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Back to Basics: What is Chiropractic?

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By: Dr. Stephen O’Neil

All of us at some time or another in our lives suffer from stress. This stress can come in many forms but it always results in adverse effects to the body, which may include aches and pains, some sort of disease process or just decreased health in general. Chiropractic was designed to help the body become more capable of dealing with our stress thereby decreasing the amount and severity of these adverse effects.

The word Chiropractic comes from the Greek language meaning 'treatment by hand'. Chiropractors go through 7 years of post secondary education and receive over 4500 hours of education along the way. They must then pass a stringent set of licensing exams to earn the right to practice as a doctor of Chiropractic (DC). Chiropractors are one of only five health professionals permitted to use the title doctor.

No matter what your reason is for seeing a chiropractor, whether it is for a specific injury or to maximize your health potential, your first chiropractic visit will be an investigation into how your body functions as a whole. Chiropractic takes a holistic approach to health because we know our overall function is a result of all our experiences past and present. No one part of the system is completely independent of the rest. Out present state of health depends on family medical history, major illnesses, surgeries, medications, diet and exercise, sleep patterns and work routine. All of these factors influence how well your nervous system is functioning. Since all body systems are controlled and directed through the nervous system, a specific analysis of the nervous system must be performed to know what treatment is required. Following an assessment, your chiropractor will make a diagnosis and prescribe a course of treatment. This course of treatment varies greatly according to diagnosis. Most treatments will involve the chiropractic adjustment. This is a treatment in which the Chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply a very quick precise and safe amount of pressure directly on the affected area of your spine or specific joint. This pressure momentarily separates the joint allowing a gas bubble to escape (this is what creates the popping noise). This specific motion is applied in a precise direction to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves and increase range of motion (ROM) restoring normal joint mobility.

There are 3 main stages of Chiropractic care which patient's progress through as they become well:

1. Relief or Crisis Care- relief of acute symptoms, pain, restricted mobility and discomfort. The length of this is dependant on factors such as age, duration and severity of symptoms and history of injury.

2. Corrective Care- This is a larger more complex stage of care. Its focus is to restore proper function to your spine. This is accomplished through the restoration of proper ROM in the joints, normalizing spinal nerve function and strengthening the muscles and other soft tissues that support spinal structure.

3. Maintenance or Wellness Care- This is the stage of care that helps your body deal with the stresses of daily life more effectively and efficiently. By maintaining the benefits achieved in the first two stages through regular chiropractic visits future breakdowns can be avoided. Your Chiropractor will work with you to find a wellness schedule that suits your condition, healthcare goals and lifestyle.

Chiropractic care, regardless of which stage you are in, will often include exercise, diet and other suggestions on healthy lifestyle choices to keep you working toward optimal health. Your overall health is directly related to the health of your nervous system and its ability to communicate with the rest of the body. It can happen NO other way.