Many people have an idea of what they think a chiropractor does. However, when asked to verbalise this, few people will say much more than “it’s something about aligning the spine”.
It’s true that the spine is the most common tool used by a chiropractor. What most people don’t know is the reason why a chiropractor places so much emphasis on the spine. The reason is that the spine has a very intricate relationship to the central nervous system which consists of the brain, spinal cord and spinal nerves. This system is responsible for the regulation and control of virtually every function of the body. Our body can perform its functions to the best of its ability when this control and communication system is working optimally.
Problems in the spine can occur due to injuries, arthritis, wear and tear, poor posture and many other causes. When the spine is affected by these things, it will experience a change in its alignment and its ability to move in a normal capacity. These changes will send distorted signals up the spinal cord to the brain to tell it that something is wrong. If the injury is severe enough, pain, weakness or numbness may be consciously felt, although this is not always the case. Either way, the brain may respond by producing changes in muscle tone and/or a number other functions.
All of these neurological mechanisms are foremost in the mind of a chiropractor when caring for a patient. A chiropractor will begin by discussing a patient’s history with them to try and determine any contributing or causative factors for the injury as well as any other relevant health information. A subsequent physical examination (including postural assessment, spinal range of movement measurement, feeling the position of spinal structures and any relevant neurological tests) is then performed to identify where any spinal problems may exist. Spinal X-Rays are also a very valuable method to help the chiropractor select the safest and most effective treatment techniques.
Once all of the diagnostic procedures have been completed, a chiropractor will recommend a strategy to restore the patient to as high a state of health as possible. This strategy will usually include a series of chiropractic adjustments to the spine in order to restore functional alignment and mobility. If supporting muscles have been affected, soft tissue therapy can be applied to them necessary. As part of a long term management plan, a chiropractor may prescribe exercises to reinforce correct patterns of movement and supportive muscle tone, which can be a valuable inclusion.
Some patients choose to limit their chiropractic experience to pain relief and resolution of conditions. Others choose to incorporate chiropractic care into a more holistic lifestyle including proper diet, exercise and other wellness producing practices. These patients often get the best results from seeing their chiropractor regularly and preventing new problems from occurring.