What Is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic "Practiced for Thousands of Years"

Chiropractic is the Science, Art, and Philosophy that concerns itself with the restoration of good health by correcting, restoring, and maintaining balance of the muscles and joints, allowing for a properly functioning nervous system.  The goal of the Chiropractor is to restore and maintain your body's health, through conservative healthcare means.

The art of joint manipulation has been practiced for thousands of years. Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine (460-370 BC), describes manipulative procedures in his monumental work known as the Corpus Hippocrateum.

Oddly enough it was Hippocrates, widely regarded as the Father of (Western) Medicine who said, "First and foremost, look to the spine for the cause of disease".  It seems that Hippocrates used to manipulate the joints of the spine while tractioning the spine to correct low back and leg pain.  Does that make the Father of Medicine the Father of Chiropractic?

Actually, manipulation of joints and soft tissue has a rich history in cultures around the world. From "Lomi Lomi" in Polynesia to "Tui Na" practitioners in China to "Bonesetters" in medieval England, manipulation of joints and soft tissue seems to have existed everywhere people experienced musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.

Galen (130-202 AD) earned the title 'Prince of Physicians' when he relieved the paralysis of the right hand of Eudemas (a prominent Roman scholar) by careful manipulation of his neck.

During the Middle Ages, the art of manipulation was practiced by bonesetters.  This art was passed from generation to generation and was practiced in most communities in Europe, North Africa and Asia by practitioners who learned their skills by apprenticeship.

A central premise of chiropractic is that vertebral misalignments occur in the spine and can produce interferences in the function of the nervous system which have remarkable and far-reaching effects by impairing the individual's health and performance.  These misalignments are referred to in chiropractic as subluxations, and are corrected with adjustments administered by Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.'s). 

Today's Chiropractic

Chiropractors believe that interference with the body's muscular, nervous and skeletal systems (especially the spine or vertebrae) impairs many important body functions and lowers resistance to disease. A great emphasis is placed on keeping the spine functioning properly to relieve pressure on connected muscles, joints and nerves.  Such therapy not only helps problems in the back, but also aids in improving the feet, hands, and internal organs.

In fact, spinal adjustments may relieve a spectrum of ailments such as tension headache, certain types of migraine, menstrual cramps, allergies, asthma, stomach disorders, spastic colon, and arm, hand, and leg pain that's due to dysfunction of the neck or lower back. Some patients with asthma and emphysema even turn to chiropractic care to release tension in the chest.  A study presently underway will help determine if manipulation of the neck helps the ears drain properly, thus alleviating otitis media ~ the ear infection that plagues children.

Doctors of Chiropractic medicine (D.C.s) manipulate or adjust the spinal column with easy, manual thrusts to move the spinal vertebrae back to their normal positions.  A chiropractor will sometimes also manipulate the joints of the neck, arms, and legs.

Chiropractic has always been on the cutting edge of the "wellness" movement, which is finally taking root in this country.  Doctors of Chiropractic are concerned with a patient's overall well-being and recognize that many factors affect health, including stress, exercise, diet, rest, environment, and heredity.  Chiropractors use drugless, nonsurgical health treatments and rely heavily on the body's ability to heal itself.

What Training Do Chiropractors Have?

Chiropractors are licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A rigorous course of study is necessary to receive the Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree.  According to the American Chiropractic Association, there are over 40,000 doctors of chiropractic practicing in the United States.  Most state licensing boards require at least four years of undergraduate education (a few states require a bachelor's degree), and completion of a four-year chiropractic college course load.  To maintain a license, almost all states require completion of a specified number of hours of continuing education each year.

What Happens during a Chiropractic Examination?

A Chiropractor will  review a patient's medical history, along with conducting a physical, neurological, and orthopedic exam. Doctors of Chiropractic spend a considerable amount of time assessing posture, examining the spine, testing reflexes, joint motion, and muscle strength. X-rays and other diagnostic images are often used to locate vertebral dysfunction and  rule out disorders like tumors or fractures, which require the attention of other health-care experts.

Chiropractors can order laboratory tests, give nutritional advice, and use a variety of treatment options.  These include ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves to improve blood flow), electric stimulation, heat therapy and traction, massage or trigger point therapy, hot and cold packs, and exercise therapy.