Benefits of Chiropractic Care
Be ready to provide your medical history, which will be essential for preparing a course of treatment for you. Medical records, such as diagnostic test results, or imaging results, such as X-rays and MRIs, also will provide important information about your condition.
Certain things in your health history are particularly vital to a chiropractor. This information could provide important clues that will allow your chiropractor to properly diagnose your problem. Such clues include whether you have or have had:
Bone disorders, such as osteoporosis
Circulatory problems (poor circulation could be a sign that you have a subluxation, for example)
Dizziness or blurred vision
Heart conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure
Infections, especially those affecting your spine
Injuries, such as bone fractures, muscle sprains, or disc injuries
Joint disorders such as arthritis
Be prepared to answer such questions as:
Did the onset of your pain immediately follow an injury?
Is there anything you do that improves or worsens the pain?
When and how did your pain start?
Where is the pain centered?
The physical exam
Here's what to expect:
The first order of business is checking your vital signs, reflexes, and blood pressure.
Sometimes measurements will be taken to determine arm and leg length. Next, you will be asked to do a series of simple and easy activities or exercises. These exercises will provide information about your motor skills, balance, and gait, among others. These tests also help determine your range of motion, muscle tone and strength, and integrity of your nervous system. Any abnormalities could provide clues about a condition. You may be asked to:
Bend forward, sideways, or backwards - Misaligned spinal vertebrae can sometimes be detected during this exercise.
Flex and extend your leg - This is a test for signs of sprain and helps determine the integrity of your joints (also called the "Yeoman's Test").
Grip something such as a rubber ball - Your grip strength is vital for showing signs of muscular or nerve damage.
Lie down and raise one leg - This is often referred to as the "Thomas Test," in which the chiropractor gently pushes on your raised leg to check for hip joint mobility.
Stand and raise one leg - This test can sometimes show whether you have sciatica, a nerve disorder in your lower back. Another test may involve pushing on your raised leg to determine whether you have pain, inflammation, or imbalance in the joints between your spinal vertebrae. (This is also called the "Psoas Muscle Test.")
Stand or sit - Posture can sometimes show whether you have misalignments in your spine.
Walk a straight line - This test measures your gait, and helps to determine if you have a normal walking pattern.
Walk in Place - Abnormalities in the way your pelvis and spine coordinate can be seen during this test.
Next, a short physical exam by the chiropractor will involve palpation, or use of the hands, to explore the alignment of your spine and other structures, as well as provide information on any stimuli that may cause pain. Depending on your condition, a series of diagnostic tests may follow. These tests may include MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, blood work, and other laboratory tests.
The chiropractor may also consult with you about making important lifestyle changes, such as exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation to improve your chances of healing faster or preventing further injury.
One of the main causes of pain and disease in the human body can be traced to improper alignment of the vertebrae in your spinal column. This is called a subluxation. Through carefully applied pressure, massage, and manual manipulation of the vertebrae and joints, pressure and irritation on the nerves is relieved and joint mobility is restored, allowing your body to return to its natural state of balance, called homeostasis. Put another way, when the bones in your spine are allowed to go back to their proper positions, the nerve energy can resume its normal flow and your body's natural healing processes can function properly.
In general, proper chiropractic treatment of your body's lumbar, or lower back, region, involves very little risk and the rewards can be significant.
Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations can be especially helpful in relieving pain for facet joint injuries, osteoarthritis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, because such conditions respond well to mobilization. Moreover, scores of patients with chronic headaches, sinus problems, high blood pressure, ear infections, leg pain, arthritis, and many other illnesses have reported significant relief after chiropractic therapy.
Increasingly over the past few decades, the medical community has come to accept and recognize chiropractic care as a valid form of treatment for a variety of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, and as a conservative treatment option for patients with lower back pain. Moreover, many medical doctors recognize a chiropractic diagnosis and accept it as the first line of treatment for functional disorders of the entire musculoskeletal system.
Studies by leading medical journals in recent years have confirmed the benefits of chiropractic care:
- A 1993 report by the Ontario Ministry of Health concluded that chiropractic care was the most effective treatment for lower back pain. The agency also recommended that chiropractic care be fully integrated in the Canadian government's health care system.
- In 1994, the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published its Clinical Practice Guidelines, which asserted that spinal manipulation was effective in reducing pain and speeding recovery among patients with acute low back symptoms without radiculopathy.
- A 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study of outcomes and costs for acute low back pain found that patients treated by chiropractors were significantly more satisfied than those who saw primary care, orthopedic or managed care practitioners.
- A 1996 study in the journal Spine echoed that study and found that patients who sought chiropractic care were more likely to feel that treatment was helpful, more likely to be satisfied with their care, and less likely to seek care from another provider for the same condition, compared to those who sought care from medical doctors.
- In 2001, the Center for Clinical Health Policy Research at Duke University concluded in a study that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for cervicogenic headaches, or those that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.