Alternative treatment options are growing in popularity as people want to rely less on pharmaceuticals and move towards integrative or holistic treatment plans. Often, you will see a chiropractor as one of those alternative treatment options.
Looking to reap those chiropractic benefits? Considering introducing a chiropractor into your treatment plan? You may have questions about what to expect and whether or not you can trust a chiropractor to care for you or your child.
Are Chiropractors Doctors?
They are. But, they’re not your traditional medical doctor that goes through a rigorous program with years of training beyond finishing their degree. A chiropractor must earn a postgraduate degree called a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). The duration and prerequisites will vary depending on the program, but typically at least three years of u undergraduate study is required before entering the DC program, which will then take anywhere from three to five years.
Once they’ve earned their Doctor of Chiropractic degree, they must also pass exams administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners and obtain their license in the state they plan to practice. Many states also require the passing of state-specific exams and continuing education.
There are also pediatric chiropractors who specialize in working with children as well as prenatal chiropractors. All chiropractors are trained to work with pregnant women, but some choose to specialize and take on additional training earning certificates like:
Member of ICPA reflecting special interest
What Do Chiropractors Do?
Chiropractors can actually do a lot, though the scope of their practice will depend on the laws in the state they practice in. Generally, they focus their attention on the musculoskeletal system. Their goal is to relieve pain caused by misalignment and other issues and improve the quality of life of their patients.
You may seek out a chiropractor or your doctor may include a chiropractor as part of your integrative treatment plan. Your first visit with your chiropractor should include a discussion of medical history and a physical exam. There may be additional diagnostic imaging tests like x-rays, CTs, or MRIs to determine if there is an underlying issue that could be exasperated by chiropractor massage or other treatments.
Treatments offered by chiropractors include:
Adjustments. When most people think of chiropractic care, this is what they’re picturing. The goal here is to gently realign joints to relieve the symptoms associated with misalignment.
Soft Tissue Therapy. This is the chiropractor massage and it focuses less on the joints and more on the muscles.
Exercises and Stretches. These can help to maintain the progress made during other chiropractic appointments and help to restore some flexibility and mobility that may otherwise be lost.
Benefits of Chiropractic Care
There are many benefits to chiropractic care, but generally, the goal is to relieve pain. Millions of adults suffer from some type of chronic pain and not all want to rely on opioids or other prescription pain medication. So, what exactly are chiropractic benefits? What can a chiropractor help to treat? In addition to the conditions below, benefits of chiropractic care can also include inflammation reduction and a boost in immunity but studies on these are minimal.
This isn’t too surprising given the connection to the musculoskeletal system, specifically the joints. But arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, is often treated in part by a chiropractor. Those with an inflammatory disease will need to be more careful and should not seek chiropractic care if they have active inflammation.
There are studies that highlight the improvement of pain scores and decreased reliance on medication when chiropractic care is included in the migraine treatment plan. One study found that those who received both cervical and thoracic manipulation saw “significantly greater reductions in headache intensity.”
Low Back Pain
This should come as no surprise. Back and neck pain are one of the most common reasons patients visit a chiropractor. The American College of Physicians “Low Back Pain” guideline actually recommends spinal manipulation combined with heat, massage, and acupuncture as an alternative to pain medications.
There are several studies that highlight the chiropractic benefits for neck pain. One study found more than 50% of participants saw a pain reduction after 6 weeks. “Clinically meaningful reductions” in the most severe pain were 60% more likely if heat therapy was also included.
Stress, Anxiety, & Depression
Chiropractors often believe in a mind-body approach, which can benefit those who suffer from mental illness. Spinal manipulation, or adjustments, can actually trigger an increase in neurotensin, oxytocin, and cortisol blood levels. It can also lower blood pressure.
There have been several studies that have found spinal manipulation can lower blood pressure in the short term. Long-term blood pressure studies have not yet been conducted. A Chicago-area study found a significant decrease while another study found chiropractic adjustments of the thoracic spine (T1-T5) saw a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure during treatment.
Talk to A Doctor About Chiropractic Benefits
If you’re suffering from an ailment that you believe a chiropractor can help with, consider speaking with your doctor about the benefits of chiropractic care. Talk to a doctor today.
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