Frequently Asked Questions
We offer introductory answers to frequently asked questions about chiropractic care, treatment, and the services we offer. Simply click on a subject heading below to view questions and answers relating to your selection. Should you have any further questions, please Contact Us.
- What is Chiropractic?
- What conditions do chiropractors treat?
- How do I select a doctor of chiropractic?
- Does chiropractic treatment require a referral from an MD?
- Is chiropractic treatment safe?
- Is chiropractic treatment appropriate for children?
- Are chiropractors allowed to practice in hospitals or use medical outpatient facilities?
- Do insurance plans cover chiropractic?
- What type of education and training do chiropractors have?
- How is a chiropractic adjustment performed?
- Is chiropractic treatment ongoing?
- Why is there a popping sound when a joint is adjusted?
- Who discovered Chiropractic?
- What Chiropractic Can Do?
- Who Should See a Chiropractor?
- What to Expect on your First Visit?
Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.
Doctors of Chiropractic – often referred to as chiropractors or chiropractic physicians – practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.
The most common therapeutic procedure performed by doctors of chiropractic is known as “spinal manipulation,” also called “chiropractic adjustment.” The purpose of manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become hypomobile – or restricted in their movement – as a result of a tissue injury. Tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture for an extended period of time. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function for the sufferer. Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing tissues to heal.
Chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort. However, patients may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching following treatment (as with some forms of exercise) that usually resolves within 12 to 48 hours.
In many cases, such as lower back pain, chiropractic care may be the primary method of treatment. When other medical conditions exist, chiropractic care may complement or support medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with the condition.
Doctors of chiropractic may assess patients through clinical examination, laboratory testing, diagnostic imaging and other diagnostic interventionsto determine when chiropractic treatment is appropriate or when it is not appropriate. Chiropractors will readily refer patients to the appropriate health care provider when chiropractic care is not suitable for the patient’s condition, or the condition warrants co-management in conjunction with other members of the health care team.
Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) care for patients of all ages, with a variety of health conditions. DCs are especially well known for their expertise in caring for patients with back pain, neck pain and headaches...particularly with their highly skilled manipulations or chiropractic adjustments. They also care for patients with a wide range of injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, involving the muscles, ligaments and joints. These painful conditions often involve or impact the nervous system, which can cause referred pain and dysfunction distant to the region of injury. The benefits of chiropractic care extend to general health issues, as well, since our body structure affects our overall function. DCs also counsel patients on diet, nutrition, exercise, healthy habits, and occupationaland lifestyle modification.
One of the best ways to select a doctor of chiropractic (DC) is by getting a referral from a friend, family member, colleague, or another health care provider.
A referral is usually not needed to see a doctor of chiropractic (DC); however, your health plan may have specific referral requirements. You may want to contact your employer’s human resources department—or the insurance plan directly—to find out if there are any referral requirements. Most plans allow you to just call and schedule an appointment with a DC.
Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal complaints. Although chiropractic has an excellent safety record, no health treatment is completely free of potential adverse effects. The risks associated with chiropractic, however, are very small. Many patients feel immediate relief following chiropractic treatment, but some may experience mild soreness or aching, just as they do after some forms of exercise. Current literature shows that minor discomfort or soreness following spinal manipulation typically fades within 24 hours.
Neck pain and some types of headaches are treated through precise cervical manipulation. Cervical manipulation, often called a neck adjustment, works to improve joint mobility in the neck, restoring range of motion and reducing muscle spasm, which helps relieve pressure and tension. Neck manipulation is a remarkably safe procedure. While some reports have associated upper high-velocity neck manipulation with a certain kind of stroke, or vertebral artery dissection, recent evidence suggests that this type of arterial injury often takes place spontaneously, or following everyday activities such as turning the head while driving, swimming, or having a shampoo in a hair salon. Patients with this condition may experience neck pain and headache that leads them to seek professional care—often at the office of a doctor of chiropractic or family physician — but that care is not the cause of the injury. The best evidence indicates that the incidence of artery injuries associated with high-velocity upper neck manipulation is extremely rare – about 1 case in 5.85 million manipulations.
If you are visiting your doctor of chiropractic with upper-neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms. This will help your doctor of chiropractic offer the safest and most effective treatment, even if it involves referral to another health care provider.
It is important for patients to understand the risks associated with some of the most common treatments for musculoskeletal pain -- prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) -- as these treatments may carry risks significantly greater than those of chiropractic manipulation. According to a study from the American Journal of Gastroenterology, approximately one-third of all hospitalizations and deaths related to gastrointestinal bleeding can be attributed to the use of aspirin or NSAID painkillers like ibuprofen.
Yes, children can benefit from chiropractic care. Children are very physically active and experience many types of falls and blows from activities of daily living as well as from participating in sports. Injuries such as these may cause many symptoms including back and neck pain, stiffness, soreness or discomfort. Chiropractic care is always adapted to the individual patient. It is a highly skilled treatment, and in the case of children, very gentle.
Chiropractors are being recognized to admit and treat patients in hospitals and to use outpatient clinical facilities (such as labs, x-rays, etc.) for their non-hospitalized patients. Hospital privileges were first granted in 1983.
Yes. Chiropractic care is included in most health insurance plans, including major medical plans, workers’ compensation, Medicare, some Medicaid plans, and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans for federal employees, among others. Chiropractic care is also available to active-duty members of the armed forces at more than 60 military bases and is available to veterans at 36 major veterans medical facilities.
Doctors of chiropracticare educated as primary-contact health care providers, with an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, ligaments and joints of the spine and extremities) and the nerves that supply them. Educational requirements for doctors of chiropractic are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.
The typical applicant for chiropractic college has already acquired nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding — four to five academic years of professional study are the standard. Doctors of chiropractic are educated in orthopedics, neurology, physiology, human anatomy, clinical diagnosis including laboratory procedures, diagnostic imaging, exercise, nutrition rehabilitation and more.
Because chiropractic care includes highly skilled manipulation/adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical technique training to master these important manipulative procedures.
In total, the chiropractic college curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency that is fully recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed during the doctor of chiropractic’s intensive years of chiropractic education. The chiropractic physician typically uses his or her hands--or an instrument--to manipulate the joints of the body, particularly the spine, in order to restore or enhance joint function. This often helps resolve joint inflammation and reduces the patient's pain. Chiropractic manipulation is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort. The chiropractor adapts the procedure to meet the specific needs of each patient. Patients often note positive changes in their symptoms immediately following treatment.
The hands-on nature of the chiropractic treatment is essentially what requires patients to visit the chiropractor a number of times. To be treated by a chiropractor, a patient needs to be in his or her office. In contrast, a course of treatment from medical doctors often involves a pre-established plan that is conducted at home (i.e. taking a course of antibiotics once a day for a couple of weeks). A chiropractor may provide acute, chronic, and/or preventive care thus making a certain number of visits sometimes necessary. Your doctor of chiropractic should tell you the extent of treatment recommended and how long you can expect it to last.
Adjustment (or manipulation) of a joint may result in the release of a gas bubble between the joints, which makes a popping sound. The same thing occurs when you “crack” your knuckles. The noise is caused by the change of pressure within the joint, which results in gas bubbles being released. There is usually minimal, if any, discomfort involved.
If you think that chiropractic is a new science, it is. However, you might be surprised to know the first pictures depicting spinal manipulation were discovered in prehistoric cave paintings in Pont le Merd in southwestern France. They may have been crude, non-specific attempts to manipulate the spine, but these early historical records date back to 17,500 B.C. The ancient Chinese were using manipulation in 2700 B.C., Greek papyruses from 1500 B.C. gave directions for solving lower-back problems by maneuvering the legs. We also know that the ancient Japanese, Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Tibetans and Syrians all practiced spinal manipulation.
Crude types of manipulation continued all over the world until Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer discovered the concept of a specific spinal adjustment. It was his son B.J. Palmer who later developed it into the modern philosophy, art and science of chiropractic we are familiar with today.
On September 18, 1895, D.D. performed his first adjustment on janitor, Harvey Lillard, who had been deaf for seventeen years. The man’s hearing returned, and because of the success of Palmer’s spinal adjustment, the modern recorded history of chiropractic began.
Over the succeeding months, other patients came to him with diverse problems including flu, sciatica, migraines, headaches, stomach complaints, epilepsy, and heart problems. Palmer would eventually coin the term chiropractic from the Greek words, chiro, meaning (hand) and practic, meaning (practice or operation). He renamed his clinic the Palmer School & Infirmary of Chiropractic. It was his son Dr. BJ Palmer, who continued the school after the death of DD. It is the son BJ, who is given credit today for growing and developing the profession into what it has become today. The rest, as they say, is history.
To understand chiropractic, one must have a basic understanding about how the body functions. From the time you were born, an “inner wisdom” has known exactly how to keep you healthy and alive. It knows how fast your heart should beat, how often your lungs need to breathe, how to digest food and how to eliminate waste. There are millions of details controlled by this inner wisdom that keep this marvelous machine in prime functioning condition.
Every living organism in our world possesses what chiropractors call Innate Intelligence. The body machine comes out of the “factory” fully able to function, as long as it has regular fuel and adequate maintenance, thanks to this Innate Intelligence.
Innate Intelligence sends instructions to every organ and cell in your body through the nervous system housed and protected by the vertebrae. However, if these vertebrae are mis-aligned, even a little, those instructions can be interrupted. The result is “dis-ease” and dysfunction.
The word disease is a combination of 'dis' and 'ease'. 'Dis' is a prefix meaning “apart from” and ease meaning a “state of balance.” It follows then that dis-ease is a lack of comfort, a loss in harmony in the system. When there is a lack of harmony in music, the musician adjusts the notes to complement each other. That’s exactly what a chiropractic adjustment strives to do, restore body harmony.
Many times, people wait until they're suffering from the symptoms of a spinal misalignment or "subluxation" before going to see a chiropractor. Some of the conditions people experience can include pain near the spine, stiffness in the neck, shoulders or back, headaches, or numbness or tingling in the arms, legs, feet or hands.
Unfortunately all these symptoms are the result of a condition that has existed for some time. Pain or any of the other symptoms discussed above can take weeks or months to develop. Often times people will appear to suffer a serious injury after performing a simple activity. The real cause of their condition is probably the result of an accident or injury the person experienced months or even years ago.
Chiropractic checkups are recommended just like dental or optical checkups. The only professional qualified to determine if you are subluxated is a chiropractor. No other health care provider is as well versed on finding and treating the vertebral subluxation.
Your visit will begin with a consultation by the doctor in which the history of your condition and pertinent information will be discussed. A physical examination consisting of postural analysis, motion and static palpation (assessing the tone and symmetry of muscles and tendons through motion and touch), orthopedic and neurologic tests will be performed. An x-ray examination of the area(s) of complaints may be performed if the doctor deems it necessary. Usually, treatment begins immediately following the examination. Treatment consists of osseous adjustments/manipulations to help correct misalignments and/or aberrant motion. This may be supplemented by one or more of the following: ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cryotherapy, heat therapy, stretches, tissue work, and supportive braces.
*Information re-printed with permission of the American Chiropractic Association. Please check out ACA website (http://www.acatoday.org) for most current updates.