A Conversation with a Chiropractor

Doctor showing anatomical spine to his patient in medical office

Everything You Wanted to Know About Chiropractic Care

You may be curious about seeing a chiropractor for back pain. Maybe your neighbor raved that her chiropractor helped relieve her rheumatoid arthritis. Or perhaps you’re just interested in seeing an expert who helps you stay healthy and active.

A chiropractor can do all that and more. Chiropractic care is a safe, effective treatment for so many conditions.

While many studies focus on lower back pain, chiropractors can also help neck pain, headaches, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and more.

But before you make that investment, you probably have some questions about whether chiropractor care is right for you.

We interviewed some of the country’s top chiropractors and asked what questions they get asked most often from people considering chiropractic care. Here’s what they had to say.

What do chiropractors focus on?

The key principle of chiropractic care is that anything that interferes with how your spinal nerves work — called interferences — will create problems throughout the body.

These points of impairment or interference in your spine are called subluxations. They can occur in specific segments of the spine or in full regions, such as the neck.

Chiropractors perform adjustments. What does that mean?

Chiropractors look for what’s wrong in the alignment of your spine and fix it. They base that approach on the idea that your spine is the anchor of the body and the center of health.

To do that, they use a hands-on technique called an adjustment to properly align your spine. Adjustments can enable your body to heal without surgery or medication.

What can I expect during my first appointment with a chiropractor?

On your first visit, your chiropractor will likely evaluate your medical history and do a physical exam. He or she might also use lab tests or diagnostic imaging to determine if treatment is appropriate for your back pain.

Your chiropractor will then perform an adjustment to your spine, which is usually a short part of the appointment.

Chiropractic adjustments are designed to correct interferences by using pressure on the spine. Sometimes they do this by hand; other times, with instruments and tools.

Many chiropractors will recommend dietary and lifestyle changes such as exercise to address your condition.

How many visits will I make to my chiropractor?

That depends on your condition and your goals. Sometimes your chiropractor will ask you to return. But other times, you only need a single visit to get great results.

One study found a single session of chiropractic care could increase strength in weak muscles for chronic stroke patients. Another found a single visit could reduce high blood pressure the equivalent of two blood pressure medications!

What are the biggest reasons people see chiropractors?

About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually. Of these, about 35 percent seek relief from back pain. That pain can come from accidents, sports injuries, muscle strains, and more.

Other reasons people see a chiropractor include headaches and pain in the neck, arms, and legs.

But chiropractic care can also prevent conditions or help maintain a healthy condition.In other words, you don’t need a specific pain or injury to visit a chiropractor.

What causes these spinal problems?

The most obvious type of spinal problems come with direct trauma, which can lead to back and neck pain. Stress and poor posture can also impact your spine.

Most of these problems accumulate and show up over time. You might not recognize their impact until you see symptoms such as pain.

I don’t have back pain. How can I benefit from chiropractic care?

Chiropractors can treat pain anywhere in the body, not just your back. But pain management is only part of what chiropractic treatment addresses.

The ultimate goal of chiropractic care is to restore your health over the long term. Over time, this can address and relieve short-term problems you might have.

Is chiropractic care appropriate for children?

Chiropractic treatment for children and adolescents is common and can benefit a variety of conditions. Many of the same things that impact your spine — poor posture, falls, and other spinal trauma — can also impact children.

One study found that musculoskeletal conditions accounted for 40 percent of chiropractic visits for children. Headaches and ear infections were also reasons to visit. But 24 percent of those visits were for prevention, showing it’s never too early to keep your spine in excellent condition!

How does a chiropractor differ from my primary physician?

Chiropractors take a big-picture approach to health. Their ultimate goal is to help empower you to take control of your condition and overall health.

Chiropractic care complements your primary healthcare practitioner. They make a great combination.

Please note that your healthcare practitioner might prescribe medications and make other recommendations. Never modify or discontinue any advice without his or her consent.

I sit at a desk all day and have terrible posture. How can a chiropractor help me?

So many things can contribute to poor posture, including:

  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Weak postural muscles
  • Abnormally tight muscles
  • High-heeled shoes
  • How you sit at your desk

Good posture helps your muscles work well, reduces stress on your joints, prevents pain in your back and muscles, and so much more.

To help improve posture, your chiropractor will probably ask how you move throughout the day. That means how you sit at your desk but also how you sleep and exercise.

The shoes you wear, the pillows you sleep on, and so much more impact the spine. Chiropractic care can pinpoint specific issues that might contribute to poor posture and help you improve them.

You say stress is more than just mental. Please explain that.

Stress is connected with all sorts of health concerns, from heart disease to chronic pain and headaches.

That stress takes many forms. You know the stress of juggling too many tasks or having a huge burden in your life. That’s called psychological or mental stress.

But stress can also be physical. Poor posture, inadequate sleep, injuries, physically demanding work, a sedentary lifestyle, unreasonably strenuous exercise, and poor breathing are some examples of that physical stress.

Chemical stress can also impact your spine. The water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and many products we use daily such as household cleaners and cosmetics contain toxins. These thousands of toxins you are exposed to daily can build up and create widespread damage to your health.

Chiropractic care can address all these aspects of health that impact your spine and overall health.

Will my insurance cover seeing a chiropractor?

Many health insurance providers cover the visit, and doctors will usually accept it as “complementary” or “alternative.” That may mean a co-pay. You can always check with your insurance company about any specific questions.

Why is a chiropractor qualified to treat my health condition?

A qualified chiropractor has studied for years. He or she must pass certification requirements and maintain licensing. Chiropractors are primary care providers and are experts in their fields of study. You’re in good hands — literally! — with a chiropractor.

Any final thoughts that people should know about chiropractic care?

Changes to lifestyle, diet, stress, and sleep are important. But what happens when you’ve made the changes and still haven’t seen the results you want?

Chiropractic care could be the missing link. If you haven’t yet evaluated your spine, it’s time to make an appointment with a chiropractor.