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.
Chiropractors 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.
Common Spine Problems
While there are many issues that may result in back pain, most of our patients suffer from the following disorders:
- Abnormal Curvature – Your spine’s natural curves help balance your body, however, if the curves become too pronounced, or if your spine develops a twist or an extra curve, it puts extra pressure on the vertebrae and discs. Abnormal curvatures include:
- Scoliosis – a side-to-side curve in your back
- Kyphosis – increased curve (“hump”) in your upper back
- Lordosis – increased curve in your lower back (“swayback”)
- Degenerated Disc – Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is used to describe changes of the spinal discs – most commonly thinning, hardening and drying out. Disc degeneration can result from normal aging or wear-and-tear, but can start or accelerate because of injury, disease or unusual stress. Degenerated discs can irritate the spinal nerves and cause instability.
- Bulging Disc – If the outer wall of a spinal disc weakens, it may push out, or bulge, toward the nerves. This can cause painful nerve irritation.
- Herniated Disc – If the outer wall of a spinal disc tears (ruptures), the soft material inside the disc can squeeze out and press on nearby nerves. This can cause pain, numbness or weakness in your legs or back.
- Fractures – Vertebrae that crack or break can be caused by an injury, repeated stress or a condition like osteoporosis, which can make bones weak and brittle.
- Instability – Spinal instability is when adjoining vertebrae slip back and forth, or have permanently shifted out of position. This instability can be caused by a damaged spinal disc, a bone injury, arthritis in the facet joints, or just something you were born with. The slippage can irritate the bone, disc, spinal cord and nerves.
- Stenosis – Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. Stenosis can press on the spinal cord and nerves and cause pain and other symptoms.
- Nerve Problems – All of the conditions described above can irritate or press on (pinch) the spinal cord or nerves. This can cause pain, numbness, weakness and other problems throughout your body. Common examples include leg or arm pain when problems are related to the lower spine or neck.