Common Questions about Chiropractic

The following will help answer common questions for you.
If you have any other questions, please contact us at drrick@arayachiropractic.com or call 860.561.LIFE (5433)
What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is the art and science of finding disruptions in the nervous system which have been caused by misalignment (subluxation) of the spinal vertebrae, and the realignment of these vertebrae to allow the body to heal itself and maintain a state of optimal health.
Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts that is based upon the understanding that your good health depends, in part, upon a healthy nervous system.  Your spine protects the spinal cord and nerve roots which extend from your brain down the spinal column through the movable bones of your spine and exit through a series of openings.  The nerves then branch out and form a network throughout your body.  Accidents, overexertion, even tension and stress (as well as numerous other reasons) can result in a “displacement” of the spinal column causing irritation to the spinal nerves.  Doctors of Chiropractic call this displacement a Vertebral Subluxation.  These subluxations are often the cause of problems in the human body.
Chiropractic teaches that reducing or eliminating vertebral subluxations and restoring proper spinal biomechanics can allow your body to operate more efficiently and comfortably.
What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?
The goal of the chiropractic adjustment is to correct the spinal subluxations detected during the examination.  Your chiropractor will, in most cases, use his or her hands or a handheld adjusting instrument, or table assisted adjustements  to apply corrective pressure to the spine in a specific direction and location.  This gentle manual force or thrust helps restore the alignment and mobility of the vertebrae.
Are all Chiropractors alike?
Not all chiropractors are alike.  Although they go by the same name, chiropractors today differ greatly in technique and philosophy.  The traditional philosophy that chiropractic was based on has never changed, but some chiropractors have.  As a result, when patients go to different chiropractors they get different opinions, treatments and results, not to mention costs.  This can be both confusing and frustrating to the patient.  If expectations are not met, patients stop chiropractic care, and never get to experience the great results chiropractic care can give them.
How many types of Chiropractors are there?
There are basically two types of chiropractors; the musculosketetal chiropractors who work on symptom relief, and the traditional wellness chiropractors who work on subluxation and structural correction of the spine.  In our offices we practice traditional wellness chiropractic.
Although he naturally wants his patients to “feel better”, the primary focus of the traditional wellness chiropractor is to remove the nerve interference (subluxation) and restructure the spine and posture to their most stable biomechanical position.  By maximizing the integrity of the discs, joints, and nerves through spinal adjustments and postural correction, the body’s wellness i.e.  health potential and ability to function, improves.  This is done through a rehabilitation program of adjustments.  The length of correction and frequency of adjustments is determined by the severity of the patient’s subluxations and structural alignment.  Symptoms may be gone long before the spine is at its maximum corrected position, so adjustment schedules are kept intense to allow structural correction in the shortest amount of time.
When choosing a chiropractor, you should base your choice on your health care philosophy and goals.  If your health philosophy is wellness, which means maintaining optimum health potential to prevent dysfunction and disease, choose the traditional wellness chiropractor for maximum correction and maintenance of your spine and health.
What is a subluxation?
Subluxations are simply misalignments of the upper spine that decrease your body’s normal function by interfering with nerve impulses, the electrical impulses from the brain that regulate all functions of the body and keep us alive.  Subluxations are caused by physical, chemical, and emotional stresses throughout our lifetime.
What is Traditional Upper Cervical Chiropractic?
Only about four percent of the chiropractors in the US are versed in this specialty.  Our purpose is not to simply cover up or remove pain and symptoms.  Instead, our goal is to clear subluxations.  Through specific, spinal, upper cervical adjustments, we correct spinal subluxations.  This in turn allows your body to begin to heal and to become stronger.  As subluxations are corrected in your body, nerve impulse grows stronger, and healing occurs more rapidly.  In addition, your body begins to acclimate itself to stressful situations, preventing any relapse or further damage.  We check the whole spine but understand that the primary subluxation is most commonly in the upper neck.  Many of the miracles in chiropractic come from this type of chiropractic care.
Why  is the upper neck so important?
Research has shown that your body can understand only a limited amount of information correctly.  As a chiropractor corrects or adjusts the spine, information is being directed into the patient’s nervous system.  Through adjusting the upper neck region of one’s spine, the information is more concentrated, somewhat like an exact ray or beam of light.  This concentrated energy is delivered at the most important place in the patient’s body, the connection of the hindbrain and spinal cord known as the information center.  By correcting misalignments at the connection of the brain and spinal cord, the adjustment improves the entire body at once.  Also, because of the specificity of this type of adjustment, the results are longer lasting and therefore more effective.
Do chiropractic adjustments hurt?
It is understandable to think that if something already hurts, moving the bones would cause more pain, but the opposite is more often the case.  Most patients find the actual adjustment to be a pleasant experience that offers welcome relief to the pain they’ve been experiencing when the function and integrity of the spine is returned to a more normal state.
It is helpful if you relax during the adjustment procedure.  If the supporting muscles of the spine are tensed, repositioning of the vertebrae is more difficult.
It takes some time for the body to adjust to the new position of the vertebrae, so there can be some soreness.  Sometimes, if there is inflammation around the nerves there will be some slight discomfort, but this usually clears up quickly.
Correcting old spinal conditions that a patient has “lived with” for quite a while may require allowing for the supporting muscles to reacquaint themselves to the proper position and to once again become accustomed to supporting the spine in a more normal fashion.  The few patients who indicate discomfort are often referring to a residual soreness in the muscles supporting the spine in the area of the adjustment.
Why would I need more than one Adjustment?
Chiropractic adjustments are designed to help restore a more normal motion and position of the spine.  Unfortunately it is common for the spine to return to its abnormal position after being adjusted.  This happens in part because the muscles that support the spine may have been damaged since the event causing the loss of normal motion or position happened.  Muscles on one side of the spine can become overdeveloped while the other side weakens as your body tries to adapt to the abnormal position.  This can also happen to patients whose jobs cause repetitive motion with one side of the body (like hammering nails, lifting and twisting in the same direction or propping the telephone between your ear and shoulder).  Eventually these malfunctioning muscles lose their elasticity and muscle tone, and this impairs their ability to properly support the spine.  Since the spine is a movable flexible part of the body and you cannot stop using it, repeated spinal adjustments may be necessary.  Patients are often given exercises or specific maneuvers to redevelop muscle groups which can help reduce the frequency of spinal adjustments.
Can I adjust myself?
While it is possible to make popping or cracking sounds by turning your head in a certain way or bending and twisting the body, these are not chiropractic adjustments.  The sound you hear is only the rush of gases in the joint spaces.  Chiropractic adjustments are specific procedures delivered to the areas of the spine that are not moving properly.  Even your Chiropractor must look to another Chiropractor for proper adjustments.
I feel okay…  why should I be checked?
Our busy lifestyles continue to cause spinal problems.  Improper lifting, long periods of sitting, emotional trauma and many other “normal” activities can interfere with proper spinal function.  Early detection can prevent problems from becoming serious.  “Feeling good” does not always mean “healthy”.  Pain or other obvious symptoms may not be present to indicate a spinal misalignment or subluxation.  Yet, reduced ranges of motion, nervous system interferences and other problems may be occurring.  Patients who wait for obvious symptoms (especially after an accident) or those who have a history of spinal-related problems, often require more visits and take longer to show improvement.
At what age should Chiropractic Care start?
Chiropractic is safe for all ages.  Many childhood activities have a significant impact on the spine.  Learning to walk or ride a bicycle, playing sports and even the birth process can cause spinal problems.  Regular spinal check ups can help identify these problems and help avoid any more problems seen later in adults.  As we age and reach the later years of life the spine can go through degenerative changes.  The benefits of chiropractic care can also be seen as many patients have reported relief of arthritic symptoms and other chronic ailments often associated with the aging process.  To achieve maximum comfort and results, the adjusting techniques are modified depending on the age of the patient.
How long will it be before I start feeling better?
As with any healing process everyone responds differently.  Children usually respond quickly while adults often take longer because of years of neglect.  How many times have you said “Maybe it will just go away”? Some patients find they start to feel better with one adjustment.  Others discover progress may take a few visits.  Your lifestyle, diet, exercise habits and regular chiropractic care all affect your progress.
Do Chiropractors prescribe drugs?
No – Chiropractors do not include medication in their treatment program.  Chiropractors maintain that the body has a built-in capacity to restore health within certain limits, and base their care on this principle.  In some cases the use of medication can interfere with the body’s healing mechanisms, produce side effects, create a dependence and lead to drug-caused disease or complications.  Many times (such as with pain medications) medications can only mask or cover up the pain or symptoms of a problem making it difficult to discover the actual cause of the problem instead of correcting the problem itself.
What are the Educational Requirements for becoming a Chiropractor?
The formal training required to become a chiropractor is virtually the same as for all other health care professionals.  They must have an undergraduate education in the basic sciences, and an additional four years of post-graduate training at a recognized chiropractic college is required.  Because chiropractors do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery, the curriculum for chiropractic students has special emphasis on anatomy, physiology, x-ray and of course, spinal adjusting techniques.  After successfully completing the course of study and finishing an internship at the college clinic with actual patients, the student graduates with a doctoral degree in chiropractic.
Then…
National Board Examinations must be passed as well as State Board Examinations for licensing purposes.
Each year, like other types of doctors, chiropractors must complete additional post-graduate continuing education classes for re-licensing.
These, combined with seminars, scientific symposia, and the extensive reading of professional journals keeps chiropractors in touch with the latest developments in their field.
Do I have a slipped disc?
No, it is not possible for discs to slip.  The disc is a pad-like tissue located between two vertebrae which acts as a shock absorber for the spine.  The center of the disc is made of a fluid, soft, ‘jelly-like’ substance.  When discs become damaged, tears can occur through which the soft center can leak out and push on the nerves.  This is know as a ruptured or herniated disc and is extremely painful.
While results cannot be guaranteed, many patients have avoided needless surgery or a dependency on pain pills by choosing chiropractic care for their disc-related health problems.  In fact, chiropractic adjustments are safer than back surgery, muscle relaxants, and even aspirin !
How safe is chiropractic?
The scientific practice of chiropractic has been well documented as to not only its effectiveness but also its safety.  It is safer than taking muscle relaxants or having back surgery.  The New Zealand report printed in 1979 as a result of a government inquiry stated that chiropractic care is “remarkably safe.”  On January 23, 1999 the British Medical Journal reported that a research study on low back pain had shown that chiropractic is one of the safest forms of treatment available.  The profession is delivering millions of adjustments daily to satisfied patients all around the world.  Chiropractic care is non-invasive, therefore the body’s response to it is more predictable than its reactions to drug treatments or surgical conditions.  Chiropractic treatment should only be rendered by a professional with proper training and experience in spinal manipulation – which is a doctor of chiropractic.
Chiropractic is recognized as one of the safest types of health care in the world.  Numerous studies, including those funded by governments, universities and nonprofit research institutions, have proven it to be a successful primary therapy for neuromusculoskeletal conditions — a therapy that is safer, in fact, than most medical procedures used to treat the same conditions.  Chiropractic is also widely used as a complementary mode of care for a variety of other conditions and diseases and to promote overall health and well-being.
Is there a connection between stroke and chiropractic treatment?
Would you think twice about cradling the phone on your shoulder, checking your blind spot while backing into a parking space or getting your hair shampooed at a salon? The risk of stroke from chiropractic care is no greater than it is from any of these everyday activities.
The source of public concern in this regard is a condition known as vertebral artery syndrome (VAS), which occurs when sudden head movements disrupt the blood flow in the vertebral artery, possibly leading to stroke.  As the above examples illustrate, the risk of this complication arising from upper cervical (or neck) manipulation by a chiropractor is extremely remote.  According to the 1996 RAND report, “The Appropriateness of Manipulation and Mobilization of the Cervical Spine,” only one out of every one million chiropractic patients experiences VAS”.  To put it another way, you are five times more likely to get hit by lightning than to suffer VAS at the hands of a chiropractor.
Up to 75% of chiropractic patients receive cervical manipulation as part of their individual chiropractic care.  They way we adjust the spine without the rotation and spinning done in other offices, it is even safer.  It may be performed as part of your care for total spinal health and wellness, or for specific causes such as muscle tension and stiffness, headache or injury.  After a detailed history and examination, if there is any indication that you would be at risk, your chiropractor will not include a neck adjustment in your treatment.
How does the safety of chiropractic compare to other medical procedures?
In comparison to allopathic medicine, which uses drugs and surgery as an integral part of treatment, chiropractic presents far less risk.  Consider, for example, that in the United States an estimated 140,000 people die each year from drug-related reactions.  And the risk of death due to gastrointestinal complications from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen is 400 times greater than the complication rate for people who receive cervical manipulation, while the mortality rate for people who undergo cervical spine surgery is 7,000 times higher.
Human error is another factor that tilts the safety balance in chiropractic’s favor.  In the United States, it is estimated that up to 98,000 Americans die yearly from medical errors — a doctor accidentally making the wrong incision, a nurse administering the wrong medication, and so on.
What is the difference between chiropractors and medical doctors?
Both types of doctors are concerned with the restoration of the patient’s health.  Chiropractors however, are most concerned with the prevention of disease and injury by making sure the body is in a state of optimal health.  It is much easier to stay healthy, than to get healthy following disease.  The education of both types of doctors is very similar, the major differences being that chiropractors do not dispense drugs or perform surgery.
How can I tell if I have a condition that can be helped by a chiropractor?
There are many conditions that chiropractic can help, some of which are discussed on our “Success Stories” page.  Only a trained chiropractor can tell for sure, and only after a complete examination is performed and at times, diagnostic x-rays have been taken to visualize the spine.  There have been many cases where a medical doctor has said, “You will just have to live with it”, but the patient nevertheless responds quickly to chiropractic care.  So be sure to get a second opinion.
A British Medical Journal report in 1995 (BMJ, Vol 311, pp. 349-51) concluded that “after three years, the results confirm the findings of an earlier report that when chiropractic or hospital therapists treat patients with low back pain, as they would in day to day practice, those treated by chiropractic derive more benefit and long-term satisfaction than those treated by hospitals”.
I don’t have any symptoms, why should I visit a chiropractor?
The absence of symptoms does not mean you are healthy.  People can be ill with conditions like cancer, and never know until it’s too late.  People go to the dentist twice a year to have their teeth checked even though they can have teeth replaced.   You only have one spine, and you can’t get a new one.  Changes in the spine caused by misalignment (subluxation) cause the spine to degenerate and restrict its movement.  These things can happen so insidiously that you never know until it’s too late and the damage is done.  We recommend a spinal check-up every six months.  This is especially important for children as they go into their growth spurt, because a misalignment (subluxation) can grow with them and cause problems later as adults.
Can chiropractic help children too?
Of course.  Children have accidents too, but the most serious problem we see with children is scoliosis.  Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that will become a permanent problem for them throughout their lifetime if not detected and corrected early.  It is crucial that it be corrected around the time of their growth spurt, because the curve of the spine will grow as they do.  Scoliosis can eventually be life threatening, as the curve can restrict vital nerves going to organs as well as constricting the space reserved for the lungs.
Why do so many people turn to a chiropractor for help?
Although we would like to be a patient’s first choice, regrettably we are sometimes their last.  I hear stories of patients who have “been through the mill”, seen 7-8 doctors and have never gotten any relief except by pills and medication that just mask the pain instead of correcting the problem causing the pain.  Now it’s not that the doctors are not good, it’s just that sometimes the problem is a chiropractic case, not a medical case.  Since only a trained chiropractor can determine whether or not a patient has a problem that can be corrected by chiropractic, you should always consider being examined by a chiropractor.  When these people get their health back, these “miracle” cases get told to friends and family, and pretty soon we are seeing Grandma, Uncle Bob, and the neighbor down the street, and so on.
How can a misalignment in my spine cause so much havoc with my body?
Nerve energy, that is, the commands that the brain sends down the nerves to tell other parts of the body what to do, can be disrupted by a misalignment in the vertebral column.  When that happens, the nerve that is disrupted can have its message changed.  Usually the result is that the nerve is over or under-stimulated.  This causes the organ, muscle or other part of the body receiving the message to misinterpret the message.  Take for example the cells in the stomach that produce acid to digest food.  The nerve carrying instructions to these cells gets over-stimulated, … the cells begin producing more acid than necessary.  Pretty soon the patient can develop ulcers as the excess acid burns holes in the lining of the stomach.  We get muscle spasms and muscle weakness in the same manner, from over or under-stimulating the nerves carrying the message to the muscle.
What kind of evidence is there that chiropractic is an effective means of health care?
Lots.  Continuing research shows that in many cases, chiropractic has a better track record than any other type of health care.  Some of the research reports are:
1999 British Medical Journal research study on Low Back Pain 1997 U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research
AHCPR Publication No.98-N002 Chiropractic in the United States: Training, Practice, and Research 1995 British Medical Journal report (BMJ, Vol 311, pp. 349-51) 1993 Manga Report – The Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Low-Back Pain.
(Pran Manga and Associates – 1993; University of Ottawa, Canada) 1993 Stano Study 1991 Rand Study 1990 British Medical Research Council – Low Back Pain of Mechanical Origin:
Randomized Comparison of Chiropractic and Hospital Outpatient Treatment.
(Meade, TW et al British Medical Journal – 1990;300:1431-1437) 1988 Florida Worker’s Compensation Report 1979 New Zealand Commission
Any other questions?  Call 860.561.LIFE (5433) or email drrick@arayachiropractic.com
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