A chiropractor is a licensed healthcare professional that focuses on restricted movement or inflammation in the joints of the musculoskeletal system that may be putting pressure on the spinal column and nerves. These impingements, as they are known, are thought to affect the health of the entire body. Chiropractors use non-invasive techniques to adjust the restricted joints with the goal of reducing pain and increasing mobility. Chiropractic is generally categorized as alternative or complementary medicine.
Patients may see a chiropractor for any variety of complaint, but most commonly, they seek treatment for back pain, neck pain, headaches, or joint issues. Chiropractors are specially trained to examine the joints, bones, and muscles of the body and to notice misalignment, tenderness, or asymmetry. They also check their patients for range of motion, stability, and muscle tone. Chiropractors are trained in using imaging (such as x-rays) and orthopedic or neurologic testing to gain a good understanding of the problems affecting their patients.
When joints have become restricted in their ability to move by injury or inflammation, a chiropractor may perform what is called an adjustment to try and restore motion. When applied to the vertebrae of the spine, this technique is called spinal manipulation. It involves the application of a small amount of force directly to the joint, either by hand or with chiropractic tools (such as a spring-loaded activator). This allows the joint to begin moving freely again, frees up nerve tissues that may have been caught by an inflamed joint, and increases blood flow, all of which encourage healing. When it comes to the spine specifically, the belief is that restoring its structural integrity reduces pressure on surrounding neurological tissues of the spinal column and nerve branches, which reduces pain and improves health.
Chiropractic is one of the fastest growing health specialties in the United States. It can often treat problems with pain and joint mobility effectively, without the use of surgery or medications. Because of this, it continues to gain in popularity.