Chiropractors treat problems that affect the alignment of the muscles and bones of the body. They base their treatment on the theory that if the bones in your spine are out of alignment, that can cause many medical problems, especially problems of the nervous system.
Most chiropractors take a natural approach to promoting health through lifestyle changes, nutrition, and exercise. And most believe that medicines and surgery should be saved as treatments of last resort for many conditions.
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Many chiropractors have extra training in physical rehabilitation and specific exercise therapy. Some also use nutritional analysis, herbal therapy, and acupuncture.
After graduating from chiropractic school, chiropractors must pass an exam to get a license to practice.
What does chiropractic treatment involve?
Chiropractic treatments usually involve adjusting the joints and bones in your spine using twisting, pulling, or pushing movements. Some chiropractors use heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to help relax your muscles before doing a spinal adjustment.
Spinal adjustment is done through a variety of methods. For example, the chiropractor may use his or her fingers or hands to apply pressure to and move the vertebrae slightly beyond their normal range of motion. Treatment may also involve careful twisting of the head, shoulders, and hips.
Other types of treatment may include:
Heat or ice.
Corsets or braces.
Strength and conditioning exercises.
Some chiropractors use X-rays to diagnose conditions.
Research has shown that chiropractic treatment works well for low back pain.1
Is chiropractic treatment safe?
Ask your chiropractor about risks. Side effects of treatment may include minor pain or discomfort after an adjustment, headaches, and fatigue. Most of these effects go away within a day.
Most chiropractors, physical therapists, and others who do this type of treatment will work with your medical doctor to make sure you are getting the right treatment.
Rarely, a herniated disc or other problems can occur when chiropractic adjustment is used to treat neck or back pain. This can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the buttocks and down the legs. And it may affect bladder and bowel control.
It's important to let your medical doctor know if you are also seeing a chiropractor. It may not be safe for you to rely only on chiropractic treatment.
What to expect from your visit
If you've never been to a chiropractor before, you may be a little worried about what will happen. But the fact is, visiting a chiropractor for low back pain is simple, safe, and usually painless.
And a visit to the chiropractor results in immediate relief for many people.
Your first visit will be a lot like a first-time visit to any new doctor. It's likely to include:
A health history. You will probably fill out a long form of questions about your health. The chiropractor may also ask additional questions, such as whether you have headaches or migraines or sleeping problems. He or she may also ask you about your diet and your activity level.
A physical exam. You probably won't have to take off all of your clothes. The chiropractor may check your posture, looking for things that aren't normal, such as one shoulder or hip that is higher than the other. The exam may also include a muscle test. This involves pressing an arm or leg against the chiropractor's hand to test strength. You may also walk a short distance so that the chiropractor can check your gait or other arm or leg movements.