What Is Chiropractic Care?
Should You Try It?
Chiropractic is a treatment option for people with back pain or neck pain. The American Chiropractic Association defines chiropractic as "a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and nervous system, and the effects on these disorders on general health."1 From this definition, you can see that chiropractic can be used for many pain-related disorders, including joint pain and headaches.
Doctors of chiropractic are also called chiropractor or chiropractic physicians. They do a hands-on, drug-free approach to health care. This approach includes diagnosis and treatment; chiropractors are carefully trained in both diagnostic skills and chiropractic treatments. They are trained to suggest rehabilitative and therapeutic exercises, and they can provide nutritional and lifestyle counseling.
Spinal manipulation is the most common—and most well-known—chiropractic procedure. It's also called "chiropractic adjustment." Spinal manipulation is used to restore joint mobility, and chiropractors do this by applying a controlled force on joints that have become restricted (hypomobile) as a result of tissue injury. That tissue injury can come from one traumatic event: for example, lifting a heavy object improperly. You can also damage your soft tissues through repetitive stress: for example, sitting with poor posture for a long time every day (at work, say). Both of these causes lead to physical and chemical changes in the tissues, which can lead to pain, inflammation, and reduced function. Spinal manipulation, which adjusts the affected tissues and joints, can restore mobility, which can relieve pain and tight muscles.
It's rare for chiropractic adjustments to cause discomfort. But some patients report mild soreness or an achiness following a chiropractic treatment (somewhat like you feel after a hard workout). Usually, this resolves within 48 hours.
In some cases—such as patients with low back pain—chiropractic may be the primary treatment method. However, if you have other medical conditions, chiropractic may be used in conjunction with other treatments.
Doctors of chiropractic are trained in how to diagnose the cause of your back or neck pain. They do this through clinical examination, lab testing, and diagnostic imaging; all this helps them determine when chiropractic treatment is appropriate. If the chiropractor determines that chiropractic care is not appropriate for you, then he or she will refer you to another health care provider.