How old were you when you had your first appointment with a dentist? How about when you had the first blood test prescribed by your GP? What age were you when you first saw a chiropractor? I’m willing to bet the answer to the last question is: never. Take a minute to consider what your life would be like if as a consequence of a serious accident your spine was damaged. This scenario may be extreme, but it gives an idea of how important our spines are to our overall health.
However, when it comes to spine health, mention the word chiropractor and most people will give you a horrified look and start talking about how dangerous chiropractic is. Well, yes it can be, so can be removing wisdom teeth or having a root canal, but has that ever stopped anyone?
I’m also quite certain that the majority of the people have never even heard of chiropractic, much less describe what it is and what it does. Some may even confuse it with a chiropodist. Well, chiropractic has nothing to do with feet (that’s the chiropodist’s realm), and all to do with your spine and musculoskeletal health.
Why spine health is important
The spine has been described as the highway connecting your brain (the management centre of your body) to each and every organ in your body. When it is not healthy, any or all parts of our body might experience dis-function. A slight misalignment might lead to headaches, migraines, chronic backache, earache, sore throat, digestive problems, you name it. Yet, none of us make that connection. Strange isn’t it?
A lot of people walk around with conditions such as scoliosis, sciatica and worn discs (the gelatinous part between the different vertebrae – bones- that make up your spine) without being aware of it. Unless there are complications later in life (when the disc is completely worn down, or as a result of an accident) we might go to our graves with the condition, none the wiser. There are people who suffer from backache or migraine simply because a vertebrae or two have moved slightly and might be touching a nerve. The standard prescription may involve physiotherapy, pain medication, or even surgery. But often, surgery and pain medication (with all its side effects) can be avoided, and should be seen only as the last resort.
My initial approach with chiropractic
I had my first encounter with this complementary/ alternative medicine practice about 7 years ago. Out of the blue one morning I couldn’t get out of bed due to the back pain I was experiencing. For weeks I also could not sit for longer than 3 seconds without being in excruciating pain. I had problems functioning at any level because even prolonged periods of standing brought on pain. I tried muscle relaxants, and physiotherapy. I even signed up for yoga. To no avail. If anything all these made it even more painful and sore. Until someone mentioned chiropractic, something I was not really familiar with. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I looked for a chiropractor with good references and went along not quite knowing what to expect.
What is chiropractic?
According to the Oxford Dictionary online, chiropractic is “the medical profession which involves treating some diseases and physical problems by pressing and moving the bones in a person's spine or joints”.
Or put another way: “A system of integrative medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misalignments of the joints, especially those of the spinal column, which are held to cause other disorders by affecting the nerves, muscles, and organs.”
In layman’s terms, a chiropractor is an alternative medicine practitioner who “cracks” your spine and puts all the bits back in place, where they should be. This usually takes only a few minutes. Incidentally, an Osteopath can also do this. The difference is that whereas Osteopathy is considered to be a branch of Human Medicine and osteopaths as Medical Doctors, Chiropractors are not considered actual medical doctors in most countries. Regulations also vary across borders, as does the education needed to acquire the qualification of chiropractor.
Chiropractic was founded by Daniel David Palmer in the 1890s in the US, approximately a decade after the beginnings of Osteopathy and based on similar principles. His son, Bartlett Joshua Palmer, then spread the practice and made it more known in the early 1900s. Whereas D.D. Palmer is considered the Father of Chiropractic, B.J. Palmer is referred to as the Developer.
The first college of Chiropractic, the D.D. Palmer College of Chiropractic was founded in Iowa in 1897 by D.D. Palmer, and was initially called Palmer School and Cure. The college is active to this day, with several campuses, and remains perhaps the most prestigious chiropractic institution worldwide. It was students from this college that went and founded other early schools of chiropractic.
Regulations and accreditations worldwide
In the US, chiropractors become Doctors of Chiropractic after a 4 year undergraduate course. However, even this may change according to which state they are in and where they study. In Switzerland, chiropractors are treated as mainstream professional human medicine practitioners so they do not have a separate register.
There are several institutes of Chiropractic across the world which are recognised and accredited by international bodies and professional associations, including the World Health Organisation. So, how you choose your chiropractor should also involve a thorough research of their qualifications and background, not just a word of mouth referral. There are quacks in every field, and chiropractic is no different. However, why there should be so much fear and scaremongering when discussing chiropractic cannot be fully explained by this.
Considering the work a chiropractor does when manipulating your spine, choosing carefully someone you trust is essential. But I can assure you that when you find the right one, your life will never be the same again.
Who sees a chiropractor regularly
There are many stars who go on regular visits to a chiropractor as part of their health routine (google will provide you with numerous examples of advocates of chiropractic), from Hollywood stars to sports personalities, in disciplines as diverse as golf and American Football. Some teams also have a chiropractor as part of their healthcare team to help players relieve muscle tension as well as to help increase their energy levels naturally.
What’s more, it isn’t just adult humans who can get their spines looked after without the use of medicines, chiropractic is also practised on children, and even animals! (I would hasten to add the latter would not be done by the same chiropractor manipulating your spine, in the same way you wouldn’t send for a GP to examine a horse).
Problems that chiropractic can cure or alleviate
Chiropractic can be a cure, or a management system, depending on your underlying condition(s). It is useful in a myriad of problems, some of which are listed below:
- Headache (tension and migraine)
- Neck pain
- Bowel and digestive issues
- Ear infections
- Immune System (boost)
- Arthritis and joint pain
- Blood pressure
- Pregnancy care (back pain, and leading to a reduction in labour pains)
- Preventing surgery (just look at the various statistics online)
- Post traumatic therapy (e.g. sports injuries, whiplash and post accidents)
- Acid reflux
- Aching muscles caused by muscle tension (post workouts, for athletes)
- Reversing poor posture caused by prolonged sitting, including during sleep
These are just some of the many, many conditions that chiropractic can help you with.
The best part of this is that chiropractic does not include the use of drugs, it simply uses the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Just like acupuncture, it just gives a push in the right direction.
Why wait until it is (potentially) too late?