The third largest health profession in the world, after medicine and dentistry. It is a distinct health profession specializing in the treatment and prevention of painful syndromes and functional disturbances that are due to mechanical problems of the spine and their effects on the nervous system.
The main form of treatment Chiropractic uses to correct these problems is manipulation of the spine and the other parts of the musculoskeletal system.
Correcting spinal function through manipulation frees the nervous system, helps the body to regain its innate ability for self-healing and eliminates the cause of pain.
Some of the methods used today by Chiropractic were known from the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and were applied from ancient Greeks at healing temples named after Asklepios, the god healer. Similar methods using manipulation, spread from generation to generation and are found in all ancient cultures up to the middle ages. Their collection and scientific elaboration began in America, in 1895, by Daniel David Palmer, a Canadian healer who lived and worked in Iowa of United States, where he established the first College of Chiropractic. He is considered the founder of modern Chiropractic. Palmer College still works today as a university, one of the largest Chiropractic academic institutions in the world.
Today, there are nearly 30 accredited Chiropractic colleges in the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand, France, Denmark, Spain, Japan, South Africa, Brazil etc., all of which offer four to five years of full-time undergraduate studies and many possibilities for postgraduate studies.
Chiropractic, as a scientific method, is based on the following principles:
- Well-being depends on a normal functioning nervous system. The various constituent parts of the body like cells, tissues and organs function well and in harmony thanks to impulses sent by the nervous system, which is the general body coordinator.
- When there are obstacles to the transmission of nerve impulses, cells or organs cannot function normally, causing a malfunction that predisposes the body to disease and pain.
- Spinal problems affecting the nervous system are called subluxations. A spinal subluxation is a condition where the position and/or functional integrity of some vertebrae is altered, leading to nerve entrapment, muscle spasm and disturbance of local circulation.
- Correction of spinal subluxations is done using painless manipulations known as adjustments. Adjustments are used to eliminate mechanical dysfunctions of the joints, freeing the nervous system and restoring normal function of the affected organs. Doctors of Chiropractic are adequately trained in performing spinal manipulation.
Reliable scientific research taken place mainly in the last 20 years has documented the effectiveness of Chiropractic treatment in the following conditions:
- Acute and chronic low back pain of mechanical origin
- Sciatica of mechanical origin
- Cervical syndrome
- Tension headache
- Painful syndromes arising from spinal joint dysfunction with or without muscle spasm
- Thoracic Spinal Pain
- Torticollis (Wry neck)
- Intercostal neuralgia
- Painful shoulder syndrome
- Functional disorders of the foot and ankle
- Positional vertigo
and relative effectiveness in conditions such as:
- Spinal stenosis
- Infantile colic
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Irritable Bowel
In order for the Chiropractor to be effective in his treatment, he first has to evaluate the mechanical function of the spine. He has to identify the problem and its nature. In combination with information gathered from the medical history and the imaging testing (if necessary), he will then be able to tell whether he could help those who seek his advice or refer them to other medical specialties. He will assess whether there are any functional/mechanical disorders that could be relevant to the patient’s problem and then correct them.
To detect spinal problems and to observe their progress with treatment, a detailed palpation of the spine is required. During examination, a full motion analysis of the joints is performed, not only in the area of pain, but of the whole spine and maybe in other related areas of the body.
There is a big variety of special manipulations (adjustments - which are delivered by hand) which the chiropractor can use, depending on the age, physical condition of the patient and the type of problem. All of them aim for the correction of mechanical problems and the restoration of spinal function, as well as the rehabilitation of the musculoskeletal system in general. Chiropractors have been adequately trained and have gained experience in performing adjustments and the rest of the manipulations safely, without any pain. In many cases they need to loosen tight muscles or use other relaxing techniques, in order to get rid of any muscle spasm, preparing the area to accept the adjustment more easily.
Chiropractors place great emphasis in the needs of the individual patient. The duration of Chiropractic care varies depending on many factors: on the patient himself, the type and duration of the problem, any injuries, the age and psychological state of the patient, his nutrition, environment, lifestyle and habits. Usually, the first visits are scheduled 2 or 3 times a week, for 2 or 3 weeks, but later on they are reduced to once a week, once every two weeks or once a month. Treatment can then be continued in the form of maintenance care, in order to prevent recurrences and in combination with the appropriate exercise.
Relevant economical studies have placed Chiropractic treatment amongst the most cost-effective treatments, since it often proves to have the fastest and most beneficial results. Usually payment is per visit.
Well-documented research has shown that patients undergoing Chiropractic return to their work twice as fast, compared to those treated by conventional medical treatments or physiotherapy for similar diseases.
Chiropractic reduces the amount of patient admissions to hospital, the duration of hospitalization or gives the possibility for more patients to be treated without interrupting their work. Thus health expenditure is reduced appreciably (due to diminished use of hospital beds), out-patient expenses, insurance costs and social benefits. Most of all, it reduces the time lost from production due to extended hospitalization, absence from work and low productivity in workplaces.
Chiropractic studies take place in accredited colleges. They are university level, a minimum of 5 years, full-time undergraduate studies that lead to Master degrees. The accreditation of colleges is administered from an independent international organization, the Council of Chiropractic Education, that puts into effect and supervises the implementation of the specific study requirements that colleges have to pursue. Chiropractic colleges also offer postgraduate studies. Following the end of their studies, Chiropractors have to do a year of vocational training in their country, before allowed to practice on their own, while they have to become members of their national Chiropractic Association.