MindBody Med receives many questions from patients who are either new to seeing a chiropractor or who have never been here before. Below are answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What conditions do chiropractors treat?

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 injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, which involves the muscles, ligaments, and joints. These painful conditions often involve or impact the nervous system, which can cause referred pain in areas other than the region of injury. The benefits of chiropractic care extend to general health issues, as well, since our body’s structure and alignment affects our overall function. DCs also counsel patients on diet, nutrition, exercise, healthy habits, and occupational / lifestyle modifications.

Is chiropractic treatment safe?

Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal complaints. This is why chiropractors pay some of the lowest malpractice insurances of any provider, because the risks associated with chiropractic, are so small. Many patients feel immediate relief following chiropractic treatment, but some may experience mild soreness or aching, just as they do after starting a new type 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 high-velocity neck manipulations with a certain kind of stroke, or vertebral artery dissection, recent evidence shows that this type of arterial injury is not due to the treatment administered but is a disorder that is already in progress following everyday activities such as turning the head while driving, swimming, or holding one’s head and neck in an unnatural position for too long. Patients that develop an arterial condition of this nature may experience neck pain and intense headaches, thus leading them to seek professional care—often at the office of a doctor of chiropractic or family physician—but the care administered at those providers office is not the cause of the injury. That is why the occurrence of stroke following a chiropractic visit is at the same rate in patients that visit their medical doctor, physical therapist, massage therapist, etc. The goal is to see a provider that can accurately identify the red flags associated with this issue, take the right steps to protect the patient, and immediately call 911. In an effort to dispel this negative correlation between strokes and chiropractic treatment, the Chiropractic Universities require extensive training on how to spot these issues ahead of time and take the right steps to help save the patient.

The best evidence indicates that the incidence of artery injuries following a visit to a health care provider is approximately 1 in 5.85 million office visits.
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.

Is chiropractic treatment appropriate for children?

Yes, children can benefit from chiropractic care. Children are at a stage in life where they are developing at a high rate and combined with being very physically active can incur injuries that influence the way their body develops. Treating children is a very safe and effective way to help them develop correctly without any deformities caused by their high impact lifestyle. Chiropractic care is always adapted to the individual patient. It is a highly skilled treatment, and in the case of children, very gentle.

What type of education and training do chiropractors have?

Educational requirements for doctors of chiropractic are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.

The typical applicant at a chiropractic college has already acquired an 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. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic, and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training.

Doctors of chiropractic — who are licensed to practice in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in many nations around the world — undergo a rigorous education in the sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation, they receive more intensive education than most medical doctors or physical therapists.

Requirements for DC

Like other primary health care doctors, chiropractic students spend a significant portion of their curriculum studying clinical subjects related to evaluating and caring for patients. Typically, as part of their professional training, they must complete a minimum of a one-year clinical-based program dealing with actual patient care. In total, the curriculum includes a minimum of 4,800 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency which is fully recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This has been the case for more than 25 years.
Before they are allowed to practice, doctors of chiropractic must pass national board examinations and become state-licensed. Chiropractic colleges also offer post-graduate continuing education programs in specialty fields ranging from sports injuries and occupational health to orthopedics and neurology. These programs allow chiropractors to specialize in a healthcare discipline or meet state re-licensure requirements.

This extensive education prepares doctors of chiropractic to diagnose health care problems, treat the problems when they are within their scope of practice and refer patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate.

References
1- Meeker W, Haldeman H. Chiropractic: A Profession at the Crossroads of Mainstream and Alternative Medicine.
Annals of Internal Medicine 2002, Vol 136, No 3.
2- American Physical Therapy Association. 2005-2006 Fact Sheet, Physical Therapist Education Programs. January 2007.

How is a chiropractic adjustment performed?

In basic terms, the chiropractic adjustment, or manipulation, refers to the process in which the doctor of chiropractic skillfully applies controlled force into one or more “subluxated” vertebrae of the spine (Luxation means dislocated, so a subluxated joint is one that isn’t articulating correctly but is not completely dislocated). The adjustment is also frequently used in the pelvic region and extremities to normalize joint function. The adjustment is usually delivered using the hands or with a specialized mechanical tool.
The adjustment is a safe, natural, noninvasive procedure used by the chiropractor to restore and improve health. Learning the art of adjusting is a skill that requires years of study and practice. Chiropractic doctors are the only health care professionals trained specifically to deliver a chiropractic adjustment. Other health care professionals do not receive adequate training to make them an expert on this treatment has been shown to be dangerous and less effective.

Is chiropractic treatment ongoing?

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 plan that can be conducted at home (i.e. taking a course of antibiotics once a day for a couple of weeks). A chiropractor may provide acute, chronic, corrective, and/or preventive care thus making multiple visits necessary. Your doctor of chiropractic should tell you the extent of treatment recommended and how long you can expect it to last.

Why is there a popping sound when a joint is adjusted?

Adjustment (or manipulation) of a joint may result in the release of nitrogen gas which is found in the synovial fluid between the joints. This is what makes a popping sound. The noise is caused by the change of pressure allowing the gas to expand. This noise is called a cavitation. There is usually minimal, if any, discomfort involved.