Chiropractic Therapy for Back Pain
Chiropractic Therapy for Back Pain
By Brennan Howe
One of the most common physical treatments for is
chiropractic therapy, which is the manipulation of the spine. The
purpose is to realign the spine, increase the range of motion in the
muscles of the back, increase the flexibility of spinal soft tissue,
break down scar tissue, and reduce pressure that occurs from
restricted and misaligned spinal joints, all of which help to
relieve pain. Chiropractic therapists, which include not only
chiropractors, but also osteopaths and some physical therapists,
diagnose and treat only problems with the muscles, nerves, and
skeletal system and do not use drugs or surgery. Going to a
chiropractor is much like going to a regular doctor: you will be
asked for a case history involving your symptoms, have a physical
exam, and possibly have x-rays taken.
Chiropractors undergo intense medical training. They must have two
years of undergraduate work, and when they enter chiropractic
college, they study the same topics doctors do, including anatomy,
physiology, x-ray, psychology, and orthopedics. After getting the
basics down, chiropractors then study diagnosis and adjustment
techniques that most other doctors do not. Besides their
coursework, chiropractors also have intern and externships, where
they observe and assist licensed chiropractors. All in all,
chiropractors spend about 900 hours studying and working in their
field. After graduation, chiropractors must either take a test to
be licensed in the state in which they want to practice or the
National Board of Chiropractic Examination.
Osteopaths are medical doctors and can prescribe medications. They
must have an undergraduate degree and take the Medical College
Admissions Test before being admitted to osteopathic medical
school. Like other doctors, osteopaths take four years of
coursework and spend time observing in medical settings. They do
internships and sometimes residencies, and must take exams in order
to be licensed.
Studies have shown that chiropractic manipulation is effective in
treating lower back pain. However, it has not been shown to be any
more effective than any other method of treatment, but has been
shown to be better than no treatment at all. Chiropractic treatment
is most effective when applied within two months of the onset of
lower back pain, but probably will not help people who have disc
prolapsed, previous back surgery, or due to disease. If
you decide to consult a chiropractor, make sure you tell him about
any serious back injuries you have had, and any sharp pain or lower
back pain with leg pain or numbness. These could
be the signs of
serious conditions that could be worsened by spinal manipulations.
If you are interested in chiropractic treatment, meet with the
chiropractor in person to get a feel for the kind of treatment he
offers, and look for someone who diagnoses with a physical exam.
While x-rays are occasionally taken, they should not be the only
diagnostic tool used. Ask about what kind of manipulations the
doctor or therapist generally does and look for someone who uses
primarily slow, gentle motions rather than sharp and sudden jolts.
Avoid anyone who wants to crack your neck, as this can be very
When you go for treatment, you will lie on your side or stomach
while the therapist does various manipulations. He may put one hand
on your shoulder and one on your hip and gently twist your body, or
he may put pressure on the spinal joints. When this is done, you
may or may not hear a crack. Chiropractors may also use ultrasound,
therapeutic massage, stretching, and muscle stimulation to help
relieve back pain. You may have some soreness for a day or two
Studies have shown that you should feel relief from pain in four to
eight sessions. While some chiropractors may suggest a longer
course of treatment, there is no evidence that it will be more
effective. If you donít feel better in four to eight sessions,
chiropractic treatment probably wonít help you.
There are few risks involved with gentle manipulations, but there
are some serious ones that can occur in certain situations. People
with osteoarthritis should avoid twisting manipulations as this can
cause bone spurs to damage the spinal cord and nerves. Although it
is rare, there have been cases where forceful neck manipulations
have resulted in neurological damage and death. Itís best to avoid
spinal manipulations if you have osteoporosis or nerve damage.
Check with your doctor if youíve had spinal surgery, or
along with fever, chills, sweats, or unintentional weight loss.
Chiropractic therapy wonít help you if you have due to
infection or tumor. And finally, rapid neck manipulations can lead
to strokes. You can avoid risks by giving your therapist a thorough
account of all injuries and illness youíve had.
A good chiropractor is one who is willing to work with your other
medial professionals. She should also give you self-care
information and exercises to do at home. Avoid anyone who wants you
to continue sessions to prevent future back pain; studies do not
show this to be effective.
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