What Is Chiropractic Therapy and How Is It Used?
Millions of people around the world today suffer from some form of spine or joint problem. Our musculoskeletal system is extremely complex and plays an important role in movement, support and stability.
In particular, lower back problems affect as many as 70% of people in the industrialized world today at some time or another. One way to relieve pain and improve flexibility is to visit a chiropractor, a health care professional who is trained to manipulate the musculoskeletal system.
Here we look at chiropractic therapy, what health issues it can work for and what the benefits are for this type of treatment.
What is Chiropractic Therapy?
Chiropractic therapy uses manipulation of the spine and joints to achieve two main aims: improve movement and reduce pain. It is a form of physical therapy and its main aim is to reduce pain and improve joint mobility.
While it is considered a complementary therapy, chiropractors themselves are trained health care professionals. They treat musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain, joint issues like shoulder and elbow pain as well as improving motility for conditions such as early-stage osteoarthritis.
Chiropractic therapy uses a variety of methods to ease pain and improve mobility in the spine and joints. This can include applying heat and ice, physical manipulation and electrical stimulation.
Chiropractors can also give holistic advice about how an individual can maintain better spine and joint health through exercise, diet and other lifestyle changes.
What is Chiropractic Therapy Used For?
Chiropractors do not prescribe medical treatments but offer a range of therapies that are focused on the musculoskeletal system. They can assist with:
- Soft-tissue therapy: helping to relax muscles and promote healing in damaged tissue.
- Manual adjustments to the spine and joints: Using stretches and manipulation to realign joints and the spine.
- Exercises and stretching to improve mobility and reduce pain.
One of the most common complaints that chiropractors see in their clinics is lower back pain. With our more sedentary lifestyles nowadays, this sort of chronic health issue is on the rise.
The cause here is generally a misalignment of the spine, often due to poor posture, and this can be improved through manipulation and chiropractic massage.
A chiropractor will take a full history and examine their patient before any therapy is considered. If they think there is a medical cause such as damage to the bones in the lower spine, they will generally refer the person to a physician or hospital for further tests.
A chiropractor can provide therapy for conditions such as:
- Back and neck pain
- Frozen shoulder
Not only do chiropractors provide treatments to improve mobility and reduce pain, they often work with professional athletes to improve performance. Sports stars who have used chiropractic therapy include Michael Phelps and Tom Brady.
What Are the Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic therapy is generally considered safe and can help with a wide range of different musculoskeletal problems. Research supports its effective use in treating neck and back pain as well as headaches. It can also provide relief for conditions such as fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
Chiropractic therapy is a drug-free and easily accessible pain relief treatment. Chiropractors need to be qualified and go through 4 years of intensive training before they are allowed to practice.
There are very few risks associated with chiropractic therapy when it is administered by a trained professional. Rare complications can include causing a herniated disk and nerve compression following manipulation.
Chiropractic therapy is not suitable for those who suffer from severe osteoarthritis or individuals who are high at risk of a stroke. That’s why the chiropractor needs to take a full history before deciding on any potential therapy.
How to Prepare for Chiropractic Therapy
Individuals do not need to have any preparation for chiropractic therapy although wearing loose clothing is advised. Manipulations will be carried out on a specialist chiropractic table.
The patient normally lies face down and the chiropractor will carry out various manipulations. There may be some cracking and popping sounds as the therapy proceeds.
After the procedure, there may be some minor side-effects such as fatigue and even some pain in the area that has been treated. For many joint and spinal issues, it can take several sessions before the real benefits are seen.
The chiropractor may also give advice certain exercises the individual can do at home and may highlight the importance of diet. For example, someone with lower back pain may benefit from losing weight around the stomach, putting less pressure on the spine.