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  • Writer's pictureShawn Kocab

Frequently Asked Questions About Chiropractic

Chiropractic care has gained popularity over the years as a natural and non-invasive approach to treating various health conditions. If you're new to chiropractic or have questions about what chiropractors can treat, this article is here to provide answers. In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover frequently asked questions about chiropractic and shed light on its benefits, treatments, and more.

Q: What Conditions Do Chiropractors Treat?

A. Chiropractic care, provided by Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs), is a holistic approach to healthcare that addresses a wide range of health conditions. DCs specialize in the treatment of back pain, neck pain, and headaches, utilizing their expertise in manipulations or chiropractic adjustments. However, their scope of practice extends beyond these common conditions to include injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, which comprises the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Many of these conditions involve or affect the nervous system, leading to referred pain and dysfunction in areas distant from the injury site. In addition to hands-on treatments, chiropractors also offer valuable advice on diet, nutrition, exercise, healthy habits, and occupational and lifestyle modifications to promote overall well-being.

Q. How to Select a Doctor of Chiropractic?

A. Choosing a doctor of chiropractic (DC) requires careful consideration to ensure you find a qualified professional who can meet your specific healthcare needs. One of the best ways to find a reliable DC is through referrals. Seek recommendations from trusted individuals such as friends, family members, colleagues, or other healthcare providers. Additionally, you can use the Find a Doctor search tool provided by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) to locate a DC in your local area. This tool simplifies the process and helps you find a chiropractor who suits your requirements.

Q: Is chiropractic treatment safe?

Chiropractic care is widely recognized as one of the safest forms of healthcare for neuromusculoskeletal complaints. While chiropractic has an excellent safety record, it is important to acknowledge that no medical treatment is entirely devoid of potential adverse effects. However, the risks associated with chiropractic are minimal. Following chiropractic treatment, many patients experience immediate relief, while others may encounter mild soreness, stiffness, or aching, similar to the post-exercise sensations. Extensive research indicates that any discomfort resulting from spinal manipulation typically subsides within 24 hours.

Treating Neck Pain and Headaches with Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors employ precise cervical manipulation, commonly referred to as a neck adjustment, to address neck pain and certain types of headaches. This technique aims to enhance joint mobility in the neck, restoring range of motion and alleviating muscle spasms, ultimately relieving pressure and tension. When performed by a skilled and well-educated professional, such as a doctor of chiropractic, neck manipulation is a remarkably safe procedure.

Understanding the Association Between Neck Manipulation and Stroke

Some reports have linked high-velocity upper neck manipulation to a rare form of stroke known as vertebral artery dissection. However, evidence suggests that this arterial injury often occurs spontaneously in patients with pre-existing arterial disease. Such dissections have also been associated with routine activities like turning the head while driving, swimming, or even having a shampoo in a hair salon. It's important to note that seeking care from a doctor of chiropractic or a family physician due to neck pain or headache does not cause these injuries. The best available evidence indicates that the incidence of artery injuries associated with high-velocity upper neck manipulation is extremely rare, affecting only about one to three cases per 100,000 patients receiving a course of care. This incidence is comparable to the occurrence of this type of stroke among the general population.

If you are visiting a doctor of chiropractic for upper-neck pain or headache, providing specific details about your symptoms is crucial. This information enables your chiropractor to offer the safest and most effective treatment, which may sometimes involve referring you to another healthcare provider.

Comparing the Risks of Chiropractic Treatment with Other Options

When evaluating the risks of any healthcare procedure, it is essential to compare them to alternative treatments available for the same condition. In this regard, the risks associated with spinal manipulation for conditions like neck pain and headache are remarkably favorable compared to even the most conservative care options. For instance, the risks linked to common treatments for musculoskeletal pain, such as over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and prescription painkillers, are considerably greater than those associated with chiropractic manipulation.

It's worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the overuse and abuse of prescription opioid pain medications as a leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Given this alarming statistic, chiropractic care emerges as a safer and more effective alternative.

Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to provide patients with safe and effective care for various common conditions. Their comprehensive education equips them with the ability to identify patients who may have special risk factors and ensures they receive the most appropriate care, including referrals to medical specialists when necessary.

Q. Does Chiropractic Treatment Require a Referral from an MD?

A. In general, a referral from an MD is not required to visit a doctor of chiropractic. Chiropractors are primary healthcare providers, which mean that individuals can seek their services directly without a referral. However, it is essential to consider the specific requirements of your health plan or insurance coverage.

Q. Is Chiropractic Treatment Appropriate for Children?

A. Children are naturally energetic and engage in a wide range of physical activities. Their active lifestyle exposes them to falls and blows from everyday activities and sports. These incidents can lead to symptoms such as back and neck pain, stiffness, soreness, and discomfort. While these issues may seem minor, they can affect a child's overall well-being, mobility, and quality of life.

Chiropractic care is highly adaptable to each patient, and this principle holds true for children as well. When it comes to treating children, chiropractors employ gentle techniques that are specifically tailored to their developing bodies. The adjustments are performed with utmost care and precision to ensure the comfort and safety of the child.

Q. Are Chiropractors Allowed to Practice in Hospitals or Use Medical Outpatient Facilities?

A. Over the years, the medical community has come to realize the potential benefits of integrating chiropractic care with traditional medical practices. Chiropractors are now regarded as valuable members of the healthcare team due to their expertise in spinal health and musculoskeletal conditions. This recognition has led to chiropractors gaining privileges in hospitals and medical outpatient facilities.

Q. Do insurance plans cover chiropractic?

A: Yes, insurance plans do cover chiropractic care in most cases. Chiropractic services are included in various health insurance plans, including major medical plans, workers' compensation, Medicare, certain Medicaid plans, and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans for federal employees, among others. This coverage ensures that individuals can access chiropractic care when needed, without incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Q: What type of education and training do chiropractors have?

A: Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive education and training to become primary-contact healthcare providers specializing in musculoskeletal conditions and related neurological issues. The educational requirements for chiropractors are among the most stringent in the healthcare profession.

Typically, an aspiring chiropractor completes nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including coursework in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology, and related laboratory work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the educational demands become even more rigorous. The standard curriculum involves four to five academic years of professional study.

During their chiropractic education, students gain knowledge in various disciplines such as orthopedics, neurology, physiology, human anatomy, clinical diagnosis, laboratory procedures, diagnostic imaging, exercise, nutrition, and rehabilitation. A significant portion of their training is dedicated to mastering the specialized manipulative procedures that form the core of chiropractic care. This includes intensive clinical technique training to ensure proficiency in performing chiropractic adjustments effectively and safely.

In total, chiropractic college students accumulate a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience. The rigorous curriculum is approved by the Council on Chiropractic Education, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Q: How is a chiropractic adjustment performed?

A: A chiropractic adjustment, also known as manipulation, is a manual procedure that leverages the refined skills developed during a chiropractor's intensive education. The chiropractor utilizes their hands or specialized instruments to manipulate the body's joints, particularly the spine, to restore or enhance joint function.

Chiropractic adjustments aim to alleviate joint inflammation and reduce pain experienced by the patient. The procedure is highly controlled and rarely causes discomfort. Each adjustment is tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual, ensuring a personalized approach to treatment. Patients often report positive changes in their symptoms immediately following a chiropractic adjustment.

Q: Is chiropractic treatment ongoing?

A: The hands-on nature of chiropractic treatment often necessitates multiple visits to the chiropractor. Unlike certain medical treatments that can be conducted at home, chiropractic care typically requires the patient to be physically present in the chiropractor's office.

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

A: The popping sound often heard during a chiropractic adjustment results from the release of a gas bubble between the joints. This occurrence is similar to the sound produced when cracking one's knuckles. The noise is caused by the change in pressure within the joint, leading to the release of trapped gas bubbles. It is essential to note that this process typically involves minimal discomfort, if any.

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