According to The Association of Chiropractic Colleges, “chiropractic is a health care discipline which emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.”
The “founding father” of chiropractic, Dr. D.D. Palmer, developed a theory that spinal misalignment caused nerve pressure or irritation which in turn caused various ailments. He realized that the structure and condition of the body influenced how the body functioned and its ability to heal itself, without the use of drugs or surgery. This simple philosophy has healed people and has prevented unwanted injury and illness for over a century! But to fully understand the chiropractic perspective, one must learn a bit about the nervous system, or how our bodies are “wired.”
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The brain is divided into sections and stores and receives an incredible amount of information. But this information needs a way to get in and out. Nerves provide a pathway for this information to travel, and the spinal cord is made up of bundles of these nerves. The spine both houses and protects the spinal cord. Nerve dysfunction can result from any number of factors, such as falls, accidents, stress, tension, or over-use. These events can alter our “wiring” and create pain or discomfort in our bodies.
Getting to the source
Doctors of chiropractic are trained to locate the source of the pain or discomfort— it may actually be far from the actual location where the symptom is occurring— and then we correct or adjust the joints in the body and set it up to heal on its own. Of course, the type of correction or adjustment employed by the chiropractor depends on the condition being treated, but you get the main idea. The important thing to remember is that chiropractic success occurs by addressing the source of the problem, not just masking the symptoms.
Because helping the body heal itself involves many facets, chiropractors also provide lifestyle advice to help prevent illness and injury. Diet & nutrition, fitness, ergonomics, and other areas in your life contribute, or diminish, your overall health. By making the right choices, one can live a life full of wellness and vitality. Chiropractic doctors practice natural, drugless, non-invasive health care and rely on the body’s ability to self-heal. Sounds ideal, but just how does it work?
We look at the whole picture
Like other health-care providers, we follow a standard routine to gain information about the patient. We consult, review the case history, conduct a physical examination, and we may request laboratory analyses and/or x-rays. Unlike other health-care providers, however, chiropractic physicians also conduct a careful analysis of the patient’s structure and pay particular attention to the spine. We also ask you about your life— Do you eat well? Exercise at all? How do you deal with stress? Do you have children? What do you do for work? And so on.
We seek the origin of the problem
Using this information, a diagnosis is made. Included in the diagnosis is the probable reason for your pain or discomfort. It is important to note that chiropractors seek the origin of the illness in order to eliminate it-we do not simply treat the symptoms. If your roof is leaking, do you simply catch the drips in a bucket for years on end, or do you repair the roof to prevent it from leaking? Similarly, if the migraine headache you’ve had all week is being caused by misaligned vertebra and an irritated nerve, do you continue to take pain killers indefinitely, or do you realign the vertebra to prevent the pain? You get the picture. Chiropractors have a term for misalignments: subluxations. A vertebral subluxation is a misalignment of the bones that protect the spinal cord. It’s a leak in the roof. Or a kink in the wiring of your nervous system. The severity of the subluxation can vary, and there are a number of potential contributing factors that can be physical, emotional, mental, or chemical. The subluxation can be caused by any number of incidents, from birth trauma to an auto accident to simple repetition or over-use.
Then we help you fix it
When a subluxation occurs, a chiropractor can correct the misaligned bone and allow it to return to its proper position. This procedure is appropriately called an adjustment, and the adjustment enables the body to heal. The leak is fixed. The wiring is fixed. Information is flowing again. To keep the wiring fixed and the information flowing, several adjustments over a course of time may be necessary, in addition to massage, physical therapy, stretching exercises, or strengthening exercises. In the chiropractic world, keeping the problem fixed and preventing its reoccurrence is just as important as the initial remedy. Another important aspect of chiropractic care is this: the patient’s improvement is the responsibility of both the doctor and the patient. You will be active in your own care-this is essential in optimizing the care you receive.