Ask 100 people what a chiropractor does in their practice and you will receive at least 50 replies of “they crack backs, right?” with the other 50 giving various answers of “I don’t know” or perhaps even “They aren’t real doctors.” Do you know the facts about chiropractors and chiropractic care?
Although more people than ever are seeking chiropractic care, it appears, despite living in the information age, there is still a great deal of misinformation about what chiropractors are, what they do, and what the benefits of regular chiropractic care are.
Occasionally, you run into people who claim they saw a chiropractor for their pain and it did nothing for them and it was a waste of money or time. There are certainly people out there with conditions that cannot be improved or helped with chiropractic care, but mostly, it’s likely that the patient didn’t understand what their problem was and what it would take to correct the issue.
In today’s world of microwave ovens, delivery by drone, and instant messaging, we have come to expect solutions and cures in days, if not hours! Unless due to an accident, it is unlikely that someone’s back pain or stiff neck occurred in a day, but many people expect the quick fix.
This lack of understanding about chiropractic care and what it can and cannot do means many people will suffer needlessly, take more pain medication than needed, possibly become addicted to these medications, and end up in more pain and worse shape than before.
It is our hope at Chiropractor Anchorage that this article will help clear up some of the confusion and misunderstanding of the facts about chiropractors and chiropractic care.
1. It’s All about the Central Nervous System
People think of their bodies as separate “pieces” housed in a central location (the body itself). While it’s true that some “pieces” are more vital to the body’s function than others (the heart, for example) no system in the body can function properly without the central nervous system.
The nerves travel to every part of the body and control every single function. When the nerves are pinched or the transmission of signals from the nerves is disrupted due to a misalignment in the spine, it causes pain or other symptoms.
For example, a patient might come to a chiropractor complaining of pain in the mid -back. After a chat, the patient also reveals that he is experiencing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. After a series of adjustments, the patient has no more back pain and tells the doctor that his symptoms of IBS are almost non-existent.
Chiropractors do so much more than “crack backs”. Chiropractic care is about aligning the spine so that the nervous system can do its job properly and without interference.
2. The Absence of Pain Does Not Equal Health
In the past, people were reluctant to see any type of healthcare professional. The old adage of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applied to health care as well as other areas of life.
Today, people are more aware and accepting of preventative health care measures, such as regular check-ups, cancer screenings, and blood tests. It seems, however, that that adage mentioned above is being applied to chiropractic care. If the back doesn’t hurt why see a chiropractor?
Patients show up at their chiropractor most times because of intense pain and state that “It just happened this morning (or yesterday or last week)”. They are surprised when the doctor tells them the problem has most likely been with them for X number of years. They simply didn’t feel any pain until recently.
One of the main chiropractic facts for patients is that just because you don’t feel pain, doesn’t mean you are in good health. People should consider regular checkups for spinal health the same way they do other preventative health care measures. So, yes, go see a chiropractor for no reason at all and get a spinal health checkup!
3. Chiropractors Don’t Heal
Chiropractors are more like therapists and are not, technically, healers. This is a confusing concept for many people.
If you broke your leg, for example, and your doctor sets the bone and puts on the cast, is he the one responsible for the bone knitting itself back together?
This is like what chiropractic care is. Your chiropractor “sets” the spine and other joint back into their proper position so the body can do its own job of healing naturally.
This does not mean that chiropractors are not doctors. We will talk about this misconception in our next point.
Like your regular doctor, you need to trust your chiropractor and work with them to get the best results. If you aren’t willing to take the doctor’s recommendations or do the prescribed exercise routines, you are wasting both your time and the doctors time as well.
4. Chiropractors are Primary Care Physicians
This might be one of the biggest misconceptions of all; that chiropractors are somehow not doctors.
Overall, chiropractors spend almost the same number of hours of educational training as those in medical school, sometimes even more. The hours in each subject will vary, but on average, doctors spend more time in areas such as pathology, obstetrics, and gynecology, while chiropractors spend more time studying orthopedics, anatomy, and diagnosis.
Many people are surprised to discover that chiropractors know a great deal more about the body than just the neck and spine. A chiropractor is able to diagnose medical conditions, offer advice on fitness, ergonomics, nutrition, and help with sports rehabilitation, clinical nutrition, and even neurology.
Of course, your chiropractor will refer you to other practitioners outside of their area of expertise or practice if necessary, the same as any doctor, but don’t be confused. A Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine is still a doctor even if you don’t see them in the hospital.
5. No, an Adjustment Won’t Hurt
For anyone who has never experienced chiropractic care or for those who have only seen or heard those cracking and popping noises that can occur when adjustments are made, we understand that it can sound scary.
The truth is that adjustments don’t hurt. There is no actual “bone cracking”, no one will twist your head, so you can see behind you like Linda Blair in the Exorcist.
The noises you hear are simply trapped gas being released from the joint. If you have ever heard a popping noise when you open a new jar, then you have a good understanding of what is going on when chiropractors make adjustments.
On that same note, while your grandmother might have told you not to crack your knuckles because you will “wear them out” or that it will cause arthritis, this is just an old wives tale and isn’t true.
Chiropractic adjustments won’t wear out your joints, it won’t make them loose, and it won’t cause you to become arthritic in your later years.
Virtually all chiropractic patients will tell you that, after an adjustment, they feel lighter, taller, and have increased mobility.
Besides, if adjustments hurt, no one would return for another visit, would they?
6. There are Lots of Benefits Besides Helping with Back Pain
While ending back, neck or joint pain is one of the main benefits of receiving chiropractic care, there is a very wide variety of other benefits that most people are unaware of.
Chiropractic care is a natural, holistic way of dealing with pain, thereby avoiding addicting or liver killing pain medications.
Studies have found that people who receive chiropractic care also have fewer episodes of the flu or other viruses, due to an improved immune system response.
Regular chiropractic visits can offer people relief from the pain of spinal stenosis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America recommends chiropractic care for patients undergoing cancer treatments, stating that it helps to alleviate nausea, sciatic nerve pain, fatigue, headaches, and more.
This idea that chiropractic care helps in more ways than just releasing back pain isn’t a trick to get people to visit their chiropractor. One study found that the differences in the spine before and after adjustments can be seen and verified using an MRI.
7. No, You Won’t be Going Forever
This is another myth we heard frequently.
Chiropractic care is not addictive, either physically or psychologically. While it feels amazing, the fact is that, unless you are suffering from an ongoing medical issue, such as spinal stenosis, you most likely need only a few visits to realign the body and allow it to heal itself.
As with the broken bone we spoke about above, you wouldn’t expect to have to see the doctor every week once the bone healed, would you? We don’t know why some people think of chiropractors in this manner, but they do.
Of course, most doctors want to keep their patients for many years, but not for the reasons you might think. We like to see the progress of our patients, find out how their lives are going, and take an interest in what happens to them outside of the clinic. This doesn’t mean we expect people to return week after week for no reason.
Feel free to see your chiropractor for no reason other than a health checkup, make an appointment to talk about the ergonomics of your home office, see one right away if you are experiencing pain or difficulty in moving any joint, but don’t wait to see a chiropractor until you literally cannot deal with the pain or until you cannot stand up straight. You will do more damage to your body by waiting to see a qualified chiropractor because of some internet misconceptions and rumors than anything else.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.