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Back Pain? Neck Pain? Discovering Chiropractic Care and What to Expect

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

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Your First Chiropractic Appointment

You’ve decided to see a chiropractor.

Perhaps you have back or neck pain and your primary healthcare practitioner encouraged chiropractic care. Or you’d like to manage a chronic illness without relying on prescription drugs and other invasive procedures. Maybe you had a friend who had great results seeing a chiropractor, and you’d like to see how a chiropractor can help you.

A body that functions poorly on the inside often doesn’t respond optimally to good nutrition, exercise, a healthy mindset, and detoxification. Chiropractic care may be that missing link to a healthier life.

Understanding the Spine

The chiropractic philosophy of health centers on the spine. After all, your spine runs through the center of your body and encases the spinal cord which connects to every organ. Along with your brain, the spinal cord impacts everything you do.

An adult spine contains 24 vertebrae, extending between the skull and the pelvis. Among its duties, your spinal column houses the nervous system and helps anchor muscles throughout the body.

Your spinal column houses and protects the entire spinal cord. The nerves that communicate and connect with every system within your body are bundled together and protected within that vertebral column.

“Everything we do—from our basic motor reflexes to our capacity to experience abstract thoughts and feelings—relies on the precision of the computational processes performed by [this complex circuit],” says Celeste McGovern.

In other words, your nervous system impacts your entire body.

Chiropractic is founded on the basis that a healthy spine forms a perfect column to keep your spinal cord running unimpeded to your brain; every natural bend of the spine protects those nerves so they can perform optimally.

Unfortunately, even the healthiest individual may experience back pain, neck pain, and more.

Visiting a chiropractor can help keep your spine and nervous system working free of structural interferences that everyday stressors can create.

What Is a Subluxation?

Chiropractors look for what’s wrong in the spinal alignment or movement for the purpose of detecting any abnormalities and fixing them. The chiropractic philosophy is that because your spine is the anchor of your body, it is the center of health; whatever interferes with your spine, also interferes with your body’s natural function.

These abnormalities in the alignment of the spine are called subluxations: The slips, misalignments, restrictions, affected nerves, and either pain or asymptomatic quirks that adversely impact your spine and health.

“Chiropractors assess spines for areas where some of the small muscles that attach to the individual vertebrae have become tight due to injury, hunching over cell phones and computers, or simply overuse,” says McGovern. “When these tight muscles cause the vertebrae—the small bones that make up the spine—to twist, certain parts of the bones can protrude and feel ‘misaligned’ or ‘stuck.’ Chiropractors call it a vertebral ‘subluxation’ or ‘joint restriction.’

We call these subluxations interferences because they cause interference in the natural function of the body. Interference to the function of the nervous system, because it controls all organs of the body, will naturally cause dysfunction beyond the spine.

Sources of Subluxations

There are various forms of interference that are long commonly considered to affect one’s overall health and nervous system. They show-up in countless ways. They can occur suddenly, for a short period of time, or build–up slowly and quietly over years. And they come from many sources, including:

  • Environmental toxins

  • Chronic inflammation, which is a driver in most disease

  • Out-of-balance hormones

  • Spinal trauma

  • Stress

  • Poor nutrition

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Sitting too much

Side-effects from prescription drugs would also make this list. Once a chiropractor identifies areas of spinal subluxations, he or she focuses on reducing or removing them. Chiropractors embracing a wellness and preventative philosophy may also help patients identify the sources of interference — and causes of subluxation — as to prevent further occurrences. Doing so — properly aligning your body’s musculoskeletal structure (especially the spine) — is to allow the body to heal itself, naturally, often without surgery, drugs, or other invasive procedures.

Prioritizing spinal alignment and preventing interferences, then, is an important first step toward optimizing health and well-being. Chiropractic care is often the simplest change you can make to remove those interferences.

Adjustments are simple but can be profound. Sometimes, an adjustment will remove interference that affects the body in surprising and exciting ways. You feel better, move better, and find seemingly unrelated health problems begin to alleviate.

Other times, as your body awakens and establishes new patterns, you begin to feel good for the very first time. You feel like someone hit the reset button that cultivates a new normal of health and well-being.

Getting a Chiropractic Adjustment

Visiting a chiropractor is not an abnormal thing to do. Many health insurance providers cover the visit, and doctors will usually accept it as “complementary” or “alternative” (and may even prescribe the visit!).

A qualified chiropractor studies for years. He or she must pass certification requirements and maintain licensing. Chiropractors are primary care providers and experts in their fields of study.

Most people visit a chiropractor for specific health concerns. Being clear about what goals you’d like to accomplish during your consultations can help you and your chiropractor work toward resolutions.

At a chiropractic appointment, you might have specific adjustments that remove interferences, based on an analysis of your health concerns or a physiological exam of your spine. (Usually, both.)

Along with an adjustment, your chiropractor might also:

  • Take x-rays for a closer look

  • Incorporate other forms of analysis (including spinal thermography)

“A medical history and physical exam should be done to rule out conditions that need further referral or should not be treated by chiropractic,” says McGovern. “A chiropractor is trained to perform and read X-rays, which are sometimes required, but only if they meet standardized criteria.”

The adjustment itself is usually a short appointment. Some tables are flat, whereas others are in moving sections based on the needs of the adjustment and doctor’s preference.

These adjustments help correct areas of subluxation by putting pressure on the spine at very specifically identified points. Sometimes chiropractors do this by hand. Other times, they use instruments and tools. Adjustment tables can be static or moving. Some adjustments are felt or even heard by the patient, others are not.

After the adjustment, your chiropractor can help you to make better dietary and lifestyle decisions. They might also give personalized exercises and posture techniques to help maintain the changes from the adjustment.

Visiting Your Chiropractor for Back or Neck Pain

The most obvious type of spinal abnormality comes with direct trauma. Direct or indirect spinal trauma usually leads to back and neck pain.

If you’re experiencing back pain at any level, but especially in the lower lumbar region, visit your chiropractor. Whereas some medications may block pain, the chiropractic goal is to get to the cause of that pain.

Note: Never modify or discontinue any medication or medical recommendation without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.

Making a chiropractic appointment for back pain is very common, and research shows that it can be very effective.

One randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial evaluated the levels of pain in patients with problems in their lower back before and after a lumbar adjustment. Every indicator of pain improved for the treatment group, with no changes in the control group.

Another study found that for pregnant women with lower back pain, 70 percent experienced improvements after working with a chiropractor for one month (and 88 percent did after one year). Sometimes it takes time for your spine to promote natural healing.

Chiropractic care can benefit other types of pain too. One study found that for older patients with neck pain, spinal care worked better than home exercises.

Maintaining Overall Health with Chiropractic Care

Besides back and neck pain, chiropractic care can benefit many conditions, including osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and headaches.

Sometimes, one adjustment can do a great deal. In one study, researchers evaluated the effects of a single adjustment to the highest cervical vertebra.

Each of the 50 participants had high blood pressure and an abnormality in the Atlas vertebra, part of the neck can easily be out of alignment without any indication of pain. Researchers checked the patients’ blood pressure right after the adjustment and again at eight weeks.

The results were impressive: They showed the same reduction in blood pressure someone might get from two blood pressure medications. All from one adjustment! And they maintained those results eight weeks later.

Other times, a whole regimen and supporting lifestyle changes become necessary to get those lasting benefits. That’s why maintaining an ongoing partnership with a chiropractor can support the condition you’re currently experiencing and prevent or reduce the impact of health issues down the road.

Going Beyond Chiropractic: Strategies for a Healthy Life

Your chiropractor can also help you create a lifestyle of change that removes interference. The chiropractic principles sit at the core of our 5 Essentials™. The other four complement working with a chiropractor to create and maintain health and wellness:

  1. Nutrition. The right foods complement chiropractic care and keep your spine (and overall health) in pristine condition. Our Core and Advanced eating plans provide the nutrients you need to thrive, maintain your ideal weight, and reduce your disease risk.

  2. Exercise and oxygen. Our MaxT3 program helps you incorporate effective exercise into the busiest schedule: Just 12 minutes give you an intense, full-body workout.

  3. Mindset. Sleep, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy, optimistic outlook all help keep your spine and entire body healthy.

  4. Minimize toxins. You can’t completely avoid toxins: They permeate everything, including what you eat, the air you breathe, the water you drink, and many household and cosmetic products you use daily. Choosing the right sources can minimize toxic accumulation and their cumulative impact on your health.

Your chiropractor can also discuss specific nutrients that can benefit your unique health goals and any health concerns.

Changes to lifestyle, diet, stress, and sleep are important. But what happens when you’ve made those changes and still don’t have the results you want? Chiropractic care could be that bridge that connects you with a new level of health and wellbeing.

If you haven’t yet evaluated your spine — and, by extension, your nervous system, and muscular structure — it’s time to make an appointment with a chiropractor!

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