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Frequently Asked Questions about Chiropractic

Table of Contents

  1. When should I see a doctor of chiropractic?
  2. What is sciatica?
  3. What is a "slipped disc"?
  4. How does the doctor of chiropractic find the cause of headaches?
  5. What should I do if I get a severe back pain - a "sudden back injury"?
  6. How does "cracking" my spine actually fix anything?

Q: When should I see a doctor of Chiropractic?

A: When you have any of these symptoms-

The doctor of chiropractic's first goal is to relieve the immediate pain and discomfort without drugs. But even more important to you in the long run is the doctor's finding of the underlying causes of your pain symptoms and correcting those conditions.

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Q:What is sciatica?

A: It's a low back and leg pain related to the sciatic nerve- and it can be very uncomfortable and even disabling. The sciatic nerve, the largest in the body, is formed from the nerves that exit between lumbar (low back) vertebrae and then travel through the buttocks area and down the leg into the foot. Typically, the pain starts as an ache in the lower back, then in the buttocks- usually on one side. It may then go down the leg, causing a numbness, a pins and needles feeling. The leg may become weaker and more painful if the condition persists.

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Q: What is a "slipped disc"?

A: "Disc injury" is a more accurate term; for the disc doesn't actually slip. It's what occurs when one of the 23 intervertebral discs - the "shock absorbers" between each of our vertebrae partially collapses, flattens down or bulges out, and causes pain. 

What can be done is, nineteen times out of twenty, research shows the patient is best served by such conservative treatment as chiropractic, rather than drastic steps such as surgery. Chiropractic treatment might include adjustment to alter the positions of the injured disc away from the nerve roots. Most important, are preventative measures such as exercises to strengthen the stomach and back muscles known as your core and prompt correction of spinal problems that might lead to future disc injuries.

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Q: How does the doctor of chiropractic find the cause of headaches?

A: Through careful diagnosis. For example, if a patient with muscle contraction headaches (cervicogenic) has them for a long time, it's possible that the chronic muscle tension in the back and neck has caused a spinal distortion, which in turn contributes to more stress, muscle tension, and pain. The doctor will bring the vertebrae into alignment and thus take the pressure off of the nerves to relieve the stress. If diagnosis shows that dysfunctions elsewhere in the body which may have triggered these headaches, the doctor can also address these areas and offer the possibility of more permanent relief.

If the headache has stemmed from an accident such as whiplash, proper management is vital to adjust the cervical spine (neck) to minimize the residual effects of possible bone and ligament damage and to restore and strengthen the neck muscles that have been strained.

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Q: What should I do if I get a severe back pain - a "sudden back injury"?

A: Lie down as soon as possible on the floor or a firm mattress in a position least uncomfortable for you. (do not sit in a recliner, this aggravates the condition.) Then use ICE; put or have someone else put, 6-8 cubes in a plastic bag, cover it with a towel and apply it directly to the area of pain. This will help bring the pain level down. Keep it on for 10-15 minutes. This can be repeated hourly. Do NOT use HEAT unless your doctor of chiropractic tells you to.  Sudden back injury is not only painful itself, but can also be indicative of underlying back and muscle problems. Your chiropractor can advise you on what to do in the meantime, which may include re-application of ice or BIOFREEZE. In addition to relieving your immediate back pain and soreness, your chiropractor will examine you to determine what brought on the "sudden back injury" and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include spinal manipulation and a program to strengthen the body and help prevent reoccurrence.

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Q: How does "cracking" my spine actually fix anything?

Chiropractic adjustment the ("cracking" of the spine) is the primary tool used by chiropractors to correct spinal misalignments. The purpose of these adjustments are to restore the motion in a joint space that has lost its ability to function properly whether a sudden injury or a long term gradual onset. When a joint space is insulted, the inflammatory process that happens on the joint surface alter the biomechanics of the spine.  The marvelous machine that the human body is picks up on these altered biomechanics and has the muscles lock up in the area of injury to protect from further injury.  This muscle spasm or hypertonicity now will effect the amount of circulation and nerve conduction in the injured area. Due to the less circulation, the joint begins to harbor some of the waste toxins and build up pressure, one of these is carbon dioxide.  When the chiropractor makes an adjustment the CO2 is released making a popping sound, and relieves the pressure of the joint, thus restoring the normal biomechanics and circulation to the injured area of the spine. If the muscle spasm is too great, the chiropractor may incorporate some modalities which may include electric muscle stimulation (EMS) to aid with restoration of the muscle tone.

By removing the pressure from the joint space, restoring adequate circulation, and restoring the biomechanics, the joint can now move within its normal plane of motion pain free for a period of time, depending on the severity of the injury or the length of time the injury has been present.

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