Chiropractic Care: FAQs
What is Chiropractic?
“Chiropractic” comes from a Greek word meaning “done by hand.” As such, chiropractic treatment involves manual therapies like joint mobilization and adjustment (or manipulation). Chiropractic is a hands-on treatment approach which is completely natural, non-invasive and drug-free. It is recognized as the fastest growing and most regulated Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Chiropractors are highly skilled at identifying and correcting mechanical, alignment and postural problems which can exist long before becoming symptomatic and also for providing care for injuries involving the neuromusculoskeletal system. Early detection and care leads to earlier pain relief, recovery and improved function. Wellness and maintenance care is for people who desire to optimize their health naturally. The human body has a remarkable ability to self-regulate and heal.
Chiropractors are often thought of as back specialists as most people will visit a chiropractor on account of low back pain, mid-back pain or neck pain. However, chiropractic is about more than just backs. After a thorough health history and physical examination, chiropractors will provide a diagnosis and treatment plan specific to your problem. Treatment is primarily though spinal adjustments, mobilizations and corrective exercise prescription. Soft tissue therapies or modalities may also be incorporated into a treatment plan. An adjustment is a highly skilled technique used to help restore proper joint motion and alignment. Through chiropractic care, back pain and joint stiffness are reduced and overall health is optimized by balancing your nervous system.
What is an adjustment and how is it delivered?
An adjustment is a manual procedure whereby a chiropractor delivers a low force and high velocity thrust to a joint. Adjustments are only applied to those joints which are determined through physical examination to be either misaligned or hypomobile (restricted or “stuck”). Sometimes there are popping sounds that accompany adjustments, though this is not always the case and can sometimes depend on the type of technique used. Low force techniques, such as Activator will not make your joints pop.
How is an adjustment going to help me?
Adjustments are very effective at restoring normal joint mechanics and relieving joint irritation and muscle tension. Normalizing joint mechanics is an important step to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. The goal is to have all joints moving optimally such that uneven wear and tear does not occur. Joint cartilage is a living structure composed of cells. As such it requires nourishment in order to thrive and heal optimally. Because cartilage has no blood supply, all nutrients that support it are derived from the joint fluids. Movement is required for flushing and lubricating joints such that fresh nutrients reach the joint cartilage and metabolic waste products are removed.
Indeed, chiropractic adjustments have other effects as well. Some patients find that manual therapies provide stress relief and relaxation. Many patients report improved mood, improved mobility and improved overall health. Because the spine is intimately connected to the central nervous system, spinal adjustments are often said to balance the nervous system by restoring alignment and removing nerve irritation.
What makes that popping sound when I get adjusted?
Synovial joints are joints that are surrounded by a fibrous capsule and are filled with synovial fluid. During an adjustment, there is a rapid stretching of the joint capsule which results in pressure and volume changes within the joint. These pressure/volume changes cause gases (which are dissolved in the synovial fluid) to temporarily come out of solution. Similar to loosening the cap off a soda bottle - this is what makes the popping sound. Though the popping sound often accompanies an adjustment, the sound is not required for the adjustment to be successful.
Do I need a referral from my MD in to see a chiropractor?
Chiropractors are primary contact health care professionals. Although many medical doctors choose to refer patients to chiropractors, no referral is necessary. Patients may choose their own chiropractor and consult with them directly.
Is chiropractic treatment safe?
Chiropractic treatment is conservative, non-invasive and drug-free. Compared to other treatment options, chiropractic care is very safe and very low risk. That being said, there is no treatment without risk. Before treatment commences, chiropractors discuss the associated benefits and risks such that patients can make an informed decision. Chiropractors are also trained to identify patients who are at higher risk or are poor candidates for adjustment and to refer them appropriately if need be.
What is a “subluxation?”
“Subluxation” is a term used by many chiropractors to describe joints that are misaligned or hypomobile (or “stuck”).
What should I expect when I see a chiropractor for the first time?
Regardless of where you go, your initial chiropractic visit is likely to consist of filling in some initial paperwork, a thorough health history relevant to your presenting complaint and overall health and a physical examination. Most patients will not require x-ray imaging, however they may be ordered when necessary. Before treatment commences, your diagnosis, proposed treatment and benefits and risks will be discussed. For more detail, check out Your First Visit.
How many times will I need to be treated?
Recommended treatment frequency and duration will depend on the individual. In determining treatment frequency, chiropractors will consider numerous prognostic factors including age, gender, chronicity of complaint, nature of complaint, physical examination findings, x-ray findings and any underlying health issues that may affect healing.
What is innate intelligence?
Innate intelligence is a chiropractic philosophical concept. It refers to the body’s natural ability to heal. Among other things, the nervous system delivers information about the body’s state of health and where tissue damage and healing is required. The body always wants to heal itself and does so with the help of a properly functioning nervous system. Given the appropriate environment, the body’s natural ability to heal will be maximized. The goal of the chiropractic approach is just that. Chiropractors empower patients to optimize health through healthy lifestyle choices and regular adjustments to balance the nervous system.
Is chiropractic covered by OHIP or insurance plans?
While chiropractic care is not covered by OHIP, most extended healthcare plans do. Check with your insurance policy to see how much coverage you have. Many health insurance plans also cover foot orthotics as well. In addition, if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident or you were injured at your place of work, treatment and rehabilitation are covered (through auto insurance or WSIB) and a chiropractor can fill in the necessary paperwork to facilitate your claim and start your path towards recovery.
How much and what kind of training do chiropractors have?
Chiropractors are doctors. These days, Canadian Chiropractors are required to have a minimum of seven years of postsecondary education including a minimum of three years of undergraduate studies and four years at an accredited chiropractic college. Chiropractic education is very extensive. Most chiropractors practicing in Canada receive their education from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractor College which provides a rigorous and comprehensive program of study. This is where future chiropractors learn extensively about anatomy, biomechanics, orthopaedics, diagnosis, nutrition and many other courses which are relevant in recognizing need for care beyond the chiropractic scope of practice. It is also where chiropractors begin to develop their technique skills. Following graduation, ethics and board exams must be passed. Canadian chiropractors must also take continuing education courses to ensure that they remain current in research and skills. How well educated is your chiropractor?