For the Public

For the Public

What is chiropractic?

As defined by the World Federation of Chiropractic: Chiropractic is a health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the functions of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation.

It is a safe, evidence-based, natural, complementary, hands-on, drug-free and surgery-free treatment approach with an aim to restore normal movement and function to joints, muscles and nerves. The term Chiropractic comes from Greek and literally means ‘done by hand’. Chiropractic dates back to 1895 when the first adjustment/manipulation was given. However, bone manipulation has been practiced for many millenia. The Greek physician Hippocrates was already a strong proponent of spinal manipulation. He said: “Get knowledge of the spine for this is the requisite for many diseases.”

How does chiropractic work?

A chiropractor’s main concern is the spine and the nervous system and how they are functioning. The spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae. These vertebrae are connected by ligaments and muscles and the entire spine functions as one dynamic unit. A cartilaginous disc is found between each vertebra which functions to cushion and absorb shock, reduce friction between the vertebrae and to allow for increased movement within the spine. A pair of spinal nerves exits at each level originating from the spinal cord, forming a complex network, which supplies and influences every organ, tissue and cell in the body.

The chiropractor will evaluate the biomechanical structure of the spine (and extremity joints) to ensure that each one of the individual vertebrae (or other joints) is moving freely and is not displaced or fixed in any way. If a vertebra is mal-aligned or jammed it may cause interference with the function of the spinal nerves at this level either by direct pressure or through indirect stimulation/irritation. This may then lead to symptoms such as localised neck or back pain, and/or referred arm or leg pain or headaches.

What may cause back problems?

There are many varied causes of such neuro-musculoskeletal conditions. Daily poor postural habits, a fall, an accident, lifting/pushing/pulling heavy objects, any sports injury or even high stress levels can result in a vertebral dysfunction. This causes further joint irritation and often inflammation, nerve irritation, and muscle spasms often leading to trigger point development. If the nerve is irritated this will result in pain in the surrounding area and often in referred pain elsewhere in the body.

Who can benefit from chiropractic care?

As chiropractic is a gentle, non-invasive treatment option, almost everybody can benefit from chiropractic care including babies, children, pregnant women, office workers, factory workers, athletes, accident victims and the elderly. Any condition that is nerve, muscle or joint related may be helped by chiropractic treatment. Neck pain, headaches, migraines, shoulder pain, arm pain, elbow pain, tingling in arms and hands, back pain, hip pain, leg pain, sciatica, knee pain and even foot pain have been reported to respond favorably to chiropractic care.

What can I expect at my visit to the chiropractor?

A chiropractor is a primary contact physician who will take a full medical case history, perform a physical examination and refer for special investigations like x-rays or blood tests if indicated. Once the chiropractor has made a diagnosis and determines that your case can be treated chiropractically, the treatment primarily consists of highly specialized manipulative techniques, referred to as adjustments. Adjustments are safe and some patients can experience immediate relief as the normal joint motion and function is restored, and the nerve is freed of any restrictive pressure or irritation. In addition a chiropractor will employ different soft tissue/massage therapies, prescribe rehabilitative exercises, give postural advice, suggest orthotic devices and educate regarding necessary lifestyle changes.

When should I see a chiropractor?

When you experience any of the following 10 warning signs of an unhealthy spine, a visit to a chiropractor would be indicated:

  1. You suffer from continuous back ache, neck ache and/or headaches
  2. You have constant tension in your muscles and joints
  3. You feel stiff throughout your spine
  4. You cannot twist or turn your head or hips easily or equally on both sides
  5. You have to ‘crack’ your neck, back and other joints a lot
  6. You have poor posture, unequal hip and/or shoulder levels and your chin sticks out
  7. The heels of your shoes wear out unevenly
  8. Your foot/feet point outwards when walking as opposed to facing forward
  9. Sitting, standing or walking for any length of time is uncomfortable or causes pain
  10. You struggle to stand upright after bending forward for any length of time

Research background

Research has shown that 80-90% of people will suffer from lower back pain at least once in their lifetime and lower back pain is the second leading cause for people to visit a health care professional, second only to the common cold. Furthermore, lower back pain is the most common reason for visits to orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and occupational medical practitioners and the third most common reason for surgery.

Over the past few years much research has been performed to evaluate the effectiveness of chiropractic manipulative treatment. The most recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that chiropractic treatment produces superior results in terms of safety, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction. Through chiropractic care patients are shown to take fewer days sick leave, spend less time incapacitated, use less medication for pain relief, have less chance of needing back surgery and have less chance of the problem becoming a chronic condition.