Typically, when people think of visiting a chiropractor, it's because they feel like they've "thrown their back out" or if they have chronic pain because of an auto accident. However, there are actually a wide array of conditions that can be addressed using chiropractic modalities, many of which might seem counterintuitive at first glance.
The first thing to understand about chiropractic is that its primary objective is to treat the spine. The second thing to understand is alterations in the structure and function of the spine -- even minor -- can impact just about anything else in the body.
For example, much of the innervation to the digestive organs, such as the liver and pancreas, comes from parasympathetic nerve fibers that exit the spine in the cranial (head) and sacral (pelvic) regions of the body. If the function of those nerves is hindered by stress, tension or a subluxation, this could impact the normal functioning of those organs.
Many chiropractors also have nutritional counseling in their scope of practice and will make recommendations for dietary supplements as well as testing to evaluate nutritional status.
This long list of capabilities could make one wonder when they should use the services of a chiropractor. Before trying to answer such a question, however, it's important to determine what the chiropractor can actually do.
Services of a Chiropractor
While it seems like a simple and straightforward question, this doesn't always lead to a simple answer.
Chiropractors, just like any group of professionals, vary widely in terms of their training, experience and personal philosophy. While some chiropractors do work primarily hands-on administering spinal adjustments, there are a whole host of other treatment modalities which may be incorporated.
Some chiropractors, such as those which practice network spinal analysis, may employ very subtle and low-impact contacts to the spine as a more gentle approach. Some may use biofeedback techniques, specific exercises, cold laser therapy, kinesio-taping and traction machines.
Does chiropractic work?
This is another understandable, yet somewhat misguided question. The simplest answer is yes -- in some cases and in certain situations. But this is no different than any other medical or healing modality.
It really all depends on finding your own personal philosophy about health and finding a practitioner whom you trust and can see yourself working with over the long term. The important thing isn't to throw out the baby with the bath water and completely write off the whole field of chiropractic (or any other field for that matter) simply because a particular practitioner was unable to help or gave you a particular impression.
Generally, the popularity and history of the field shows its methods are workable and likely to be a good option for any sort of back, neck or shoulder discomfort. However, chiropractic can certainly be an aid in a much wider range of conditions, from impaired digestive function, to chronic inflammation and even mood disorders.
Explore the options with your primary care physician and, if interested, sit down with a chiropractor for a consultation to discuss your symptoms and their plan to treat them. As you should with any doctor or medical treatment, get all your questions answered to make the best decision.