What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a mainstream healthcare profession in New Zealand, concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the effects of these disorders on the function of both the nervous system and general health. Chiropractic care is much more than a way of seeking relief from back pain.
How Chiropractic works:
Chiropractic is based on the scientific fact that our nervous systems control the function of virtually every cell, tissue, organ and system of the body.
While the brain is protected by the skull, the spinal cord is more vulnerable, covered by 24 moving vertebrae. When these bones lose their normal motion or position, they can irritate the nervous system. This disrupts the function of the tissues or organs these nerves control, and this is called vertebral subluxations complex.
Chiropractic is the science of locating these areas of spinal malfunction and the art of correcting them to allow the body to heal itself ( homeostasis ).
To do this, chiropractors use a technique called an adjustment. An adjustment is a carefully executed manoeuvre that usually results in a joint clicking as a sticky joint is released.
What does a session involve?
Our experienced chiropractors take an all-round approach to your health and well-being, they play a major role in relieving discomfort arising from accidents, stress, poor posture and everyday wear and tear that happens to us all as we grow older. There is an emphasis on manual treatment which includes spinal manipulation and, by restoring normal function via spinal adjustments to the nervous system and musculoskeletal system, chiropractors can play a major part in relieving disorders and any accompanying pain or discomfort arising from accidents, stress, lack of exercise, poor posture, illness and the everyday wear and tear that happens to us all as we grow older and particularly to those who have had a long sporting life.
Soon after the discovery of the X-ray, chiropractors began using this tool in the examination and care of the spine.
Besides revealing the presence or absence of proper spinal curves, side views of the spine can more easily show the long-term effects of neglected spinal trauma. We call the body’s adaptation process spinal decay.
Why Spinal Decay?
This process in the spine has similarities to tooth decay in that it shows up usually because of neglect. Also, just like tooth decay, it can happen to anyone, regardless of age.
Because it is often seen in older people, many believe it’s merely the normal aging process. It is not. This progressively worsening, degenerative condition is the result of uncorrected spinal misalignment. Spinal decay is how your body deals with the stress of gravity.
It just so happens that most people have spinal problems that they’ve ignored for years.
Three Phase Process
Spinal decay is a process. Whether you take three snapshots of the process or twenty-three snapshots, it’s a process. We use the three-phase model based on the book Managing Low Back Pain, by W. H. Kirkaldly-Willis and Thomas Bernard, Jr. We find that it makes the differences between each phase great enough so our patients can appreciate what they’re seeing.
Text Book Normal
While this process can occur anywhere in the spine, it’s easiest to see in the cervical (neck) spine. This is what the side view of the neck should look like. From the side, the neck should have a graceful forward curve. The edges of each bone are well defined. There should be equal disc spacing between each bone and the openings for nerve roots should be clear and unobstructed.
Phase One Spinal Decay
In Phase One there is a loss of curve and a reduced ability to turn and bend. In some cases, the disc space between adjacent vertebrae may be reduced. Or, discs can become wedge-shaped, risking more serious soft tissue damage. Depending upon your body’s adaptive capacity, pain or other obvious symptoms may not be present. Even the resulting reduced range of motion may be too subtle for some to notice.
Phase Two Spinal Decay
If neglected, in Phase Two, joint surfaces lose their clearly defined edges as the early signs of bone spurs become visible on X-ray views. Some believe that the body senses the accompanying inflammation as the sign of a broken bone. It begins the process of depositing calcium salts. Without being in a cast to prevent movement, the fusion doesn’t occur. Yet.
Phase Three Spinal Decay
If still left uncorrected, the problem worsens in Phase Three. Amazingly, pain or other obvious symptoms may not yet show up. But finally, the body successfully “mends the broken bone.”
This process can take years. Its presence calls into question the claim that many patients make that they were “…fine until last week when I bent over to tie my shoes.” That’s not what the X-rays tell us!
Some patients who begin chiropractic care in Phase One discover a restoration of their spinal curves and improved range of motion. Success with Phase Two patients is less predictable and depends on many factors. While we can do little after decades of neglect with Phase Three cases, we instead turn our attention to those areas of the spine that have not yet been lost to the process.
It’s impossible to predict what effect, if any, chiropractic care will have on slowing, stopping or reversing this process. Nor can a particular phase be used to predict how much care will be needed.
Can Chiropractic Help?
Your Chiropractor will assess if you need to be referred to any other health professional first, and if not problem areas of spinal function are identified. A recommended chiropractic care program of spinal adjustments, often combined with other forms of appropriate treatment will be based upon your age, condition, lifestyle, and unique spinal problem(s).
Specific Spinal Corrections – “adjustments”
The primary course of care will be specific chiropractic adjustments. This correction helps to restore the important biomechanical movement and control at a joint. There are hundreds of ways of using carefully directed and controlled pressure to restore better position and motion to ‘stuck’ or fixated spinal joints. This may require a quick thrust, or in other instances a slow, constant pressure. Sometimes, only one area of the spine is adjusted, and other times the entire spine will receive attention.
Some Chiropractors use only their hands while others will use special tables or instruments. Sometimes, the patient’s own body weight is used. Every Chiropractor has a preference based on training, clinical experience and the particular spinal problem of that patient.
Some adjusting approaches can produce a ‘popping’ or clicking sound. This sound is created by the shifting of gas and fluid in the joint. The presence or ‘loudness’ of this sound has little meaning and varies with each patient.
Chiropractic Care is Safe
Chiropractic adjustments are safer than aspirin, muscle relaxers, and back surgery. Dozens of research studies have documented the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic adjustments. When compared with traditional approaches, chiropractic care is remarkably safe. In fact, millions of chiropractic adjustments are safely delivered to patients every day.
Regardless of the technique, millions of patients have benefited and enjoyed chiropractic care since chiropractic was discovered in 1895.
Your chiropractor may recommend additional procedures or suggest other ways to help reduce inflammation, provide relief, or enhance the healing process. These may include ice, heat, physiotherapy & massage, rehabilitation, nutritional advice, exercises, or other procedures.
Your chiropractor will probably use a push or pull to help get ‘stuck’ bones moving again
Sometimes a handheld instrument can be used to deliver a consistent and measured force
Some Chiropractors use a special table to traction and stretch the spine as it is adjusted
Certain approaches necessitate direct skin contact or the use of special instruments
Tables with drop-away sections can be used to direct or reduce the adjusting force
Naturally, adjusting methods are modified for each patient’s age, size, the condition of the spine, & general health status.
How long will it take?
Chiropractic results vary. Some patients get results quickly. Others find their recovery takes several months or longer. Children often respond quickly, while adults with long-standing spinal problems heal more slowly. The healing process takes time.
There are three stages of chiropractic care. Periodic progressive examinations help determine your course of care. Once you understand true health, you may want some type of ongoing chiropractic care. Like brushing your teeth, eating wholesome foods, and other healthy habits, a regular chiropractic checkup makes sense. How long you decide to benefit from chiropractic care is always up to you.
Initial Intensive Care
This is usually where most patients begin their chiropractic care. Visits can be frequent, depending upon the severity of your condition. The primary focus is to reduce or eliminate your most obvious symptoms.
With your ache or pain diminished the objective is to stabilize spinal function and promote a more complete healing. Muscles and soft tissues of the spine are strengthened during this stage of care, helping to avoid a relapse.
Wellness or elective care
With the maximum restoration of spinal function, many patients enjoy regular chiropractic “checkups”. This type of preventative or wellness care can save time and money by keeping minor problems from becoming more serious.
Your health is your most valuable possession !
Early detection, before the onset of symptoms, is the key to fast, effective treatment and, more importantly, maximizing your health.