Chiropractic Frequently Asked Questions
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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.
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. The chiropractor will take a thorough medical history to ensure they have a full picture of your health and tailor their examination to determine a diagnosis and recommended treatment. It will also allow them to determine whether you may need referral to another doctor or imaging studies.
Although chiropractors use their hands for most treatments, they may also use other methods such as heat, specialized adjusting instruments, acupuncture, 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. All treatments are specific to each patient and their health needs and goals.
A Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed during four intensive years of chiropractic education. Chiropractic manipulation is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort and is adapted to meet the specific needs of each patient. 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 but may also use a tool like an Activator.
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 a joint that have abnormal movement patterns or fail to function normally. 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 joint for the purpose of correcting its movement. Adjustments are often accompanied by an audible release of gas in the spinal joints that sounds like a "crack" which is the release of a gas bubble in the joint. 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 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 joint in a way that does not produce the audible sound at all.
"Joint Dysfunction" is a term used to describe a problem with a 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.
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.
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.
Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a drug-free, non-invasive approach to common musculoskeletal conditions such as headache, and neck and back pain. It is a low risk therapy and complications arising from an adjustment are rare, Your Chiropractic doctor is well trained to do a thorough health history and examination to ensure there are no contraindications to the treatment they recommend.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
In some cases X-rays are recommended. 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.