A chiropractor is a health care professional focused on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders, with an emphasis on treatment through manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine.
Most chiropractors seek to reduce pain and improve the functionality of patients as well as to educate them on how they can account for their own health via exercise, ergonomics and other therapies to treat back pain.
Chiropractic is generally categorized as alternative medicine or complementary medicine.
Chiropractors: Fundamental Beliefs and Goals
Chiropractors focus on the intimate relationship between the nervous system and spine, and hold true the following beliefs:
- Biomechanical and structural derangement of the spine can affect the nervous system
- For many conditions, chiropractic treatment can restore the structural integrity of the spine, reduce pressure on the sensitive neurological tissue, and consequently improve the health of the individual.
The treatment concept of chiropractic is to re-establish normal spinal mobility, which in turn alleviates the irritation to the spinal nerve and/or re-establishes altered reflexes
Chiropractors use a variety of non-surgical treatments to treat patients with certain types of:
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- Sports injuries
- Car accident injuries
- Arthritic pain.7
When appropriate, chiropractors refer patients to medical doctors or other health practitioners for treatment of lower back pain. Many chiropractors have a local referral network or work together with other spine specialists in a multi-disciplinary or multi-specialty spine clinic.
Chiropractic Exam of Lower Back Pain
An initial chiropractic exam for back pain will typically have three parts: a consultation, case history, and physical examination. Laboratory analysis and X-ray examination may be performed.
- Consultation. The patient meets with the chiropractor and provides a brief synopsis of his or her lower back pain, such as:
- Duration and frequency of symptoms
- Description of the symptoms (e.g. burning, throbbing)
- Areas of pain
- What makes the pain feel better (e.g. sitting, stretching)
- What makes the pain feel worse (e.g. standing, lifting).
- Case history. The chiropractor identifies the area(s) of complaint and the nature of the back pain by asking questions and learning more about different areas of the patient’s history
- Physical examination. A chiropractor may utilize a variety of methods to determine the spinal segments that require chiropractic treatments, including but not limited to static and motion palpation techniques determining spinal segments that are hypo mobile (restricted in their movement) or fixated. Depending on the results of the above examination, a chiropractor may use additional diagnostic tests, such as:
- X-ray to locate subluxations (the altered position of the vertebra)
- A device that detects the temperature of the skin in the paraspinal region to identify spinal areas with a significant temperature variance that requires manipulation.
Many chiropractors utilize a holistic, biomechanical concept of treating the bipedal structure in its entirety, in an attempt to balance the structure from the feet upward.