Chiropractic treatment is one of the most popular forms of integrative health care in the United States. Half of the adults in the U.S. have had some experience as a chiropractic patient, and 33.5 million U.S. adults reported visiting a chiropractor within the last year.
Chiropractors can complement the traditional medical care you receive and empower you to take control of your health. Increasingly, chiropractors can be found in conventional health delivery systems, including hospitals, multidisciplinary clinics, the military, veteran’s health care facilities, and corporate on-site employee clinics.
Here are three things you should know about what they do — and don’t do:
1. Chiropractors Don’t Prescribe Medication
Chiropractors do not prescribe medication or perform surgery. Their therapeutic approach often involves spinal manipulation—applying a controlled, specific force to the spine or extremity joints to improve motion, alignment, and overall flexibility.
A chiropractor may prescribe:
- Soft-tissue therapy: to relax tight muscles, relieve spasm and release tension in the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds each muscle)
- Adjustments: to gently realign joints and increase range of motion
- Joint bracing/taping: to support sprained joints or muscles as they heal
- Corrective exercises and stretches: to restore and maintain mobility and range of motion
In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractors may also employ other treatments, including:
- Thermal therapies (heat, ice, paraffin bath, diathermy)
- Therapeutic ultrasound
- Cold laser or low-level laser therapy
- Soft tissue friction, stretching, or strengthening techniques (active release technique)
- Electro therapies
- Relaxation and rehabilitation procedures
- Neural mobilization
- Counseling about diet, weight loss, and quitting smoking
2. Chiropractors Treat More Than the Back and Neck
Chiropractic care can effectively treat back pain, but it can also treat other types of discomfort, including neck pain, joint pain, and headaches. Moreover, it can also help boost your immune system, speed up metabolism, ease digestive troubles, and increase flexibility and movement.
Chiropractors are trained to treat pain anywhere in the body, including:
- The head and jaw
- The shoulders
- The elbows and wrists
- The hips and pelvis
- The knees and ankles
Chiropractors assess your entire musculoskeletal system and treat the root of the problem. They make sure that the joints are moving correctly and the surrounding muscles are functioning well.
After your primary care physician has evaluated your pain, chiropractors can offer complementary care for many common problems, including:
- Sports injuries (disc, neck, and pinched nerves)
- Physical rehab
- Auto/work injuries
- Plantar fasciitis
3. It’s Safe
Chiropractic treatment is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal complaints. Chiropractors treat problems in people of all ages, and all patients are screened to ensure that they are good candidates for chiropractic care.
When adverse reactions occur, they tend to be extremely rare, just as in the case of many other types of healthcare. Chiropractic care is often recommended for pregnant women and infants.
Many patients feel immediate relief following chiropractic treatment. Still, some may experience mild soreness, stiffness, or aching, just as they do after some forms of exercise. Current research shows that minor discomfort or soreness following spinal manipulation typically fades within 24 hours.
Neck pain and some types of headaches are treated through precise cervical manipulation (known as a neck adjustment). Neck manipulation, when performed by a skilled and well-educated professional such as a doctor of chiropractic, is a remarkably safe procedure.
Doctors of chiropractic are well-trained professionals who provide patients with safe, effective care. Their extensive education has prepared them to identify patients who have special risk factors and to provide those patients with the most appropriate care, even if that requires a referral to a medical specialist.
The goal of chiropractic care is to restore your health over the long term instead of relieving symptoms (that may return) over the short term. Chiropractors work in partnership with patients to develop an individualized health plan that is focused on prevention including proactive strategies to help them achieve and maintain optimal health.
The spine is the body’s foundation, and when it is out of alignment, the central nervous system cannot effectively send and receive messages through the body. Chiropractors can identify the root of any pain, injury, or discomfort and create a treatment plan to help you live a healthier, more active life.