Chiropractic is a branch of alternative medicine which helps in diagnosing, treating and preventing conditions or medical problems of the neuro-musculoskeletal system. D.D. Palmer founded this branch of alternative medicine in the 1890s and it was further developed in the early 20th century by his son, B.J. Palmer. There are two primary divisions of chiropractic: "Straights," which are currently a minority. This division believes that vertebral subluxation is the root cause of all diseases and they consider vitalism, innate intelligence and adjustments of the spine important. The second division comprises of the "mixers." This division is more amenable to conventional beliefs and medical techniques such as massage, ice therapy and exercise. Chiropractic care is often used to treat problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system which includes, but is not limited to back pain, neck pain, joints pain and headaches. Doctors of Chiropractic are usually referred to as chiropractors or chiropractic physicians. Chiropractors use a hands-on and a drug-free approach known as spinal manipulation/ adjustment which helps in examining the patients, their diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have a wide range of diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend rehabilitative and therapeutic exercises along with providing counseling on nutrition, diet and lifestyle.
A chiropractor does not prescribe medicines or do surgery. Rather, a chiropractor treats through manual therapies like spinal manipulation and mobilization. This is the common therapeutic procedure done by the chiropractors, i.e. "spinal manipulation" or "chiropractic adjustment." The aim of this adjustment is to restore the joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force to the joints which have restricted movements due to tissue injury. Injury to the tissue causes pain, inflammation, and reduced functioning in an individual. Chiropractic manipulation or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues helps in restoring mobility, relieving pain and muscle stiffness along with speeding up the healing process in the tissues. Patients rarely experience discomfort during a chiropractic adjustment; however, some patients may feel slight soreness or aching after the treatment. This usually resolves within 12 to 48 hours.
Other than spinal manipulations, Chiropractors also employ other methods such heat/cold application, exercise, ultrasound, dietary advice, massage, diathermy, hydrotherapy, electrical muscle stimulation, traction, cold laser therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators (TENS) and infra-red radiation for treatment.
In conditions like lower back pain, chiropractic care may be the chief method of treatment. In other medical conditions, chiropractic care helps by complementing or supporting the medical treatment by solving the musculoskeletal problems associated with the condition. The technique of Chiropractic manipulation comprises of applying pressure on the vertebrae which are not functioning properly. The primary goal of chiropractic treatment is to reduce the dislocation or subluxation and thus improve the patient's range of motion and function and reduce the nerve irritability. Chiropractic manipulation is safe and should be applied by a professional chiropractor. Some contraindications to chiropractic adjustments/manipulation are osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or any medical condition which can cause instability of the joints. Chiropractors assess their patients through clinical examination, laboratory testing, imaging tests etc. to help determine the feasibility of the chiropractic treatment. If chiropractic treatment is not feasible, then the chiropractor refers the patient to the appropriate health care provider.
Chiropractic Medicine and Its Fundamental Beliefs:
- The human body has a very strong ability to heal itself.
- The body's structure, particularly, the spine and its function are connected.
- The goal of chiropractic medicine is stabilizing this connection or link.
Technique of Chiropractic Adjustment
Chiropractic manipulation consists of:
- A short lever arm thrust with high velocity pressure is applied on the vertebra.
- Following this, due to the release of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, an audible cracking of the joints or joint cavitation occurs, which releases the pressure or cavitation in the joint.
- Patients often feel an easing or relaxing sensation; but sometimes, they may experience slight discomfort which subsides after a short period of time. The reason for this discomfort is, if the patient becomes tense or stiff during the manipulation/adjustment, this causes spasm in the adjacent muscles and some discomfort.
- If the patient is tensed and not sufficiently relaxed during the manipulation, this prevents the joint cavitation or cracking from occurring. In situations like this, the chiropractor may apply ice and allow the patient to relax or do electrical stimulation and massage before trying the chiropractic adjustment again.
Benefits of Chiropractic Manipulation
- Improved joint movement.
- Pain reduction.
- Increased ability to tolerate pain and pressure to the paraspinal muscles.
- Tension and muscle electrical activity is reduced.
- It improves the blood circulation and temperature of the skin distally.
- Stabilizes blood pressure.
- Increases melatonin production.
- The levels of plasma beta endorphin are increased.
- The neutrophil respiratory burst and substance P are increased.