Though chiropractic can help to relieve back pain, help restore
mobility, and treat neuromusculoskeletal disorders, there is much
controversy over chiropractic treatment in general and the 'subluxation
There presently isn't any scientific proof that supports the subluxation
theory. However, there is
substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of spinal manipulation
for relief of certain types of back pain.
The Subluxation Theory:
Chiropractic is based on the theory that if the spinal column is
properly aligned, nerve impulses can freely flow along the spinal
cord. If the spinal column is out of alignment (a subluxation),
the flow of nerve impulses is interrupted and disease (not just
back pain) result. This is called the subluxation theory. According
to the subluxation theory, disorders in any area of the body can
result from subluxations in the spine as the nervous system carries
messages to all areas of the body. Restoring the vertebrae to proper
alignment restores proper functioning of the nervous system, helping
the body to heal itself.
There is presently a lack of scientific evidence that chiropractic
can cure disease or restore health in general or that minor misalignments
in the spine affect the spinal nerves and interrupt the nervous
system. Some doctors say that for spinal nerves that exit the
spine to be obstructed, the spine would have to be so out of alignment
that the person would be disabled. There is evidence, however,
that chiropractic treatment is an effective treatment for neuromusculoskeletal
Chiropractors that subscribe to the subluxation theory use spinal
manipulation to treat a variety of conditions such as allergies,
asthma, digestive problems, etc. The subluxation theory is a controversial
subject between chiropractors and medical doctors and even between
Chiropractic subluxation and orthopedic subluxation are
not the same. From chiropractic perspective, subluxation
or vertebral subluxation describes a very slight misalignment of
one or more vertebrae. A chiropractic subluxation is usually so
minor it is difficult, if not impossible to identify on an x-ray.
An orthopedic subluxation is a partial dislocation of a bone in
a joint causing pain and limiting range of motion.
Chiropractic Treatment For Back Pain Relief:
There is evidence that chiropractic relieves many types of back
pain, lower back pain in particular, and helps restore normal range
of motion. Spinal manipulations may take
stress off surrounding tissues - muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- to relieve back pain and restore normal functioning. Some chiropractors
follow scientific guidelines and only do manipulations for
people with neuromusculoskeletal problems. These chiropractors
often work with doctors in treating back pain.
What does a chiropractor do to relieve back pain?
Chiropractors correct subluxation by manipulation of the vertebrae
(and sometimes other areas of the body). Chiropractors call this
an adjustment. Spinal adjustments are usually done manually, the
chiropractor using his or her hands to apply pressure to the spine
to coax the vertebrae into proper alignment. Some use high velocity
thrusts. Chiropractors usually massage and stretch muscles before
doing an adjustment. This allows the vertebrae to more easily manipulated.
Some chiropractors offer physical therapy as well as spinal manipulation.
A chiropractor may also give advice on ergonomics, exercise, and
proper body mechanics to prevent back pain. Chiropractors often
give their patients stretching and strengthening exercises to do,
as lengthening and strengthening various muscle groups help keep
the spine in proper alignment.
Chiropractic Treatment and Massage Therapy go hand in
hand for back pain relief.
Chiropractors often work with massage therapists in treating back
pain. Tight, tense muscles can pull the vertebrae out of alignment.
Once the chiropractor has made an adjustment to the spine, stretching
the muscles can help keep the adjustment in place. It is also difficult
for the chiropractor to perform an adjustment on a person who has
tense back muscles. A multi-treatment approach to relieving back
pain has often has the best success rate.
Before seeking chiropractic treatment, a diagnosis of
the cause of your back pain should be made.
Chiropractic treatment may be unsafe when certain conditions exist
(such as advanced osteoarthritis of the spine). Proper diagnosis
can help determine whether chiropractic would be beneficial as
a part of treatment for back pain. Though exercise may have as
much long-term effect on back pain relief as chiropractic, chiropractic
often provides more immediate relief of back pain. It appears to
be most helpful in the first month after of the onset of back pain.
It is best to have a chiropractor and a doctor who will work together
to treat back pain. Most physicians have referred patients with
back pain for chiropractic treatment, but not all physicians believe
chiropractic treatment is necessary and will not give a referral.
Chiropractic treatment has been gaining wider acceptance among physicians
as a valid treatment for musculoskeletal disorders in recent years.
*Many chiropractors use high velocity thrusts (manipulations)
that do pose a small risk of injury. Manipulation of the neck or
head using rapid rotational movements poses a very small (one to
two in a million) but serious risk of stroke. People getting chiropractic
treatment for lower back pain can ask that their necks not be manipulated.
*Pockets of gas escaping from the spinal joints
cause the popping noise heard during a spinal adjustment and is
not evidence that the vertebrae were out of alignment.
treatment, alone or in conjunction with other therapies, has been
shown to effectively relieve back pain and help restore normal
range of motion. As with any treatment, results vary from person
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