What Is Chiropractic?

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What is Chiropractic?

Look well to the spine for the cause of disease. 

Manual manipulation of the body for healing purposes has been documented for thousands of years. Clear descriptions and illustrations of manipulative techniques have been found in hieroglyphics on Egyptian pyramids and in papyrus scrolls of ancient China. Today, with the vast amounts of new research on the subject, we are beginning to discover the importance of manipulative techniques to all aspects of our overall well-being. It is no longer a field relegated to just the relief of minor pains. For over three decades the medical description of manipulation has been the following:
            “Manipulative therapy involves the application of accurately determined and specifically directed manual forces to the body. Its objective is to improve mobility in areas that are restricted, whether the restrictions are within joints, in connective tissues or in skeletal muscles. The consequences may be the improvement of posture and locomotion, the relief of pain and discomfort, the improvement of function elsewhere in the body and enhancement of the sense of well-being.” 

adjustmentAt the end of the 1800’s the Chiropractic profession began as a systematic method for correcting joint restrictions in the spine and the associated nerve insults that accompanied them. For over 100 years the Doctors of Chiropractic have made scientific advancements and are now at the forefront of health care practices dealing with musculoskeletal pain syndromes and injuries of the spine and the extremities. The profession has also branched out into helping people in naturalistic ways with exercise rehabilitation, nutrition, sports performance activities.

Numerous studies have shown that Chiropractic care is a safe, cost-effective alternative treatment for many conditions.

The Cause of Joint Motion Abnormalities and the Resultant Nerve Interference

There are a number of causes for the most prevalent types of joint motion abnormalities. The most obvious is a trauma to the musculoskeletal structures—a fall, sprain, strain, broken bone, or joint dislocation. Upon such an occurrence an altered motion is imposed on the joints. The surrounding soft tissues are injured and unable to respond normally. Protective muscle guarding then follows. As time heals the tissue damage, the body strives to restore normal motion to the joints. Unfortunately, tissues do not always heal normally. Frequently scar tissue forms and tendons and ligaments shorten. Many times the musculature does not recover its full strength. Often the length of time in recovery conditions the nervous system to drive the muscles in uncoordinated patterns rather than directing them to move the body normally. These situations then ingrain movement abnormalities into the joints. This occurs most frequently when insufficient rehabilitation is instituted following injury. All too often people just “let things heal by themselves,” with not even the slightest program for strength or flexibility retraining. This will always result in less than full recovery. What is worse is when an unskilled physician casts a broken bone or prescribes pain medication and an orthopedic support, then he recommends no follow-up rehabilitation program. This falsely implies to the patient that nothing else is needed. It reinforces the use of a quick fix for symptom alleviation without concern about the level of functional recovery afterwards.

Micro-trauma also results in the same pathological processes as those detailed above in the illustration of an obviously noticeable injury. The difference is that micro-trauma injuries occur from unnoticed, or barely acknowledged, cumulative tissue stress. Since there are minimal warning signals indicating functional or pathological disturbances in the involved tissues until major damage occurs, no corrections are made until the problem is full blown. Repetitive motion stresses are frequently causes of micro-trauma injuries. Examples include: running too many miles, resulting in heel spurs, shin splints, knee inflammations; excessive typing resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome; and too much bending over while picking produce in farm work leads to degenerative, proliferative arthritis of the lumbar spine. Most people have early signs that these conditions are present and continuing but tend to ignore the early warning discomforts as “normal aches and pains”. Regular use of over-the-counter pain medication to mask these early warning signals is prevalent. It keeps many conditions from being treated effectively in their early stages.

Repetitive stress syndromes occur more frequently when a learned pattern of “abnormal” movement affect the tissues. A typical example is repetitive stress injury to a pitcher’s shoulder accentuated by a faulty throwing motion. The motion unduly strains and abrades delicate tendons. Poor posture also falls into this category.

Genetic or developmental structural abnormalities also cause poor joint motion. Then one has to deal with the wide range of ramifications stemming from the adapted neurological signaling. A frequent example is unequal leg length, where one leg is shorter than the other by an amount sufficient to cause distorted walking. An imbalanced neurological response occurs with each step, in addition to stresses on other structures that are trying to adapt. Scoliosis of the spine frequently results.


There are many ways to prevent joint motion abnormalities in the spine and extremities, beginning with good prenatal care. Good prenatal nutrition and low stress prevents many skeletal and neurological defects in the newborn. Natural childbirth programs also help provide a less traumatic birth process.

In a study of infantile colic 94% of 316 infants “showed improvement with chiropractic manipulation.” This is far better than any other known treatment.  Remember also that no placebo effect can occur with infants.

Reducing the incidence and severity of injuries is another way to prevent many joint problems from total health. Remember that there are approximately 9,000,000 accidental, disabling injuries every year in the U.S. Mindfulness while at home, work, play, or driving is a key. Look at all the safety precautions that can make enormous differences in one’s life while driving: defensive driving techniques, seat belts, shoulder harnesses, head rests, child safety seats, airbags, anti-lock brakes, quality tires, good visibility. We can look at play also and see where we can assure more safety. Participation in non-collision sports helps enormously. Taking a step further—playing for fun rather than competition protects us from letting our egos override our body’s caveats for moderation. Our minds often push our body tissues to their limits of failure trying to gain some psychological reward when the body is unable to comply.

Keeping aerobically fit, muscularly strong, and flexible are essential for preventing, not only joint injuries, but soft tissue injuries also.  Being well nourished in order to support those healthy tissues is not to be forgotten either. Proper ergonomics, or body movements and posture, are very helpful. Efficient, non-stressful ways of moving through the world of work, play and daily activities can have enormous impact on structural health because of the strong forces that wrong movements can impose on tissues, even if they occur in small amounts over an extended period of time.

 Early Detection

When prevention fails, having good ways to detect joint abnormalities early assures that problems can be dealt with while they are still simple. Detecting early joint motion aberrations oneself is difficult. A skilled Chiropractor, well trained at detecting small “arthro-kinematic” faults by examination will almost always find these early joint problems before they are noticed by the individual and long before physicians doing merely “range of motion” orthopedic testing.

There are some things everybody can do.

  • One, don’t ignore joint pain.
  • Be suspicious of muscles that are frequently tight, achy, and sore. They are signs of either joint abnormalities or muscle tightness that eventually may cause joint motion problems.
  • Beware of the chronic use of pain medication for constant or reoccurring discomforts. Be careful to observe limitations in flexibility when doing exercises, and find the cause of those limitations.
  • Look for short legs and/or irregular curvatures in the spine, particularly in children. Often mothers notice a need to hem one pant leg more than another. Or family photos always show a child with one shoulder higher than the other.

Early detection by skilled a Chiropractor is the best bet. When should check-ups be scheduled to assess early signs of problems before they cause more severe difficulties? No dependable statistics are available, and individual susceptibility to these problems varies greatly. Those individuals who take more preventive care of all aspects of their health are more likely to avoid accelerating problems. People who have a history of physical injury, whether from birth trauma or an incident later on in life, are more likely to develop a reoccurrence of some past biomechanical fault. This is particularly so when insufficient rehabilitation was used in the correction of these past injuries. Lifestyles and work which unduly stress the musculoskeletal system also increase the need for early detection programs.

When chiropractic pre-employment screening was instituted in a manufacturing setting there was an 80% reduced incidence of back problems.

Some conditions which respond well to spinal and/or extremity joint manipulation are: whiplash injuries, torticollis (wry neck), low back strains and sprains, sacroiliac problems, shoulder-arm-hand syndromes, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, carpal tunnel syndromes, tennis and golfer’s elbow, knee and hip pain, headaches, failed back surgery syndrome, infantile colic, asthma, and childhood behavioral problems.

Karel Lewit, M.D. documents in his book, Manipulative Therapy in the Rehabilitation of the Locomotor System of the successful use of chiropractic manipulation in conditions like respiratory problems, digestive disorders, migraine, vertigo, heart disease, tonsillitis, and menstrual disorders.

Most of us have some biomechanical faults which if corrected could contribute to our overall health and reduce stress in our life. Determining the degree of impairment and making cost-benefit evaluations for its correction would best be made by consulting a trustworthy Chiropractor skilled in manipulation.

 Choosing a Manipulative Therapist for Spine or Extremity Joint Motion Problems

In a thirty year literature review during a time that saw billions of chiropractic manipulations given, there was one reported death by chiropractic adjustment and nine involving medical manipulation. When back surgery is considered it is important to remember that death rates due to anaesthesia hover around 1 in 1000.

Here at Thomas M. Collins Chiropractic, Inc. I have accumulated a broad and deep repertoire of safe, cost-effective manipulative techniques to deal with many different conditions and situations to fit people of all ages. We complement these with the most updated rehabilitative exercises, physio-therapies, and nutritional supports for the best results.
Under the Health Research heading there are two sections on Chiropractic Research and the Safety of Chiropractic, where there is much more information on the subject.

Also refer to: ACA Research, Chiro.org, Medline Chiro Research.