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Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches. Doctors of Chiropractic often referred to as chiropractors or chiropractic physicians – practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.
The most common therapeutic procedure performed by doctors of chiropractic is known as “spinal manipulation,” also called “chiropractic adjustment.” Manipulation and mobilization is a therapeutic intervention that has roots in traditional medicine and has been used by various cultures for thousands of years. Hippocrates “the father of medicine” used manipulative techniques, as did the ancient egyptians and many other cultures. A modern re-emphasis on manipulative therapy occurred in the late 19th century in North America with the emergence of osteopathic and chiropractic medicine. Spinal manipulative therapy gained recognition by mainstream medicine during the 1980s.
Manipulation and mobilization have been shown to:
- Increase range of motion
- Decrease recovery time from back pain lasting less than 4 weeks duration
- Relieve musculoskeletal pain
- Alter sensorimotor integration
Today, back pain guidelines from across the globe recommend spinal manipulation as the main treatment of back pain lasting less than 4 weeks. It is also one of the recommended treatments for back pain lasting more than 4 weeks due to the tremendous amount of research that has surfaced over the last 20 years documenting the success of this form of treatment for back pain.
Some information regarding the success of manipulation for the treatment of headaches, neck pain and low back pain include:
- A report released in 2001 by researchers from Duke University’s Evidence Based practice center, found that spinal manipulation- commonly performed by Doctors of Chiropractic- resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originated from the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer lasting relief of tension type headaches than a commonly prescribed medication.
- The council on chiropractic guidelines and practice parameters states: Strong evidence supports spinal manipulation increasing function and reducing symptoms of acute and subacute low back pain. Strong evidence supports spinal manipulation reducing chronic back pain symptoms and improving function. Good evidence exists supporting exercise in conjunction with spinal manipulation to accelerate and improve outcomes and to reduce the recurrence of episodes of back pain. Fair evidence supports spinal manipulation for lower back pain with radiating leg pain, sciatica, or radiculopathy.
- The Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research recommends treating lower back pain with spinal manipulation.