Chiropractors are physicians who specialize in the treatment of biomechanical abnormalities of the vertebral column (the spine). Chiropractors are trained in the diagnosis and correction of these vertebral misalignments. These misalignments are often caused by a trauma, poor posture or repetitive movements that cause muscles and ligaments to pull abnormally on the vertebrae. This results in the loss of normal motion between vertebrae and can lead to a variety of conditions of both the joints and muscles. When left untreated misalignment and abnormal motion can progress to cause disc bulging/herniation (slipped disc) as well as long-term muscle imbalances leading to joint degeneration (osteoarthritis) and pain.
We treat these misalignments without the use of drugs and surgery. Most of the treatments you can expect involve the use of chiropractic adjustments, deep tissue massage and stretching. The word chiropractor comes from the Greek for “done by hand”. The most common treatment one receives during a chiropractic treatment is the spinal or chiropractic adjustment or manipulation. The chiropractic adjustment is a quick thrust applied to a vertebra, into a specific direction, for the purpose of correcting the abnormal motion or position. Adjustments are often accompanied by an audible release of gas that sounds like a “crack.” This is known as a cavitation and is simply dissolved gas (CO2) escaping out of the joint. It is the same sound as cracking your knuckles. Occasionally, minor discomfort is experienced in the area of the adjustment but this usually subsides within 24 hours. There are times when the audible “cracking” does not occur. This is often due to either significant muscle tightness or if this gas was recently released from normal back or neck movements. Even when the cavitation doesn’t take place, the adjustment is still providing the movement necessary to help restore normal motion. In addition to the adjustment, a patient can expect to receive one or more of a number of additional modalities utilized by a chiropractor. Electric muscle stimulation and therapeutic ultrasound are treatments that are utilized to create local blood vessel dilation as well as reduce pain and relax muscles. Deep tissue massage, muscle stretching and combinations of the two may also be used to help regain normal muscle tone, break up scar tissue and realign collagen fibers. Lastly, a home exercise regimen will be given gradually during the course of your treatment. This is a vital aspect of the healing process as well as an important part of continuing with your care once the initial stages of healing have been attained. Chiropractic treatment is not confined to the neck and back. Chiropractors are also trained to treat many other joint, muscle/tendon and ligamentous injuries.
In addition to treating acute injury, many patients benefit from a rehab exercise routine and elect for wellness or maintenance care. This involves specific, prescribed exercises and in some cases, periodic evaluation and treatment throughout the year to help maintain the proper posture and biomechanics. This is similar to a checkup at the dentist where we can evaluate any misalignments or increased muscle tone that may have developed during the course of daily life. Depending on your lifestyle, this may be helpful for you. Your chiropractor will discuss this with you once your initial symptoms have resolved.