Chiropractic is a profession which specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions which are due to mechanical dysfunction of the joints and their effects on the nervous system.
How does it work?: Chiropractors use their hands to adjust the joints of your spine and extremities where signs of restriction in movement are found, improving mobility and relieving pain. Your body’s own healing processes (which we normally recognise in its ability to heal bruises, cuts and broken bones) will then be able to get on with the task of improving your health. This treatment is known as ‘adjustment’ or ‘manipulation’.
Poor, inadequate or incorrect function in the spine can cause irritation of the nerves that control our posture and movement. This spinal nerve stress (which may be caused by factors such as accident, poor diet, lack of exercise, poor posture and anxiety) can lead to the symptoms of discomfort, pain and even disease which are a warning that your body is not functioning properly.
By manipulating joints, chiropractors stimulate the joint movement receptors – your body’s position sensors which provide feedback to the brain on where the joint is in space. This stimulation can affect the way your nervous system works. Depending on where the nerve irritation has occurred in your spine, your symptoms may include the following:
- Headache or migraine.
- Neck pain.
- Back pain.
- Chest or abdominal pain.
- Shoulder, arm, wrist and hand problems.
- Leg, knee, ankle and foot problems.
This is because the irritation of the nerve in one area can sometimes lead to pain (known as ‘referred’ pain) in other parts of the body. Painful symptoms are a warning sign which should not be ignored; your chiropractor is trained to diagnose the cause, and if indicated treat using manipulation. Chiropractors do not prescribe drugs or use surgical procedures.
What happens during a consultation? Your chiropractor will begin your first consultation by taking a full case history. Then you will be given standard orthopaedic and neurological tests and the movement of your spine and joints will be checked.
If X-rays are necessary to assist the diagnosis, some practitioners will use their own, fully certified and maintained equipment, while others will use the facilities of the local hospital. All BCA chiropractors are trained and qualified to take and interpret X-rays.
If your chiropractor identifies an underlying condition for which other treatment is appropriate, you will be referred to your GP or another specialist without delay. Chiropractic can, however, be very helpful in providing additional relief even for conditions such as these.
As well as using manipulation, your chiropractor may use ice or heat treatment, as well as other techniques, having explained exactly how they work.
Who is chiropractic suitable for? Chiropractic treatment is suitable for everyone, including newborn babies, the elderly, pregnant women and sports enthusiasts. Once you are better, your chiropractor will help you to maintain your own health, and keep your body working as it should, by offering exercise and lifestyle advice for you to follow in the future.
Is there scientific proof that chiropractic works? Particularly for low back pain, yes. The Clinical Standards Advisory Group recommended in 1994 that there should be earlier access to the manipulative therapies and a redistribution of resources within the NHS to make this happen. In September 1996 the Royal College of General Practitioners issued guidelines for GPs which recommend manipulative treatment within the first six weeks for patients with low back pain. They also state that the risks of manipulation are very low in skilled hands.