Chiropractic FAQs

Frequently asked questions

What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a natural, hands-on method of healing. The Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning "effective treatment by hand" is the origin of the word chiropractic. Chiropractors correct subluxations in the spine. Subluxation is a $10 word that means the vertebra is out of place. Not necessarily dislocated, but it is not quite where it belongs.

A subluxated vertebra does not move quite normally. Have you ever had your arm in a cast? When a joint doesn’t move for weeks, it becomes hard to move it. It is stiff and sore. It is the same when joints in the spine become subluxated. Along with the stiffness and pain from a subluxation, much of the nervous system can be affected. Most of the nerves in your body must travel through openings in the spine in order to get to your central nervous system. When the joints of the spine become stiff, sore and swollen from a subluxation, the nervous system is adversely affected. A chiropractor corrects subluxations.

Correcting subluxations can help to restore health. It can also prevent future health problems. If a vertebra is subluxated and doesn’t move very well, it becomes prone to degenerative changes (arthritis)

Since chiropractic does such a good job in relieving musculoskeletal pain, many think of them as bone doctors. In reality a chiropractor is a doctor who helps the nervous system to help the body to heal itself. Any person, with any disease process like asthma, allergies, digestive disorders, headaches, and, of course, neck and back pain can benefit from chiropractic adjustments.

How long has chiropractic been around?

Chiropractic, as we know it, was developed in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer. In truth, spinal manipulation has been an effective healing art for thousands of years. In the 19th century there were “bonesetters” who practiced a healing art much like chiropractic. The ancient Egyptians and the ancient Chinese both practiced spinal manipulation as a healing art. Hippocrates also used spinal manipulation.

Is a chiropractor a “real” doctor?

Usually when people say the word “doctor” they mean doctor of medicine. There are other kinds of doctors, doctors of osteopathy, doctors of dentistry and doctors of chiropractic. Every state in the union licenses chiropractors as one of the three major providers of health care, along with medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy. A chiropractor, after his undergraduate education, is required to have 4,500 hours of classroom study—comparable to the number of hours a medical doctor goes to school. Several board exams must also be passed for a chiropractor to obtain a license. Doctors of chiropractic and doctors of medicine must pass the same basic science National Board Examinations. In addition, each state administers its own State Board Examination which chiropractors must also pass.

What kind of education does it take to become a chiropractor?

The Council on Chiropractic requires 4,200 hours of education. The chiropractic colleges require between 4,800 hours and 5,200 hours for graduation (depending on the college). The average total number of hours of anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, public health, physiology, and pathology taught in the chiropractic schools is a little over 1,400. In three medical schools sampled, it was around 1,200. Chiropractors spend a significant amount of time with hands-on learning of adjusting and other manual therapy (a little under 2,000 hours on average). They must also spend time in a clinical internship.

To quote the American Chiropractic Association, “Doctors of chiropractic — who are licensed to practice in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in many nations around the world — undergo a rigorous education in the healing sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition and public health, they receive more intensive education than their MD counterparts.”

Will I have to have x-rays?

The decision to have x-rays is on an individual case basis.

Are chiropractic adjustments safe?

Chiropractic care can help you to avoid drugs and surgery, both of which are much more risky than chiropractic. A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine on June 3, 2003, proves that spinal manipulation, or chiropractic adjustment, is an effective alternative to drugs and surgery for back pain. Chiropractors have known this for decades.

To quote the article, “Spinal manipulation was more effective than sham therapy and therapies already known to be unhelpful.” The article goes on to say that chiropractic is at least as effective as general practitioner care, pain killers, physical therapy, exercise, or back school.

Not only is spinal manipulation/adjustment by doctors of chiropractic safe, it also saves money and gets patients back on their feet faster than other forms of care. Chiropractic adjustments cost less per-visit than visits to other providers of musculoskeletal care. In addition, patients receiving chiropractic care take fewer prescription drugs and undergo fewer expensive diagnostic tests.

Can I have chiropractic care after back surgery?

Yes, in fact it is beneficial. Surgery and scar tissue create imbalances that can be effectively corrected by a chiropractor. Chiropractors are thoroughly trained to safely, and gently correct spinal imbalance.

Chiropractors spend far more time in the classroom learning manipulation than any other profession. Although the osteopathic profession has a history of performing spinal manipulation, osteopathic schools generally only offer instruction is spinal manipulation on an elective basis. Medical doctors receive no training in spinal manipulation. Of ten physical therapy schools surveyed, none taught spinal manipulation.

Chiropractors on the other hand have an average of 555 hours in adjustive techniques/spinal analysis. In addition, during internship, two years of hands-on clinical experience are focused on manipulation/adjustment as the primary treatment procedure. Under the auspices of all chiropractic colleges, students are required to pass a practical examination on their manipulation/adjustment skills and a clinical competency exam prior to this internship.

How long will I have to come for treatment?

Every individual is different, as are their goals for care. Treating to relive pain takes less time than does rehabilitating and stabilizing the situation to prevent future problems. Some people like to get regular chiropractic care to balance and optimize the function of the nervous system.

Could I become addicted to chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a healthy, natural thing, not an artificial thing that you can become “hooked” on. The relief chiropractic care will provide after an injury will last quite a while, just as you would expect any other effective treatment to work. Once the health problem is brought back into control, therapy (chiropractic or any other therapy) can cease.

Chiropractic has benefits that extend beyond pain relief. It is a feeling of being in balance and of having optimum health. People who receive chiropractic adjustments are often surprised at the sense of well-being associated with being in balance. If they take care of themselves, exercise and eat right, this feeling lasts.

Some people like the feeling of being in balance and return for chiropractic care from time to time. It is like massage, exercise or anything else that you do that is of benefit to your health. But if you think that you “have” to keep coming to a chiropractor once you start, you are mistaken.

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