October is National Chiropractic Health Month. In honour of this I wanted to share with you a few exciting developments that have happened in my profession this year, and since I still get a lot of questions from new and long standing patients, I would also like to take the opportunity to revisit what chiropractic is, and what our scope of practice comprises of so you can take full advantage on your next chiropractic visit.
I often begin my initial appointments by asking my new patients to summarize what comes to mind when they hear the word “chiropractic”. I would say, in my experience, the top two most common answers resemble this: “the health professionals that crack people”, and “the spine specialists”. These answers are not exactly incorrect, as chiropractors are well trained in joint manipulation that often elicits a sound from a joint called, in scientific terms, a joint cavitation. There is also strong evidence founded from research studies that support the effectiveness of chiropractic care to help with neck, mid-back, and lower back pain. There is still much more however to the profession that the majority of the general public remains unaware of.
Chiropractic is a vital and active component of health care for over 4.5 million Canadians each year. A chiropractor is a primary health care health professional. As primary contact health care professionals, chiropractors have a comprehensive and complex understanding of the human body, enabling them to diagnose, treat, and when necessary co-manage and refer patients to other health care professionals. Chiropractic, like other healthcare professions such as medicine, nursing and dentistry, is governed by provincially legislated regulatory and licensing authorities. Each provincial authority is responsible for granting a license to practice chiropractic in their jurisdiction, establishing standards or practice, and protecting the public interest.
A chiropractor has a minimum of seven years university-level education. Entrance requirements to a chiropractic program are high, so students with the best academic standings completing a minimum of a three-year program or more are accepted. Once accepted, the student will undergo four years of a comprehensive and rigorous education leading to a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. The curriculum is grounded in evidence-informed practice and care. Course material includes anatomy, orthopaedics, neurodiagnosis, diagnosis and symptomatology, pathology, physiology, biomechanics, microbiology, biochemistry, toxicopharmacology, health promotion, psychology, nutrition and diagnostic imaging.
The word “chiropractic” comes from ancient Greek and means “done by hand”. They are musculoskeletal experts, diagnosing, treating and managing disorders related to nerves, muscles and joints of the human body. Although chiropractors are most known for treatment of the spine, they are also trained to assess and manage dysfunction of the upper and lower extremity including the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle and even the temporal-mandibular joint (the jaw). In fact, some of the most common reasons for seeking chiropractic care include: back and neck pain, headaches, arthritic conditions, whiplash disorders, acute and repetitive strain injuries, tendonitis, nerve entrapment syndromes such as carpal tunnel and sciatica, sports injuries, and work injuries.
The most common form of treatment used by a chiropractor is the manual manipulation of the joints of the body. A joint manipulation is a precisely performed procedure where the doctor exerts a gentle force, usually by hand, on a specific joint of the body. The manipulation restores joint flexibility, optimizes function, and decreases pain. Chiropractors often use soft tissue techniques to address injured or dysfunctional muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments of the body. They often utilize acupuncture and modalities such as shockwave therapy, low level laser therapy as an adjunct to care. This allows the chiropractor to compliment their hands on techniques, optimize blood flow, and in the end speed up the body’s own healing properties.
Chiropractors are taught to critically examine emerging evidence found in research and integrate that knowledge into an ability to make clinical decisions relating to diagnosis and treatment. Most significantly, patient preferences and expectations for care are considered when chiropractors balance knowledge from research and clinical practice into their individualized approach to helping their patients achieve optimal health.
This year, a study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine the American College of Physicians, conducted by a group of medical doctors (Qaseem et al.) reviewed all research available in order to determine the current American guidelines of non-invasive treatments recommended for treating acute (new), sub-acute (less than three months) and chronic (long standing) lower back pain in clinical practice. In the guideline, researchers found that for those patients with acute or sub-acute low-back pain, physicians should recommend four treatment approaches: spinal manipulation, acupuncture, massage therapy, and heat as the first line of defence, before recommending medication.
These findings are very significant to the chiropractic profession and in other professions that practice these treatment approaches. Chiropractors make up over 90% of the professionals in the world that perform spinal manipulation therapy, and have arguably spent the most number of hours studying spinal manipulative therapy in comparison to other health professionals. It is therefore reasonable to suggest that patients seek out chiropractic care as a first line of defence against lower back pain.
As National Chiropractic Health Month comes to a close, I would like to thank you for taking the time to celebrate chiropractic with me and my fellow team members at Choice Health Centre. We hope you are excited about the advances that have been made in the profession as we are, and look into trying chiropractic care for your next musculoskeletal health issue. In the end, every practicing chiropractor and manual therapist has put in many hours of studying and continue to expand their knowledge base through continuing education over their career lifetime in order to keep you, the patient more mobile, reduce your aches and pains, and improve your sense of wellbeing.
If you are interested in booking in for an chiropractic assessment or for more information and availability please call Choice Health Centre at 902-404-3668.