Chiropractic treatment is a method of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that focuses on realigning the spine to achieve pain relief and promote healing. The goal of chiropractic treatment is to properly align the spine and restore spinal movement by performing a series of adjustments to joints in the back.
Chiropractic treatment operates under the belief that a misaligned, restricted spine leads to health issues since it interferes with the body’s health-sustaining energy flow. When energy is blocked, a person cannot thrive. According to chiropractic theory, the body is able to heal itself when the spine is aligned and has freedom of movement. The body and mind are viewed as intricately connected. Some form of back realignment has been practiced since ancient times, but modern chiropractic care began in 1895 with Iowan Daniel David Palmer, who theorized the connection between alignment of the spinal cord and level of health.
To adjust the spine, chiropractors use their hands to apply a sudden force to a joint to extend it beyond its normal range of motion. Patients will often hear cracking or popping sounds during spinal manipulation. Chiropractic treatment should not be painful. Chiropractors may also massage or stretch muscles and apply other treatments, such as electrical stimulation, using an ultrasound or x-ray, doing specific exercises, nutrition counseling, and the use of heat and ice.
People commonly receive chiropractic treatment for back pain, neck pain, headaches and to correct poor posture. Pregnant women often get chiropractic treatment to alleviate back pain due to added weight gain. Some infants also benefit from a light form of spinal adjustments. Research is ongoing on the benefits of chiropractic care. Clinical trials indicate chiropractic care is as effective as conventional back treatment and chiropractic care can provide relief while waiting for the back to naturally heal.
Chiropractic treatment is generally safe but is not appropriate for people who have osteoporosis, signs of nerve damage, a history of spinal surgery or have back pain accompanied by sweats and chills. Always check with your health provider before receiving chiropractic care. Many chiropractors conduct initial consultations to make sure you’re an appropriate candidate for their care. There are minimal risks associated with this type of treatment.
To practice chiropractic care in the U.S., a chiropractor must have a doctor of chiropractic degree from a Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) accredited college. Training generally lasts four years. Some insurance companies, as well as Medicare and some states’ Medicaid programs, cover chiropractic treatment.