Frequently Asked Questions about Chiropractic Treatment
What conditions do Chiropractors treat?
Chiropractors are experts trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the spine and other body joints, muscles, nerves and ligaments. Chiropractors provide conservative management of neuromusculoskeletal disorders including, but not limited to, back pain, neck pain and headaches. For example, some common conditions that we see in our Oakville office include arthritis, sciatica, "slipped discs", carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia, whiplash, pregnancy related conditions, and plantar fasciitis.
What happens during a treatment?
During your first visit, the chiropractor will want to know about your health history as well as your current complaint. Your home and work life as well as your level of physical activity may also affect your health, so don't be surprised to be asked questions about these.
Although chiropractors use their hands for most treatments, they may also use other methods such as heat, specialized adjusting instruments, ultrasound, electrotherapy, personalized exercise programs, muscle-testing and balancing. Your chiropractor can also give you information and guidance on how you can stay healthy through proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes.
What is a chiropractic adjustment?
Spinal adjustments to correct joint dysfunction are what make doctors of chiropractic unique in comparison with any other type of health care professional. The term "adjustment" refers to the specific force chiropractors apply to vertebrae that have abnormal movement patterns or fail to function normally.
What is the objective of the chiropractic adjustment?
The objective of the chiropractic adjustment is to get the joint to move properly, which results in an increased range of motion, reduced nerve irritability, reduced muscle spasm, reduced pain and improved function. The chiropractic adjustment is a quick thrust applied to a vertebra for the purpose of correcting its position, movement or both. Adjustments are often accompanied by an audible release of gas in the spinal joints that sounds like a "crack." The sound sometimes surprises people the first time they get adjusted, but the sensation is usually relieving. Occasionally, minor discomfort is experienced, especially if the surrounding muscles are in spasm or the person tenses up during the chiropractic procedure. There are times when the audible "cracking" does not occur. This is often due to either significant muscle tightness or the person having a hard time relaxing during their adjustments. Some adjusting techniques are designed to move the spine in a way that does not produce the audible sound at all. Chiropractic is so much more than simply a means of relieving pain.
Ultimately, the goal of receiving adjustments should be to restore the body to its natural state of optimal health. In order to accomplish this, chiropractors can use and recommend a variety of natural healing methods, including adjustments, massage, trigger point therapy, nutrition, exercise rehabilitation, and counselling on lifestyle issues that impact your health. There are some chiropractors who also adjust the extremities and use other forms of physiological therapeutics including the use of electrical stimulation, ultrasound, traction, neuromuscular re-education, and a variety of manual therapies.
What kind of education and training do Chiropractors have?
Chiropractors are educated as primary contact health care practitioners, with an emphasis on neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment. Preparation for the practice of chiropractic is concentrated on three areas: basic training in the biological and health sciences, specialized training in the chiropractic discipline, and extensive clinical training. Becoming a chiropractor in Canada requires a minimum of 7 years of post-secondary education including no less than 4 years of full-time classroom and clinical instruction at an institution approved by the Council on Chiropractic Education Canada.
What is a Joint Dysfunction?
"Joint Dysfunction" is a term used to describe a problem with a spinal joint. It is a functional problem related to a joint and the structures associated with the joint such as the muscles, tendons and nerves. Dysfunction can present itself in various ways such as pain, inflammation and restricted movement of the joint (stiffness). Some types of dysfunction, such as sprain, will not appear on an x-ray. Chiropractors are trained to identify dysfunction that does not appear on imaging through the use of manual examination and non-imaging diagnostic tests.
What happens when a joint is not functioning properly?
When a joint is not functioning properly there may be loss of motion, changes in the muscles that attach to the spine, irritation or injury to the nerves that radiate out from the vertebrae, degeneration of the disks or inflammation of tissues in the spinal region. Chiropractors are well trained to identify the components - or complex - of problems that may accompany a joint problem. Some of the symptoms you may notice include tenderness, soreness and stiffness, spasm, tightness or weakness, headaches, and reduced mobility. Pain may or may not be felt. Chiropractors typically use a combination of manual examination, patient history, and non-imaging physical tests and in some cases an x-ray, to determine what is taking place.
What results can I expect from treatment?
That depends on your condition. The length of time you have had the problem, your age and the degree of your disability all affect the length of your treatment. Your chiropractic doctor should tell you the extent of treatment recommended, and how long you can expect it to last.
One of the main reasons people choose chiropractic is that they often get quick results. Individual cases vary and chronic conditions obviously need more treatment, but Workers' Compensation Board studies show that people with low back pain get back to work much faster with chiropractic care.
You might also consider the benefits of regular chiropractic adjustments even when you feel healthy. Sometimes you won't know you have a disorder of the neuromusculoskeletal system until it becomes acute and painful. So just as you see your dentist to have your teeth checked and your optometrist for eye exams, regular visits to your chiropractor can catch related health conditions early, often preventing them from developing into major problems. Remember, your spine is every bit as susceptible to wear and tear as your teeth and your eyes so you should look after it.
How is chiropractic adjustment performed?
Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed during four intensive years of chiropractic education. The chiropractor typically uses his/her hands to manipulate the joints of the body, particularly the spine, in order to reduce pain, and restore or enhance joint function.
Chiropractic manipulation is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort. The chiropractor adapts the procedure to meet the specific needs of each patient.
Is chiropractic covered by government health plans?
All workers' compensation boards and most employer and other third party insurance plans cover chiropractic services. Most federal government departments (such as the RCMP and Veteran's Affairs) also cover chiropractic services.
Is chiropractic manipulation a safe procedure?
Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a drug-free, non-invasive approach to common musculoskeletal conditions such as headache, and neck and back pain. As such, it is a low risk therapy. Complications arising from adjustment are rare.
Is chiropractic evidence-based?
Chiropractic is a healing discipline firmly grounded in science. Few other health care interventions have been assessed as extensively as chiropractic manipulation, both in terms of safety and effectiveness. There have been at least six formal government studies into chiropractic worldwide over the last 25 years and all have concluded that contemporary chiropractic care is safe, effective, cost-effective and have recommended public funding for chiropractic services. In addition, there have been countless scientific clinical studies assessing the appropriateness, effectiveness, and/or cost-effectiveness of spinal manipulation or chiropractic manipulation, most notably for low back pain. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHI) now offers research grants in partnership with the Canadian Chiropractic Association to chiropractors and other scientists for high quality, chiropractic research.
Is chiropractic regulated in Canada?
Like medicine and dentistry, chiropractic is a self-regulating profession, and each provincial chiropractic regulatory body has the authority to grant a license to practice chiropractic. There are Chiropractic Acts in all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory which establish a self-regulatory process which includes extensive testing for licensure. In all provinces, licensure requirements include university studies followed by graduation from an accredited chiropractic institution, and passing national and provincial board examinations.
Is chiropractic treatment appropriate for children?
Yes, children may benefit from chiropractic care. Children are very physically active and experience many types of falls and blows from activities of daily living as well as from participating in sports. Injuries such as these may cause many symptoms including back and neck pain, stiffness, soreness or discomfort. Chiropractic care is always adapted to the individual patient. It is a highly skilled treatment, and in the case of children, very gentle.
While there is some clinical evidence that musculoskeletal treatment of infants may have positive effects, well-controlled studies are required to verify the benefits that are seen in clinical practice.
Is every patient's treatment the same?
The treatment a patient receives is related to the specific condition diagnosed by the chiropractor, and will vary from person to person depending on each persons unique situation.
Can chiropractic treatment provide a preventative function?
Clinical experience suggests that individuals with chronic conditions such as degenerative joint disease (arthritis) or recurrent neck pain, back pain or headaches may experience less frequent and less severe symptoms when under regular chiropractic care. This also applies to individuals in highly stressful situations and those who experience repetitive physical and postural strain from their daily activities (eg. people who work on computers all day).
What is the difference between physicians and chiropractors?
That's like asking the difference between a physician and a dentist: they are different professions within the health care spectrum. Both chiropractors and physicians are legally entitled to use the title "doctor". As the appellation MD means "Doctor of Medicine", so DC means "Doctor of Chiropractic".
The role of chiropractic is complementary to other areas of primary health care. Chiropractic is not, for example, a replacement for medical care, but may offer an alternative to medication and surgery in appropriate circumstances.
Do chiropractors refer patients to medical doctors when necessary?
Yes, like medical doctors, chiropractors refer patients to other health professionals when they feel it is appropriate. Chiropractors are well trained to recognize risk factors as well as individual disease patterns and will not hesitate to make a referral when it is in the best interest of the patient's health.
Does chiropractic treatment require a referral from my medical doctor?
No. A patient does not have to be referred. Chiropractors are legislated as primary contact health care professionals in every province in Canada. This means that patients can consult them directly.
Do chiropractors take a medical history?
Like MD's, the chiropractor will take a detailed health history during the first visit, prior to initial treatment. This will include details on lifestyle and risk factors to give the chiropractor a full picture of the patient's health in order to determine the best treatment. As well, a detailed health history is important to rule out any contraindications to treatment and to fully investigate risk factors before a diagnosis and treatment recommendation can be reached.
Does chiropractic treatment require x-rays?
In some cases X-rays are recommended since they can play an important role in diagnosis. The need for x-rays is determined after taking a patient case history and conducting a physical examination. Chiropractors receive 360 hours of education in radiology covering a full range of topics from protection to X-ray interpretation and diagnosis. Governments in every province have recognized the training and competence of chiropractors to take and interpret X-rays and have granted them this right.
Why is there a popping sound when a joint is adjusted?
Adjustment of a joint may result in release of a gas bubble between the joints that makes a popping sound - it's exactly the same as when you "crack" your knuckles. It is not painful. It is caused by the change of pressure within the joint resulting in gas bubbles being released.