If you’ve been experiencing ongoing neck pain and back pain, it might be time to call a chiropractor. But did you know there are many other types of conditions that chiropractic care can assist with? Their treatments have been known to help alleviate headaches, improve flexibility and, according to some chiropractors, even increase brain function. Here are eight signs that you may benefit from the help of a chiropractor.
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What Services Does a Chiropractor Provide?
A chiropractor is a health care professional focused on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders and the assessment of dysfunctions in a patient’s mobility, alignment, stability, inflammation and pain. They offer treatments based on the correction of those imbalances by utilizing manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine and peripheral joints as well as rehabilitative exercises and therapies of the supporting muscles.
According to Dr. Chris Tomshack, D.C., founder and CEO of HealthSource America’s Chiropractor, a chiropractic franchise brand with more than 350 clinics nationwide, people have historically sought out chiropractors as specialists in the treatment of back pain, neck pain and headaches. “But recently chiropractic care has become widely accepted as the best nonsurgical and nonprescription approach for the treatment of muscle and joint conditions throughout the whole body as well as a preventative treatment to assess and correct any movement imbalances that lead to premature joint wear and degenerative arthritis,” he explains.
While chiropractors’ services are similar to that of physical therapists, experts note that there is a massive difference between the two professions. “Most chiropractors focus on the entire body when diagnosing and treating various dysfunctions, whereas a physical therapist will focus on a specific area of complaint,” says Andrew Fetterman D.C., CSCS, CPT, founder and owner of Creative Health & Spine, a chiropractic and patient rehabilitation center in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. He cites the following as an example:
If a patient presents with a shoulder problem, the chiropractor will address the shoulder issue as well as other compensatory patterns that relate to the issue, while a physical therapist will concentrate their efforts to the shoulder itself.
Fetterman adds that chiropractors also provide vastly difference services than osteopaths. “Chiropractors focus on treatment utilizing a more holistic approach without the use of drugs or surgery. Osteopaths are very similar to medical doctors and will treat similarly by incorporating medications and surgeries when warranted,” he says. Dr. Michael Gottfried, D.C., a member and past president of the Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island and a chiropractic physician at Aquidneck Chiropractic in Middletown, Rhode Island, adds that, “Osteopaths do have limited training in manipulation, though they rarely do it, preferring to treat with medications.”
What Is a Chiropractic Session Like?
Most chiropractors will start their treatments by providing some form of joint mobilization. Techniques can vary from hands-on manual thrusting techniques, table or tool-assisted techniques or even very light pressure-holding techniques. This, according to Scott Michael Shreiber, a chiropractor in Woodbury, Minnesota, can be done by taking a joint to its end range and providing a thrust, causing a cavitation, or click, returning the joint to its original range of motion.
Chiropractors may also use heat, ice, electric stimulation, ultrasound, manual therapy, exercises, acupuncture, laser and many other treatments to resolve your condition. And in some states, depending on the regional laws, they may also offer nutritional recommendations, IV therapy, infrared therapy, active release therapy, rehabilitation, worker’s comp therapy, personal injury therapy, kinesiology, muscle testing, herbal remedies and even acupuncture.
“Anyone can go to a chiropractor: babies, young children, teenagers, adults, seniors and even pets and animals,” says Dr. Edward Group III, a chiropractor and founder and CEO of Global Healing Center. He adds that chiropractic care is more technical than cracking your back and actually focuses on adjusting the nerves. “A chiropractor balances out the neurological system using low-impact techniques to adjust the spine and restore neurological functions,” he says, noting that treatments have also helped with everything from reducing the symptoms of allergies to relieving headaches and migraines, neck pain, back pain and improving a patient’s range of motion.
Signs You May Need to Visit a Chiropractor
1. You’re in Acute or Chronic Pain
Per, Tomshack one of the most common signs that you may need the services of a chiropractor is the fact that you may be experiencing any type of prolonged physical pain. “Pain is an indicator that something is going wrong and shouldn’t be covered up by a medication or other type of device or aid without finding out the cause of that pain,” he explains. “Many physical pain conditions are a result of inflammation due to imbalances or dysfunction in joint mobility, alignment, muscle and joint stability.” Chiropractors may also be an additional resource to evaluate conditions that conventional doctors do not have any answers for, except to be dependent on a medication.
2. Your Body Is Out of Alignment
“Our bodies are mechanical. We move around, lift, twist, turn and sometimes engage in physical activity that is not compatible with what our body is designed to do so naturally, so the body can become misaligned. Misalignment will cause stress on the nervous system, which can become the source of disease,” says Dr. Brigitte Rozenberg, D.C., of The Chiropractic Wellness Center, a chiropractic clinic with two locations in Southern California.
The expert reveals that many different conditions can be associated with misalignment and can therefore cause a patient to experience pain and the inability to function or to experience significant limitation with certain activities. “If gone untreated for a long time, the condition can be not only physical but also emotional,” she explains.
3. You Sit for Long Periods of Time
“Do you know that, outside of the common cold, the second most common reason why people miss work is low-back pain? When you’re seated for a long period of time, all of the muscles in your hip and the muscles attaching into your low back are going to tighten up,” says Tomshack.
He explains that this can cause pressure to build up within the hip and low back and that a doctor of chiropractic medicine knows not only how to release this pressure, but can also release the muscles responsible for the misalignment to ensure that the adjustment will be held longer. “Additionally, they can show you proper exercises and stretches to prevent this in the future,” he says.
4. You’re an Active Person
Physical exercise and sports have many health benefits, but they also put repeated stress on the body. “By adding chiropractic care into your fitness regimen, it will not only guarantee that you’re more mobile, but it will make sure that you’re training your body in a balanced/aligned state,” says Tomshack. He suggests regular chiropractic treatment to not only decrease an active person’s chances of getting injured in the future, but also to work to significantly enhance their performance as well.
5. You Suffer From Migraines or Tension Headaches
Chiropractors commonly see a correlation between headaches and misalignments of the neck and upper back. “Almost every time that I have adjusted a patient’s upper neck when they have had a headache, it has gone away!” Tomshack says.
6. You Want to Improve Your Mobility or Flexibility
“Chiropractors can help you increase your range of motion and function at your absolute best,” says Kimberly Zahaksy, RN, from Blue River Chiropractic in Madison, Wisconsin. Tomshack adds that this is a very common reason that people come into his practice, and it is an important one at that.
“One of the best instant results that I love about the body after it is adjusted is the improvement of range of motion. Once you’re off the table and start moving, you will feel more fluid, more mobile and overall just move better,” he explains. He says that the better your body is moving, the better the body is functioning and the less likely your body will be in pain.
7. You Want to Increase Your Mental Clarity and Cognitive Function
“After an upper-neck adjustment there is an increase of blood flow to the brain,” says Tomshack. He reveals that as the blood rushes to your head, there will be more neurological connections and more areas of the brain activated, thus potentially resulting in an increase in mental clarity and cognitive function.
8. You Have an Ongoing Condition for Which You Haven’t Yet Been Able to Get Help
While the majority of people seek out the help of a chiropractor for an ailment like head pain or neck pain, experts note that many have benefited from chiropractic care for the treatment of other disorders that may be related to spinal dysfunction and nerve irritation that conventional medical care has not been able to correct, only manage. Some of these conditions include digestive disorders, asthma and other breathing disorders, blood pressure issues, sleeping issues, autoimmune disorders and others.
“Everybody knows about back pain, neck pain, headaches, etc., but chiropractic can also help with ear infections in children, bed wetting, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis,” says Zahaksy. She advocates that “being proactive with a chiropractor can also boost your immune system and help keep you healthy.”
How to Find a Good Chiropractor
When searching for a chiropractor, it’s always a good idea to start by asking your friends and family for a personal referral. That way you know you will be getting a doctor that someone you know has used and personally trusts.
If you can’t find a suitable option that way, check with your insurance company or primary care physician to see if they have a referral. “And don’t be scared to visit with several in order to find the one who is right for you,” says Dr. Group III.
According to Jeff Williams, host of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast, nearly all insurance plans cover chiropractic care. And if your preferred chiropractor does not accept insurance, many offices will accept a cash discount. “There are numerous research papers demonstrating the fact that chiropractic care is significantly less expensive than physical therapy and/or usual medical treatment for noncomplicated musculoskeletal complaints,” he explains.