This article on chiropractors gives you all the necessary information for finding a chiropractor and knowing whether they may be able to help you, as well as understanding their role in modern medicine.
What is a chiropractor?
A chiropractor is a trained practitioner who works to correct problems with the spine and joints by adjustment. Chiropractors were once considered fringe holistic therapists, but today they are a recognised part of mainstream medicine, with treatments being paid for by health insurers and ACC.
The underlying premise of chiropractic treatments is that problems with the spine can affect the nervous system and in turn, cause joint pains and other problems throughout the body. Chiropractors also believe maladjustment of the spine and vertebra can impair normal body functioning and lead to disease.
Chiropractors can specialise in different areas including:
- Paediatrics (working with children)
- Working with those who have sports injuries
- Orthopaedic (bone) problems
- Nervous disorders
- Back and pelvic problems in pregnancy.
The history of chiropractors began in 1895 with a Canadian schoolteacher, David Palmer, who was fascinated with healing. He learned how ancient Egyptians had manipulated the spine and that the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, had also used spinal manipulation as part of his treatments. When Palmer first began to experiment with spinal manipulation – now referred to as ‘adjustment’ – he cured a man who had been deaf for 17 years; in another case he cured a man of long standing heart problems.
Like many ‘alternative practitioners’, chiropractors took a long time to become accepted by mainstream medicine. Today a chiropractor undergoes a five-year university course which covers a broad range of medical topics.
When should I see a chiropractor?
This is a holistic or whole body treatment which involves mind/body/spirit philosophy and many people can benefit from a chiropractic treatment. It is thought to be especially useful for:
- Back problems including lumbago, slipped disc, sciatica
- Joint or muscular problems, which are common in pregnancy
- Leg and shoulder problems
- Headaches and migraines
- Sports injuries
- Asthma – it is thought to help chest mobility
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
The treatments can also assist with raising energy levels, improving posture, gaining better sleep and assisting with athletic performance.
Chiropractic treatment is unsuitable if you are taking certain drug therapies, such as anti-coagulants (drugs which prevent blood clots).
How do I find a chiropractor?
There are many easy ways to find a chiropractor, such as through the yellow pages (in the phone book or online), via websites such as www.finda.co.nz or asking for a recommendation or referral from your doctor.
However, the best way to find any medical practitioner (whether for a regular doctor or a holistic practitioner) is through word-of-mouth. Ask friends, workmates, associates and family members if they have ever used a chiropractor and if they can recommend one to you.
You can also contact professional organisations such as the New Zealand Chiropractors Association to ask for recommendations and for help finding a chiropractor close to you. (See web site below)
When you first visit a chiropractor do not be afraid to ask about their qualifications and experience, if they have had previous success treating people with your condition – and you can even ask if previous patients would be willing to talk with you. Ask at the beginning what you can expect a treatment to cost and how many treatments the chiropractor thinks you may need. You can expect to pay $40 – $50 per visit to see a chiropractor.
If at any stage you feel unhappy about the quality of treatment, stop seeing the practitioner and switch to another one. You need to feel confident about the person giving you treatments.
What will a chiroprator do?
A chiropractic treatment is normally carried out with the patient lying on a massage table, wearing their underwear or loose clothing. The chiropractor will take an extensive history before they do any physical adjustment of your body and will be especially interested in past physical injuries to bones and joints. X-rays may also need to be taken and read before treatment begins.
Part of the treatment will involve the chiropractor examining and feeling your spine to see if they are any `subluxations’ or vertebra out of alignment. Treatment involves working to free the joints and muscles of the spine and other parts of the body. A series of treatments may be required, depending on the problem.
The practitioner will also be very interested in your posture, as this can tell them a lot about different parts of your body that might be out of alignment and therefore requiring treatment. A loud crack or noise when joints are quickly put back into alignment is not uncommon and, although surprising, should not hurt.
Chiropractors believe their treatments help the body grow stronger and help you deal with stress and disease. They may also give advice on diet, exercise programs and orthotics (a device which supports a part or a function of your body, such as a collar or brace).
What can I do?
In terms of chiropractic treatment, pain is the body’s signal to you that something is wrong and needs attention. If you are experiencing ongoing pain, seek assistance from a chiropractor or other health professional – do not just ignore these symptoms.
Chiropractors suggest that regular checkups – in the same way you would regularly see the dentist – are a good idea to keep your body operating well and prevent further health problems.
Be sure to inform your chiropractor if you are pregnant – or think you may be pregnant.
Useful websites & articles
The New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association is a professional body that oversees post graduation training of chiropractors. They provide information and operate a website that will help you find a practitioner in your area.
The Chiropractic Board of New Zealand, which overseas chiropractor competence, has a phone line for information 04 499 7979