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Introduction to Chiropractic

How was chiropractic discovered?

Chiropractic was discovered by Daniel David Palmer in 1895. D.D. Palmer was a self-proclaimed magnetic healer, using his hands to restore the energy flow of the body. There was a janitor in his office building that had not been able to hear for approximately seventeen years. One day Palmer offered to help the janitor, Harvey Lillard, if he could. Palmer palpated Harvey’s spine and found a bump on his neck. Harvey explained that he had “heard a snap” one day while bendingover and then the bump appeared. Palmer placed his hands on the bump and gave a thrust. Harvey’s hearing was restored and chiropractic was discovered.


How does chiropractic work?

A person’s spine is made of twenty-four bones called vertebrae. At the top of the spine is the skull which houses the brain or master computer. From the brain, the nerve impulses travel down the spinal cord which is protected by the vertebrae. Nerves branch out between the vertebrae and travel to all areas ofthe body. A person can not take a step without the brain telling the body to move.  When the vertebrae become misaligned or “out of place,” they put pressure on the nerve. This is called a “subluxation.” The message from the brain is sloweddown and the life energy carried by the nerve is unable to reach the organs and tissues at 100% of its potential. A chiropractor aligns the vertebrae through gentle adjustments to the spine, relieving the pressure on the nerve and allowing100% of the nerve energy to reach the tissues it serves.


What are the effects of subluxations?

It is easy to understand if you compare the nerve to a hose. If your garden is desperately dry and needs moisture to grow, you will hook up a hose and water the garden. However, if someone comes along and steps on the hose cutting off the water supply, the garden will become sick and eventually die. Likewise, if the hose is released, the water supply will be restored and the garden can grow. Your body reacts in the same manner to subluxations. After asubluxation has existed for a period of time, symptoms will occur. The various symptoms of subluxations differ greatly. In some cases, the person may experience pain, numbness, or tingling. In other cases, the symptoms may go unnoticed except that the person is more susceptible to colds, tires more quickly or starts having problems with an internal organ. Remember, the energy which travels down the spinal cord and through the nerves serves every area of the body. Therefore, any area of the body can be affected by a subluxation.


When does the first subluxation occur?

Often the first subluxation occurs at birth. Think of that fragile spine being twisted and turned as the doctor pulls the infant through the birth canal. Can you imagine how much trauma that causes? Learning to walk, riding bikes, and climbing trees are often other causes of subluxations. Adolescents who participate in sports also experience problems. As adults, there may be auto accidents, work injuries, carrying heavy objects or stress that affect the spine. Many of the activities of daily life can cause subluxations.


How long will it take to heal?

It all depends. Many times a subluxation has existed for a period of time before the person starts experiencing symptoms. The muscles of the spine have adapted to the incorrect position of the vertebrae. For that reason, it may take a series of adjustments before the muscles become accustomed to holding the vertebrae in the proper position. The muscles have to be retrained. It is almost like playing tug-of-war with your body for a while. The doctor adjusts the spine and the muscles, ligaments and tendons pull it back out. Many patients will not seek chiropractic care until the symptom appears. By that time, the vertebra has been misaligned for some time. That is why periodic spinal checkups are so important; prevention is the key to maintaining health.


What do chiropractors do?

Let’s first understand what they don’t do. They will not prescribe drugs, perform surgery or treat symptoms. They find and correct the cause of the symptoms; that is, they find and correct subluxations.


How do they treat the cause?

Chiropractors gently move the bones of the spine into place which relieves the pressure on the nerve. When the spine is aligned, the body receives the energy needed to heal itself naturally.

Chiropractic Terminology


Acute: Relatively severe and of short duration.


Adjustment: The use of a pressure or force in a specific location, direction and time to the spine or other joints of the body to help normalize function and to facilitate the body’s correction of nerve interference.


Anterior: Toward the front of the body. Antibodies: Proteins manufactured by lymphocytes to neutralize foreign protein, such as bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms in the body.


Arthritis: Inflammation of a joint which is often accompanied by symptoms and changes in structure.


Atlas: The top and most freely moving bone of the spinal column. 1st cervical vertebra (C1). Axis: The second cervical vertebra (C2).


Bone Spur: The medical term is osteophyte which is an enlargement of the normal bony structure. A bony outgrowth. A calcium deposition which can be part of the body’s response to abnormal motion or position of bones in the spine or elsewhere. Bone spurs on the vertebral body are often a radiographic indicator of disc problems. Since the disc in tightly adhered to the vertebral bodies, as the disc bulges, over time, if left untreated, will result in bone degeneration which presents as bone spurs on an x-ray.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A condition characterized by pain, weakness, numbness or tingling sensations in the hand and caused by compression of a nerve in the carpal tunnel at the wrist.


Carpal Tunnel-Like Symptoms: Compression of a nerve in the neck, shoulder or elbow that results in pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the hand. Often characterized by bilateral hand involvement as well as entire hand involvment, instead of the classic three fingers as with true carpal tunnel syndrome.


Cervical: The vertebrae of the neck, usually seven bones.


Cervical Strain/Sprain: An injury to the soft tissues of the neck including, but not limited to, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs. Synonymous with whiplash injury, hyperflexion/hyperextension injury and cervical acceleration/deceleration


Chiropractic: Comes from Greek, “cheiros” meaning “hand” and “praktos” meaning “done by,” or “done by hand.” A primary health care profession in which professional responsibility and authority are focused on the anatomy of the spine and immediate articulation, and the condition of nerve interference. It is also a practice, which encompasses educating, advising about and addressing nerve interference. The only profession specifically trained to detect and correct vertebral subluxations.


Chiropractic Care Level: There are three levels of care you will progress through when you are under the care of a doctor of chiropractic. The length of each care level is at the discretion of the doctor and varies from patient to patient. Ultimately, it is up to the patient as to what level of care they wish to go as well as how long they wish to benefit from chiropractic care.


  • Level I Care: RELIEF PHASE. (Initial Intensive Care). Our first goal while beginning care is to start to feel better; therefore, your office visits are frequent and composed of therapies designed to help offer the quickest relief of your symptoms. Depending on your age, condition, lifestyle, and response to treatment, a patient-specific number of visits, from daily to three times a week over a 2-4 week period may be needed to reduce or eliminate your symptoms. Although your symptoms may be largely gone at the end of this phase of treatment, it is important to continue your care into the next to completely heal and to help prevent reoccurrence of your problems(s).


  • Level II Care: CORRECTIVE & STRENGTHENING PHASE. (Rehabilitative Care). Underlying tissue dysfunction and degeneration often remain after your original symptoms have improved. Rehabilitative care stabilizes your condition and promotes more complete healing. Your visit frequency is reduced to one to two times a week and your assigned homework, such as advanced exercises, increases. You learn how to take care of yourself for life to avoid reinjury and you learn how to minimize problems should they arise again.


  • Level III Care: WELLNESS or MAINTENANCE PHASE. (Preventative Care). After maximum therapeutic benefit has been gained, you may electo to begin a wellness/maintenance care program. This type of program seeks to prevent disease, promote health, and enhance the quality of life by treating an underlying problem before symptoms appear. Because many problems are due to chronically poor posture and overuse syndromes, occasional visits help catch problems before they become serious. Just as a retainer is essential to wear on your teeth after the braces come off to prevent them from misaligning back to their original position, wellness/maintenance chiropractic care will maintain the stabilized condition we have worked hard to attain.


Chronic: Persisting for a long period of time. A problem showing little change or with a slow progression.


Coccyx: A series of small bones below the sacrum that are also known as the tailbone.


Compensation Reaction: A new problem that results from the body’s attempt to respond to a problem elsewhere.


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): A condition in which trauma, infection, injury or aging sometimes cause the discs to dry out, stiffen or even rupture, resulting in pain as the nerves in the spinal column are exposed or compressed by the discs. Also referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).


Diagnosis: A comprehensive process of evaluation of the spinal column and its immediate articulation to determine the presence of nerve interference and other conditions that may contraindicate chiropractic procedures.


Disc: A cartilage (cushion/pad) that separates spinal vertebrae, absorbs shocks to the spine, protects the nervous system and assists in creating the four normal curves of the spine. A soft, jelly-like center is contained by outer layers of fibrous tissue. Healthy discs help allow normal turning and bending.


Disease: The word disease is a combination of dis and ease. Dis is a prefix meaning “apart from.” It follows then that dis-ease is nothing more than a lack of comfort, a loss of harmony in the system. Chiropractors believe that instead of treating disease with chemicals and invasive procedures, whenever possible, first treat dis-ease with the reduction or elimination of nerve interference, thereby giving the patient a chance to recover naturally before resorting to drugs and surgery.


Doctor: Comes from Latin, “docere” meaning “to teach,” defined by Webster’s dictionary as one who is skilled or specializing in the healing arts, especially a physician, surgeon, chiropractor, dentist or veterinarian who is licensed to practice.


Edema: A condition in which fluid fills a damaged joint area causing swelling; similar to the swelling of a sprained ankle or black eye.


Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS): Electrical impulses applied to muscles using pads that conduct the impulses through the skin, producing a soothing, tingling sensation. The treatment is used to increase circulation, decrease pain and muscle spasm, and facilitate healing of injured soft tissues.


Exacerbation: An increase in the severity of a condition(s) or the patient’s symptoms. Often a result of physical, chemical or emotional stress.


Extremity: Lower and upper limbs, such as a leg or arm.


Facet: The joint surface of a spinal bone facing the adjacent bone above or below.


Failed-Back-Surgery Syndrome (FBSS): Severe, persistent back pain with or without radiating pain following back surgery. The most common causes are: an operation that was contraindicated or not indicated, a wrong site of surgery, an incomplete decompression, an omitted fusion, a pseudoarthosis of a fusion, a recurrent disc herniation. Epidural scar (scar tissue) is considered an enhancing factor for symptoms. It is interesting to note that studies tend to point the finger at patients, lawyers, and external factors rather than at the surgeon. Discussion of iatrogenic (disease which is caused by a physician) reasons for FBSS seems to be stifled by the fear of malpractice lawsuits; this fear inhibits research and underreports the actual number of patients who experience this disorder. Conservative estimates reveal that 10-40% of back surgeries fail although many studies indicate a much higher percentage.


Fixation: Being held in a fixed position. “Stuck”. A joint with restricted motion/movement.


Foramen: An opening, hole or passageway in a bone for blood vessels or nerves. On each side of the vertebral column there is an opening between each vertebrae that enables the spinal nerve roots to pass through. It is this hole or opening that gets constricted when there is a misalignment of a vertebra, disc bulging, and/or inflammed facet ligaments which as a result can irritate the spinal nerve exiting from the spinal cord at that level.


Health: A state of optimal physical, mental and social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. When your body works the way it was designed to work.


Herniated Disc: A disc is composed to two parts: an outer rim of fibrous (tough) tissue surrounding an inner loose material. When there is a break in the outer rim, the inner material can leak out of the disc space and enter the spinal canal where the disc material can compress nerve roots or the spinal cord. The majority of herniated discs can be managed quite well conservatively with chiropractic care preventing the need for drugs or surgery; however, few may require those drastic measures after conservative care has been tried.


Homeopathy: A system of medicine, founded by Dr. Hahnemann in 1796 in Philadelphia, in which drugs are used in extremely small doses.


Homeostasis: The ability or tendency to maintain normal, internal stability and balance in an organism by coordinating responses of the organ systems. Examples of homeostatic mechanisms are the regulation of blood pressure, body temperature and blood sugar levels.


Hydrochloric Acid: Normal constituent of gastric juice found in the stomach. Produced by the parietal cells of the gastric glands to serve many digestive functions. An overproduction may result in symptoms like acid reflux or heartburn.


Hypermobility: Too much movement.


Hypomobility: Restricted movement.


Ilium: One of the two large bones that form the pelvis with the sacrum; the hipbone.


Inflammation: A reaction of soft tissue due to injury that may include malfunction, discomfort, rise in temperature, swelling and increased blood supply.


Intersegmental Traction (IST): A table that rolls or massages the spine from underneath while the patient lies comfortable on their back. Although not actually a traction device, this table helps with blood flow and to reinforce the adjustment by creating additional movement to spinal joints. It may also “warm-up” the spine, to prepare it for the adjustment. This therapy is especially beneficial for patients that have a severely restricted or tight back. Research suggests that just 15 minutes on this table is equivalent to 45 minutes of spinal exercise.


Intervertebral Disc: A cartilage (cushion/pad) that separates spinal vertebrae, absorbs shocks to the spine, protects the nervous system and assists in creating the four normal curves of the spine. A soft, jelly-like center is contained by outer layers of fibrous tissue. Healthy discs help allow normal turning and bending.


Intervertebral Foramen: An opening, hole or passageway in a bone for blood vessels or nerves. On each side of the vertebral column there is an opening between each vertebrae that enables the spinal nerve roots to pass through. It is this hole or opening that gets constricted when there is a misalignment of a vertebra, disc bulging, and/or inflammed facet ligaments which as a result can irritate the spinal nerve exiting from the spinal cord at that level.


Kyphosis: A backward displacement in the lateral curve of the spine.


Laminectomy: Surgery that removes the lamina (the bony roof of the spinal canal) on one side or usually both sides of the vertebra to increase the size of the spinal canal, giving more room for the spinal cord or nerve roots.


Lateral: The side view of the body.


Lethargy: A condition of sluggishness. Getting a good nights sleep and still waking up feeling exhausted.


Ligament: A band or sheet of fibrous connective tissue between the ends of bones that facilitate motion and support. They also limit motion beyond its normal physiological range.


Lordosis: The forward curve of the spine. Normally found in the cervical and lumbar areas of the spine.


Manipulation: The forceful passive movement of a joint beyond its active limit of motion. It does not imply the use of precision, specificity or the correction of nerve interference. Therefore, it is not synonymous with chiropractic adjustment.


Massage: Repetitive pressure, friction, and kneading motions applied to a body region(s) to break down inflammation and muscle spasm.


Medical Diagnosis: Procedures that provide information about disease processes for the selection of treatment.


MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI uses a combination of radio waves, magnetic fields, and computers to create a high quality picture of the internal organs, the soft tissue and the nerve network. Like the CAT Scan, the patient lies motionless while being passed through a narrow cylinder. It can detect brain and spinal tumors, disc disease, spinal stenosis, degeneration and indications of a stroke. It’s also used to examine heart and liver tissue and the joints. This is the method that is preferred for examination of spinal disc degeneration.

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