You've likely heard a friend talking about visiting a chiropractor or even had someone recommend you go for an adjustment yourself, but what is it that a chiropractor actually does? Before you schedule your first appointment, learn more about who chiropractors are and what these versatile providers can do to help you feel and function at your very best.
What is a Chiropractor?
A Doctor of Chiropractic, or DC, is a highly educated, highly trained health care professional who specializes in identifying and treating neuromuscular disorders and related symptoms. Treatment often focuses on manual adjustments of the spine. However, treatment can include a wide variety of modalities and address areas other than the neck and back. It's no surprise, then, that the word chiropractic roughly translates to done by hand. The connection between chiropractors and their patients is a special one; most practitioners pride themselves on providing holistic care and getting to know patients as people rather than treating a single symptom and calling the problem solved.
Chiropractic Education Training
Chiropractors typically complete an undergraduate degree in science, though currently chiropractic candidates aren't required to have a degree; instead, chiropractic programs require candidates to complete a minimum of 90 semester hours of undergraduate coursework before acceptance. This schooling is followed by a four-year chiropractic program accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). During their graduate studies, aspiring chiropractors attend classes and gain hands-on experience before obtaining their Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Classes include detailed coursework in human anatomy, orthopedics, physiology, neurology, lab procedures, diagnostic imaging, nutrition, and adjustment techniques. This coursework is backed up by clinical training which allows students to master those concepts in real life. All of this work totals at least 4,200 hours of training and experience.
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners oversees licensure in the United States. Testers must pass a four-part exam then complete continuing education and other requirements (as determined on a state-by-state basis) to maintain their license.
Unlike medical doctors, chiropractors don't have to choose a particular interest or specialization. However, those who have a passion for a particular type of treatment or patient population may pursue formal education in that area. Certifications include in-depth studies of joint pain and gait problems, sports medicine, pediatrics, electrodiagnostics, diagnostic imaging, physiotherapy and rehabilitation, acupuncture, nutrition, internal disorders, orthopedics, occupational health, and neurology.
What Does a Chiropractor Do?
The fundamentals of chiropractic care revolves around the relationship between the spine and the nervous system. Simply put, chiropractors believe that structural misalignments of the musculoskeletal system directly and indirectly affect everything from fertility to breathing patterns. By addressing those misalignments, also called subluxations, chiropractors believe they can alleviate other symptoms and improve their patient's overall quality of life.
Chiropractic adjustments, either manual or through the use of a device called an activator, can help relieve pain emanating from muscles, bones, joints and all kinds of connective tissue. These treatments are useful alone but can also take place concurrently with or after the completion of conventional medical treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, joint injections, and even surgery.
Adjustments are the cornerstone of chiropractic care. Though many Westerners are only just beginning to understand the tenets of chiropractic, spinal manipulation itself dates back to at least 1500 BC. The well-known Greek physician Hippocrates, who created the Hippocratic Oath that guides the conduct of all physicians, wrote about the far-reaching importance of spinal manipulation too.
Modern research continues to confirm the overlap between ideal alignment and health. As the practice of chiropractic has evolved, so have adjustment techniques. Today, there are dozens of techniques. Some chiropractors like to combine approaches (called diversified or integrated chiropractic), while others prefer to adhere to a single approach. Most techniques fall into one of two categories:
- Manipulation or High-Velocity/Low-Amplitude Thrust: The most well-known type of chiropractic care, involving more forceful manipulation that results in an audible crack or pop
- Mobilization or Low-Force/Gentle: A more gentle, localized adjustment often used to address subluxations in patients with underlying medical conditions that make forceful adjustments less than ideal
Other Chiropractic Modalities
In addition to adjustments, chiropractors may offer other treatments and services, either personally or in conjunction with another provider. At Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine, these include but are not limited to:
- Cold laser therapy
- Diagnostic and therapeutic injections
- MLS laser therapy
- MicroVas therapy
- Non-surgical spinal decompression
- Physical therapy
- PRP injection therapy
A multidisciplinary approach can facilitate faster healing. While providing proper alignment, we can also use other treatments to minimize swelling, increase mobility, ease muscle tension, and so on.
What Conditions Can A Chiropractor Treat?
Chiropractors treat a plethora of disorders dealing with the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Any issue that involves the musculoskeletal system and impacts the nervous system could potentially benefit from chiropractic care.
Chronic pain management is a big part of chiropractic. A comprehensive treatment plan could help alleviate not only back and neck pain but also discomfort from:
- Headaches and migraines
- Auto accidents
- Sports injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Disc problems
- Text neck
- Work injuries
Chiropractic care may also help you with stress and anxiety, boost your immune system, increase flexibility and range of motion, minimize the symptoms of seasonal allergies and sinus problems, improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, and speed up recovery after a bout of cold or flu. Theoretically, by encouraging your body to operate more efficiently and effectively, chiropractic care facilitates the body's natural ability to heal itself.
Who Can Receive Chiropractic Treatment?
Almost anyone of any age can benefit from chiropractic treatment. Chiropractors experienced in pediatric care can help babies overcome colic, nursing issues, and sleep problems; while older children may see a chiropractor for chronic ear infections, help meeting milestones such as crawling and walking, or simply to ensure proper spinal hygiene while growing.
Pregnant women can benefit from chiropractic care, too. The Webster technique is a specific type of sacral adjustment designed to help mothers-to-be achieve ideal pelvic alignment. Adjustments could alleviate pelvic pain and sciatica and even create more room for the baby to move, allowing a breech baby to rotate into a better position for delivery.
Even older adults are eligible for chiropractic care. As long as the patient is otherwise healthy, low-velocity adjustments could help with pain and mobility, though chiropractors know to look out for contraindications such as osteoporosis, the use of anticoagulants, or serious medical conditions, such as cancer.
Our team at Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine is proud to welcome patients into any of our nine New Jersey offices. Our convenient locations are situated in Aberdeen, Barnegat, Jackson, Freehold, Manchester, Point Pleasant, Lakewood, Neptune, and Toms River. For more information or to make an appointment, call (732) 653-1000 today.