Most people who have never been to a chiropractor before have only a vague idea of what chiropractic care is really about.
It’s only for back pain, right?
It’s the same as going to a masseuse.
All chiropractors do is “crack” your back.
I’ve heard all those myths before, and I think it’s time to dispel them. Chiropractic care has a number of benefits beyond easing back pain (although that is also a benefit that you shouldn’t overlook). Before delving into those benefits, though, let’s briefly look at what chiropractic care actually entails.
So What Is Chiropractic, Anyway?
Chiropractic is a holistic health care practice that involves manipulating a patient’s spinal cord in order to eliminate lower back pain and to help with other existing issues (which we’ll get to in a second). This practice has existed for centuries, but modern chiropractic began gaining recognition in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Over the course of the twentieth century, doctors who practiced chiropractic gained legal recognition in all fifty states.
Students who wish to become doctors of chiropractic usually first complete an undergraduate degree, then must complete another four to five years at an accredited chiropractic school. During this time, they complete at least 4,200 hours of combined classroom, lab, and clinic work. They learn about how to perform spinal adjustments, but they also learn about human anatomy and physiology in order to gain an understanding of how the body functions as a whole. Upon graduation, doctors must pass a national board exam (and sometimes specific state exams) in order to go into practice.
The overall goal of chiropractic is to provide an alternative to medications and surgery whenever possible. By gaining a thorough understanding of the human body’s biomechanics, chiropractors can make adjustments to improve the health of their patients.
Alright, now let’s get into some of the lesser known benefits of chiropractic care, as promised.
The Many Health Benefits of Chiropractic Care
Reduced stress. According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 48% of Americans say stress negatively impacts their personal or professional life, and 77% say they regularly experience physical symptoms of stress. It sounds like at least three quarters of the country could benefit from the stress-reducing effects of chiropractic care. The adjustments that a chiropractor performs can help relax your muscles and reduce your blood pressure (which may have been raised due to stress). Chiropractic care also eases shoulder tension, headaches, and neck pain, which makes you feel “looser” and more relaxed in general.
Helps with insomnia. If you’re someone who spends the night tossing and turning and rarely gets good restorative sleep, chiropractic may be able to help you out. By easing both physical pain and the stress that I mentioned above, chiropractic care relieves two of the main reasons why people struggle to get enough sleep.
Eases neck, arm, and leg pain. As explained earlier, a chiropractor’s goal is to treat the whole body. Therefore, if your pain extends beyond just your back, they’ll look for the source and treat it. Chiropractic adjustments can help reduce or eliminate pain and soreness in your arms, legs, hands, knees, feet, and neck. These are all common areas for pain, and many people suffering from these types of pain avoid going to a chiropractor because they believe that chiropractic care can’t help them.
Ease arthritis pain. Developing rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t mean you have to say good-bye to the active lifestyle you may have previously enjoyed. In fact, the American Chiropractic Association suggests that regular exercise, stretching, and a healthy diet can reduce the symptoms of arthritis for many patients. In addition to making adjustments, a chiropractor can help you come up with an individualized exercise plan that will work with your arthritis and help you reduce your pain.
Blood Flow Benefits
Improve blood circulation. Poor circulation can lead to all kinds of discomfort and health issues, including dizzy spells, numbness in your arms and legs, water retention, headaches, and skin blemishes. If you’re someone who has been suffering from poor blood circulation, chiropractic care may be able to help. By adjusting your alignment, chiropractors can help improve the flow of blood throughout your body. That means they’re improving circulation and (as mentioned once before) helping to lower your blood pressure.
Prevent a pinched nerve. If your spine is out of alignment, you may be at risk for crushing or pinching a nerve. If you’ve never experienced that, it involves very intense, acute pain and is best to avoid. Pinched nerves occur when too much pressure from surrounding tissues, such as bones or cartilage, builds up around a nerve root. Chiropractors can identify if there is too much pressure and will make adjustments accordingly.
Avoid sports injuries. One major myth about chiropractic is that it’s only for people of a certain age. However, chiropractic care can benefit athletes of all ages, whether they’re a high school football player, a seasoned marathon runner, or someone who is adopting a new fitness routine in their middle age. If you exercise on a regular basis, you need to avoid muscle tightness and joint pain, as this can lead to more serious injuries. Stretching can help with that to some extent, but if you’re worried that you may be heading for an injury, it might be time to see a chiropractor. Chiropractors can help unlock stiff joints, which will make you feel less tight and will help improve your range of motion the next time you work out. Many professional athletes already seek out chiropractic care. In fact, there’s been such a demand for athletic chiropractic care that there is even a Professional Football Chiropractic Society.
Pain Associated With Disorders
Reduces pain associated with fibromyalgia. An estimated 5 million Americans are affected by fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes muscle pain, soreness, and acute tender points on the body. In addition to the pain associated with fibromyalgia, this disorder can also cause people to lose sleep, experience intense headaches, experience tingling or numbness in their extremities, and have trouble thinking or remembering things clearly. Chiropractic care targets the fibromyalgia pain that is at the center of their patient’s problems while also helping them increase their cervical and lumbar range of motion.
Reduces pain associated with bursitis. Bursae are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that create a cushion and lubrications between tendons, bones, joints, and muscles. Someone who suffers from bursitis is experiencing inflamed bursae, which can lead to pain when moving, tenderness around the inflamed area, and in severe cases, a loss of movement. There are roughly 160 bursae throughout the human body and any one of them can become inflamed, but the most common areas are larger joints like the knee and elbow. Bursitis can gradually sneak up on a person over time due to the overuse of muscles through repetitive motions, so it’s fairly common with athletes. As with other sports injuries, a chiropractor can treat bursitis through spinal and joint manipulation to reduce pain and restore their patient’s range of motion.
Relieves the pain of sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, reaching all the way from your lower back to your toes. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated, causing symptoms that can include lower back pain, intense leg and foot pain, numbness, weakness, and a burning sensation. Many people might turn to prescription painkillers to cope with sciatica, but chiropractic care can provide a natural and effective treatment. Sciatica is often caused by a structural issue, such as a misaligned vertebra or a muscle spasm, which a chiropractor will be able to treat through adjustments.
Promote Overall Wellness with Chiropractic Care
When you seek surgery to repair a structural problem like a sports injury, there’s always a risk of complications. Prescription medications for pain also have their own risks, including unpleasant side effects, addiction, and overdosing. Chiropractic care is both a natural and safe method of treatment that can help with many existing problems while preventing future issues.
If you’re still unsure whether your particular problem can be treated with chiropractic care, make an appointment to sit down and talk with a chiropractor in your area. You don’t necessarily have to commit to chiropractic treatment at that time, but by discussing your medical history and lifestyle with your chiropractor, the two of you can work to come up with a holistic treatment plan. A good chiropractor should be able to determine the source of your pain and tell you whether they will be able to effectively treat it. If you’re recovering from an injury or chronic pain, a chiropractor can also recommend exercises to help restore your range of motion.
Some people worry that by committing to one chiropractic treatment, they’ll be stuck going to a chiropractor forever. However, most people find that just a few sessions are enough to significantly reduce their pain and get them back to living a happy and healthy life.
Dr. Bill Davis has more than 15 years of experience in chiropractic. As a chiropractic patient, student, associate doctor, clinic director and now a writer for the chiropractic industry. Dr. Davis has been published in the Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research, featured in the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association News and is currently writing blog posts and articles for a growing number of chiropractic offices throughout the country. Dr. Davis is a husband and father of 3 and is passionate about all things chiropractic.