Chiropractic is a method for diagnosing and treating illnesses that affect
the nerves, muscles, bones, and joints of the body. Daniel David Palmer founded
chiropractic in 1895. Palmer was a self-taught healer who was studying spinal
structure and manipulative techniques when he cured a man of deafness and acute
back pain by realigning a displaced vertebra in his back. This and other successes
led Palmer to believe that most diseases were a result of abnormal nerve transmission
caused by "vertebral subluxation" (that is, misalignment of the spine).
Although most contemporary chiropractic practices have introduced additional
therapies, spinal manipulation remains the essence of chiropractic. Today,
chiropractic is the third largest independent health profession in the Western
world, and the United States alone is home to 52,000 licensed chiropractors
who together see 20 million patients a year.
What happens during a visit to
The first visit typically lasts about an hour. The chiropractor takes a complete
health history, including:
- Information on past injuries and illnesses
- Current conditions and medications
- Sleep habits
- Mental stresses
- Use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
During a physical exam, the chiropractor also tests the extent of spinal mobility
and may perform various diagnostic tests, such as blood pressure and x-rays,
to rule out other conditions. Treatment generally begins at either the first
or second visit. Patients are typically asked to lie on a specially designed
table, where the chiropractor performs the spinal manipulations.
The most common maneuver is manual manipulation, which involves movement of
the selected joint to the end of its range, followed by a low-force thrust.
The chiropractor may, however, use other treatments including massage and soft-tissue
therapies. Some people experience minor aches, stiffness, and tiredness for
a few days after the manipulation while their body adjusts to the new alignment.
How many treatments will be required?
More than one session is usually needed to correct a problem; a typical course
of treatment lasts several weeks. The chiropractor may suggest two or three
sessions a week (lasting only about 10 - 20 minutes), then reduce the frequency
to weekly sessions once the condition being treated improves. Patient and chiropractor
together evaluate the effectiveness of treatment based on the goals discussed
in the first session.
What conditions are treated effectively
Chiropractic has been shown to be effective for acute and chronic low back
pain. It is also effective for neck pain and headaches (including migraines).
Manipulation of joints and the body’s soft tissues may also be helpful
for pain from other conditions, such as frozen shoulder, tennis elbow and other
sports injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Who should not be treated with
Individuals with bone fractures or tumors, acute arthritis, bone or joint
infections, or advanced osteoporosis should avoid chiropractic therapy in areas
affected by any of these conditions.
Patients should also tell their chiropractor about any physical disabilities
they have, or if they are experiencing symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness,
or other neurological problems.
In extremely rare cases, manipulation of the neck has damaged blood vessels
or caused strokes. The screening process, however, is designed to detect people
at high risk for such problems and avoid neck manipulation.
How can a qualified practitioner
Chiropractors are licensed in all 50 states. A chiropractic degree requires
approximately the same number of educational hours as a medical degree. The
chiropractic program includes clinical experience, basic sciences, and the
ability to diagnose structural (spinal) and functional (nervous system) problems.
At least one chiropractic organization serves each state in the U.S. The largest
association in the profession of chiropractic is the American Chiropractic
Association (ACA). For a list of licensed chiropractors in your area, visit
the ACA's web site at www.amerchiro.org.
You can also check with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org).
Your doctor may also be able to help.
Review Date: 4/6/2007
Reviewed By: Benjamin D. Roye, M.D., M.P.H., Orthopaedic Surgery, The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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