from 1991 those who have undergone a four-year Bachelor of Science course at the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic in Bournemouth will be able to use the suffix BSc Chiropractic. Alternatively, contact the British Chiropractic Association, Premier House, 10 Grey coat Place, London SW1P 1SB, who will provide a list of registered practitioners in Britain.
Consulting a practitioner
At the first consultation the chiropractor will want to know about your medical history, as well as the current problem. He will then examine you, feeling for areas of muscle spasm, pain and tenderness – and discovering which joints are moving properly and which are not.
An X-ray will probably be taken to determine the condition of the spine. This may also reveal signs of arthritis, bone disease or fractures. Finally, the practitioner will decide whether chiropractic treatment will help, or if a fracture or disease means that you should rely on a doctor.
Treatment usually begins at the second visit, after the full diagnosis has been revealed to you. You will be asked to strip to your underwear and women patients may put on a robe. You will stand, sit, or lie on a chiropractic couch – specially designed for manipulative therapy, and various manual treatment techniques may then be used.
In 1895 a ‘magnetic healer’ named Daniel David Palmer treated his office janitor for deafness. The man told Palmer that he had lost his hearing when bending down – he had felt a click in his back, and shortly became deaf. Palmer found that some small bones in the cleaner’s spine were misaligned. He manipulated them and the janitor’s hearing was restored.
The healer founded the Palmer School of Chiropractic – from the Greek Kheir, meaning ‘hand’, and praktikos, meaning ‘practical’. ‘Displacement of any part of the skeletal frame,’ he stated, ‘may press against nerves, which are the channels of communication, intensifying or decreasing their carrying capacity, creating either too much or not enough functioning, an aberration known as disease.
A chiropractor at work
This 16-year-old suffered a whiplash injury, which seriously impaired movement in the vertebrae of her neck (top X-ray). Constant pain and the side effects of the drugs she took made her too ill to go to school. The chiropractor is shown manipulating the bones in the patient’s neck. He was able to restore normal movement (bottom X-ray), and she made a complete recovery.
For example, to adjust (or manipulate) a painful lower lumbar or low back joint, the patient lies on the side. The Chiropractor then manually rotates the upper spine one way, and the lower spine the other way. The rotation partially locks the joints to be adjusted. Usually the patient’s uppermost leg is flexed to help in the locking.
The chiropractor then feels the vertebra either just above or below the joint. The patient’s position, plus slight pressure by the Chiropractor’s hand, now take the joint to the end of its normal range of movement.
Next, the Chiropractor make very rapid thrust to the vertebra, taking the joint, slightly beyond its present range. This restores normal movement to the joint, and by suddenly stretching the muscle which are in spasm around it, helps to relax the deep spinal muscles that control the joint.
The adjustment should not be painful, and afterwards the patient is re-examined. The locked joint should now be moving more freely and, because the muscle have been relaxed, the area should be more relaxed, the area should be more flexible.
Some patients will feel relief from pain immediately; others may experience aching, soreness and stiffness later that day, or two days after. In certain cases four or more treatments may be necessary before the pain start to go. Generally speaking, chronic cases need more treatment than acute (severe and sudden) cases.
Chiropractic: an Orthodox view
There is an increasing amount of cooperation between doctors and Chiropractors. It is limited, however, due to the comparatively small – though growing – number of Chiropractor in Britain.
Like osteopathy, Chiropractic is now well accepted method for dealing with musculo-skeletal problems If the practitioner is well trained, most doctors would have no difficulty in accepting the validity of the assessment and treatment carried out. However, orthodox practitioners do not approve of chiropractors treating general disease states, such as asthmas or diabetes.