Chiropractors are professionally trained doctors of chiropractic medicine that utilize conservative treatments that do not involve surgery. The modalities of chiropractic care of the spine may include manipulations or adjustments. Typically, a chiropractor utilizes a holistic approach. These treatments can include manipulation, traction and massage, therapeutic stretching and exercise, muscle stimulation, TENS, ultrasound and ice and heat therapy.
During an initial visit with a chiropractor, typically a detailed history of existing symptoms and medical conditions will be reviewed. Likewise, a physical examination that includes evaluation by observation and palpation typically is performed to assess for inflammation, painful areas and poor alignment. Range of motion may also be assessed and in the spine, either hypomobility (fixation) or hypermobility may be evaluated. Many practitioners also insist on x-rays during the initial evaluation with review of any tests and previous treatments received. From this, a treatment plan can be tailored to fit the patient’s needs.
Manipulation, or spinal adjustment, which involves the application of pressure to the joints, is the most commonly performed treatment in chiropractic care. More generally, spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is a technique where the hands are used to adjust the spine. The concept involves manual maneuvers to allow the body to freely realign itself. Adjustments may involve manipulation of the entire spine or small movements designed for one joint.
Along with manipulation, treatments can include traction and massage. This is typically performed just prior to a manipulation to relax the spine. Likewise, more traditional traction may be utilized. Other treatments can include massage and therapeutic stretching and exercise. Massage therapy helps improve circulation. Chiropractors are trained in a variety of massage therapy modalities. Therapeutic stretching and exercise involves specific movements and exercise to strengthen muscle groups and maintain flexibility. A chiropractor will typically instruct and supervise the patient until he or she feels comfortable performing these therapies on a daily basis.
Along with the above, modalities, including massage, muscle stimulation, TENS, Ultrasound and Ice and Heat Therapy, may be utilized. Muscle stimulation and TENS units involve the placement of electrical pulses at varying degrees to specific areas of the body to reduce or relieve pain, inflammation and muscle spasm. Therapeutic ultrasound is a form of deep heat therapy created by sound waves that, when applied to soft tissues and joints, help reduce swelling and decrease pain, stiffness, and spasms. Lastly ice and heat therapy can be utilized. Ice therapy is often used to reduce swelling and help control pain while heat therapy is used to relax the muscles and increase circulation.