What Exactly Does a Chiropractor Do for Patients?

By Dr. Brent Wells, DC

A chiropractor is a doctor of the medical field associated with the diagnosis and manipulative therapy of misaligned and dysfunctional joints. This physician is particularly trained to examine, treat, manage, and prevent ailments in the musculoskeletal system. Chiropractic care works to bring healing to the body through the care of the body’s neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems.

Doctors of chiropractic do have a special concern in back and neck pain. However, when they examine patients in their offices, they take a complete physical exam, which can include other parameters as needed per each patient.

Chiropractic centers often work with other physicians in the community. This is so, especially if the patient is unable to determine the treatment he or she needs as far as his or her skeletal or muscular pain is concerned. A patient may begin care with another physician and then later wish to try chiropractic. We welcome patients from our neighboring physicians!

What Does a Chiropractor Do for You?

A chiropractor is an expert in the care of your bones, muscles, and nerves that constitute about 60% of the body. This particular doctor will help you without the need of drugs or invasive surgery to help you with neuromuscular problems.

This simply means that your doctor of chiropractic will treat your specific condition or pain without prescribed medication. Therefore, he or she does not put you through complex surgical procedures and helps prevent any further damage.

Basically, a chiropractor can transform your life with hands-on manipulative therapies. The simplest thing that this therapist can do for you is work to restore your body’s posture. This ensures that your spine is strong and healthy.

What Can a Chiropractor Help With?

A doctor of chiropractic can help you with more than back pain. This physician is committed to holistic care and works with you to optimize your health. He or she can also provide information regarding lifestyle issues that increase the risk of pain.

1. Back Pain

Most people go into a chiropractor’s office because of back pain. This is one of the most common conditions. According to research, a great number of people experience back pain at some point in their lives, often in later years.

Your back and spinal problems may be associated with a number of warning signs involving other parts of your body, such as the head, arms, shoulders, hips, and legs. Therefore, chiropractic will not only work to get rid of back pain but all the associated symptoms.

Your general practitioner may refer you to a chiropractor for a back problem. However, patients often choose to visit a chiropractor on their own. A great number of ailments may be alleviated or managed through a qualified chiropractor. The more you know about the diagnosis and treatment of your back problems, the healthier you will be.

Back pain is not a simple issue. The lumbar area (low back) is the site of most back pain. This condition is usually caused by strain and degenerative changes over time. Spinal manipulation delivered by a good chiropractor will help treat the problem.

A chiropractor approaches lower back pain in a systematic way. This helps to ensure that everything is done correctly so that the problems do not return. Your doctor will use a gentle thrust on the spinal vertebrae to help realign individual joints.

2. Neck Pain

Neck pain is one of the most popular musculoskeletal problems that is mechanical. Neck pain can also be referred from some other parts of your body through connecting nerve fibers. So, this is a common condition that will benefit from chiropractic care.

You can see a doctor of chiropractic for neck pain if you experience the following:

  • Stiffness or neck pain worsens after a few days
  • The neck pain worsens in the morning and calms as the day goes on
  • Neck pain develops in the aftermath of a car accident
  • The condition has spread to your hands or wrists in form of tingling or numbness
  • Constant worry about the cause of the neck pain
  • The need to use over the counter medication to deal with the pain
  • Turning your neck to the left or right side leads to severe pain

A chiropractor will perform a full examination of your spine to unveil all the associated problems, including the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine. This process allows the doctor to treat your neck pain problems among other things.

A chiropractor will use a combination of manual therapy and cervical spine manipulation among other procedures to treat your neck problems. The manipulation used will help to reinstate proper joint movement.

Your doctor will use flexion distraction technique, which is a hands-on cervical manipulation on the intervertebral disc. Some doctors may use instrument assisted manipulation, which applies force to the affected area without direct thrust.

The above mentioned procedures are the best examples. However, your visit to a chiropractor will determine the kind of treatment or adjustments you will receive during a comprehensive physical exam. Neck pain relief is possible through chiropractic care.

3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common conditions that a chiropractor can help you with. It usually happens when the median nerve (running from the forearm and into the palm) is squeezed or pressed at the wrist.

This condition is also referred to as repetitive strain injury, occupational neuritis, and cumulative trauma disorder. There are many factors that can cause pressure on the median nerve, which can include:

  • Trauma or fractures to the wrist
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fluid retention
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • And diabetes

A carpal tunnel area that swells or becomes larger due to inflammation may become irritated or pinched. Inflammation and swelling of nerves and tendons can lead to a number of motor and sensory symptoms (carpal tunnel syndrome).

Warning symptoms that should drive you towards chiropractic care include:

  • Numbness at night
  • Loss of hand strength
  • A feeling of tingling, burning, or coldness
  • Weakness of thumb
  • Pain or stiffness
  • Poor pinching or grasping power
  • Clumsiness, not being able to hold things
  • weakened thumb muscles

Chiropractic care is highly recommended for this condition. Your chiropractor will do a precise physical exam to locate the root of the problem. This investigation review the spinal vertebrae. Treatments may also include cervical spine, elbow, and wrist manipulation.

4. Pinched Nerve

When excessive pressure is applied to a particular nerve, you are bound to experience a condition referred to as a pinched nerve. The things that may increase pressure on a nerve are muscles, bones, or discs.

This condition can occur in several parts of your body. A good example is a herniated disc in your lumbar spine. This may exert pressure on a nerve root, resulting in pain that discharges down the back of your leg.

If you happen to have a pinched nerve, we urge you not to ignore the warning signs. You should always remember that nerves are what enable your limbs to move and to have a sense of touch. Not to mention that damage due to a pinched nerve may be minimal or severe at first and increase over time.

You should consider seeing a chiropractor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain throughout your spine
  • Pain in the lumbar spine
  • Pain in the neck
  • Intense migraines or headaches

What Can Chiropractors Treat?

Chiropractic care is not limited to neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems. The field has evolved over the years, and doctors of chiropractic can handle more than most people might expect.

Apart from helping you with back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or a pinched nerve, a chiropractor is also capable of treating whiplash, spinal osteoarthritis, short leg, piriformis syndrome, Myofascial pain, degenerative disc disease, and coccydynia and cervicogenic headaches.

1. Whiplash Injury

This is a condition that arises due to a car accident or other rapid forces. This a highly controversial painful musculoskeletal problem. Surprisingly, whiplash (chronic or acute) can be difficult to treat and requires a trained hand to direct healing in the spine and neck.

However, chiropractors regularly treat this painful condition. Apart from peripheral symptoms, including neck rigidity and neck pain, whiplash can present cerebral symptoms. The cerebral warning signs include:

  • Headache and dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Concentration, memory, and attention disturbance
  • Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMJ)

A doctor of chiropractic will examine your entire spine even if your visit is associated with neck pain. A complete physical exam will help to unveil any other affected regions. This mainly includes restricted joint movement along the vertebrae.

The doctor will probably use static and motion palpation, which involves direct hands-on care. This will allow him or her to feel for tightness, tenderness, and restrictive barriers as far as your spinal joints are concerned.

A few procedures that a chiropractor can use to treat a whiplash injury are:

  • Flexion Distraction Technique: It is a non-thrusting and gentle vertebrae manipulation that helps to treat whiplash injury associated with herniated disc.
  • Assisted Manipulation: It involves the use of a handheld instrument that applies non-thrusting force into the vertebrae to treat degenerative joint syndrome and whiplash.
  • Trigger Point Therapy: The doctor will conduct a physical exam to unveil tight and painful muscles, and then he/she will use this method to relieve muscle tension.
  • Therapeutic Massage: This is a common technique used by most physicians to alleviate muscle tension associated with whiplash in your neck.

2. Spinal Osteoarthritis

This condition is also referred to as a degenerative joint disease. It involves the wearing down of cartilage that covers the top section of bones. This condition leads to swelling and a significant amount of pain.

As far as the vertebrae are concerned, the joints and discs in the cervical and lumbar regions experience cartilage breakdown. You are likely to feel pain and weakness in your legs and arms if the condition produces spurs.

Spinal osteoarthritis is one of the commonest complaints seen by doctors of chiropractic. In fact, most patients suffering from a degenerative joint disc condition find great relief in chiropractic care.

Your chiropractor can use one of the following procedures to promote healing: specific spinal manipulation, flexion distraction technique, trigger point therapy, instrument assisted manipulation, manual joint stretching, and therapeutic massage.

Besides Spinal Manipulation and Adjustment, What Do Chiropractors Do?

Apart from the various manipulative procedures and adjustments, chiropractors can effectively advise you on lifestyle issues that can help you avoid neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems.

One of the most unexpected bits of advice a chiropractor may give to his or her patient is to eat well. Chiropractors who offer dietary advice do usually recommend foods and supplements that are necessary for boosting your immune system.

Chiropractors would insist on a healthy exercise plan. According to doctors of chiropractic, being physically active offers numerous benefits. Physical inactivity is recognized as one of the primary risk factors for a coronary heart disorder and high blood pressure.

Doctors agree that physical activity can minimize the risk of hypertension and diabetes. Generally, exercise is essential for fighting off ailments, improves general mobility, and helps to keep the vertebrae healthy. Patients often are not aware of the impact that nutrition has on the body’s connections through its own systems.

Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab offers a wonderfully unique traction system known as the DRS System. This system works to give space back to the vertebrae in the spine. This, in turn, helps alleviate pain caused by pinched nerves and other alignment conditions.

Better Health also offers physical therapy, massage therapy, and individualized chiropractic care. A multidisciplinary approach is given to increase the effects of each treatment. The Alaska Back Pain Protocol is a series of treatments designed to take the elements of each style of care and provide clients with the highest level of chiropractic care possible.

What Type of Physician Should I Visit?

Perhaps you are not sure what type of physician you wish to work with from the start. Chiropractor or physiotherapist? Fear not, we will help you understand them better. First, let us go through the similarities. They both treat musculoskeletal and joint problems to decrease pain and inefficient movements.

They both have a university education. Therefore, they both have titles that allow them to practice in their respective fields. They are both trained and recognized by their respective fields to deliver quality services to their clients.

What exactly does a physiotherapist do? He or she treats neck and back pain, ligament and tendon damage, sports injuries, repetitive strain injury, swelling of joints, arthritis, and sciatica. Basically, a whole lot more than may be expected.

However, he or she uses a range of massage and manipulation methods, including electrical treatments and exercise to not only heal but restore normal movement. A physiotherapist can also offer advice on your posture and exercise.

Having said that a chiropractor’s main form of treatment is direct manipulative procedures which include chiropractic adjustments, such as spinal manipulation, spinal mobilization, and Myofascial release among others.

Who do I choose? Consulting a chiropractor is what we recommend if your joints, back, or neck feel stiff, locked, and sore. Some chiropractic facilities will be equipped to handle many of the tasks that a physiotherapist’s office would treat. Consider receiving care at a facility that provides more than one type of treatment just like our Better Health Chiropractic clinics.

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About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.


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