Chiropractors that specialize in the treatment of low back pain attempt to improve the function of the joints and the nervous system by adjusting vertebral subluxations. Manual spinal adjustments are the key to chiropractic treatment, and in fact, the word "chiropractor" is derived from the two Greek words "cheiros" and "praktikos" which together mean "done by hand".
Chiropractic adjustments are very popular in the United States, with as many as 40 million Americans receiving regular treatment. Because there are major philosophical and theoretical differences between the ways in which chiropractors and medical doctors treat back pain, there has always been a rift between these two groups. Recently, the chasm between chiropractors and medical doctors has started to narrow as they have begun to share information and provide each other with more insight into their respective methodologies, practices, and treatments.
Chiropractors today are more likely to refer a patient to a medical doctor when they suspect that an underlying condition may be responsible for back pain, and some chiropractors insist that their patients have a primary care physician that they can communicate with in order to ensure that the patient is receiving the best quality care. In this sense, Chiropractors are becoming part of the broader spectrum of providers that treat back pain. Chiropractors frequently have different methods of adjustment, but the theory behind the success of chiropractic treatment is that realigning the spine relieves pressure on the spinal nerves, which can help to restore natural nerve function throughout the body. As such, they believe that a "well-aligned" body is more likely to be in a state of natural balance and the patient will experience less pain and disability. Many chiropractors today have incorporated electrical stimulation, diathermy, ultrasound and a variety of other therapies, but the mainstay remains manual spinal manipulation or adjustment.
What should you expect when visiting a chiropractor?
When you visit a chiropractor for the first time, you will probably be asked for a general medical history and also asked to complete a questionnaire about the type of back pain that you are having. A hands-on examination will typically be performed, which involves moving your neck and limbs around to determine your limitations. Sometimes the chiropractor will take x-rays of your back to determine which vertebrae are misaligned. The diagnosis and treatment of vertebral subluxations is one of the sticking points between medical doctors and chiropractors, since there is often some disagreement between these two groups about what constitutes a spine that is out of alignment. The final treatment phase of a visit to a chiropractor is based on manipulation of the spine in an attempt to correct subluxations and misalignments. Some chiropractors also use vitamins, massage, and electrical therapies as part of their treatment.