Chiropractic to help back pain and posture problems
This hugely popular and effective treatment of the spine, joints and muscles uses precise manipulation to realign the skeletal structure. Anne Woodham explains.
The term chiropractic comes from the ancient Greek, cheiro, meaning ‘hand’, and praktikos, meaning ‘doing.’ Chiropractors use their hands to diagnose and treat disorders of the spine, joints and muscles. The body is regarded as a mechanism, with the spine as key support and link to the brain.
When body systems work in harmony, self-healing processes can function efficiently. Because the spinal cord carries nerves to every part of the body, any distortion or strain on the spine (known as ‘subluxations’or ‘fixations’) can have far-reaching effects and cause problems in the internal organs, glands and blood vessels. Chiropractic treatment aims to re-align the spine so that body systems can function properly.
Chiropractic was developed by a Canadian osteopath, David Daniel (D.D.) Palmer. In 1895 he persuaded his office janitor, deaf for 17 years after a back and neck injury, to let him manipulate his spine. There was a ‘click’ and the man’s hearing was restored.
Chiropractic’s reputation fluctuated from a dismal beginning to wide popularity in the early 20th century and then condemnation as an ‘unscientific cult’ by the American Medical Association in the 1960s. The AMA lost the ensuing legal battle in 1987 and chiropractic has now gained widespread recognition and is available in British, American and Australian healthcare systems. Since an Act of Parliament in 1994, chiropractic is regulated by law in the UK and the profession is establishing training standards and a register.
Is it right for you?
Chiropractic and osteopathy are often confused because both treatments involve manipulation of the body. Chiropractic tends to be more mechanistic in its approach, with emphasis on the spine as the major support structure. Osteopaths take a more holistic approach and will explore a patient’s lifestyle, habits, mental and emotional health to find reasons for musculo-skeletal problems. Poor posture in childhood, for example, could lead to later back problems.
While chiropractors tend to make more use of X-rays, Osteopaths traditionally use more soft tissue manipulation and less high velocity thrusts, but in actual practice the distinction is becoming blurred. Some chiropractors work more like osteopaths, and some osteopaths work more like chiropractors.
How does it work?
A chiropractor takes a detailed medical history, asks questions about lifestyle, observes your posture and gain and may carry out standard diagnostic tests, especially X-rays. Expect to undress to your underwear to be physically examined, though you can ask for a gown.
You are likely to be manoeuvred into various positions while the practitioner examines the functioning of your spinal column, joints and muscles. Treatment of stiff or ‘locked’ joints usually takes place at the second consultation on a specially adjustable chiropractic couch. Using precise, controlled techniques known as ‘adjustments’, the practitioner begins by moving joints as far as they will go (mobilisation), then gives a rapid, measured thrust to take it slightly further.
There may be an audible but painless ‘click’ in the joint when it is mobilised, which is caused by the collapse of a tiny gas bubble created by the change in pressure when the joint is suddenly stretched. It may sounds unpleasant but it doesn’t hurt.