Benefits of Chiropractic |
Basic Spinal Anatomy |
Benefits of Chiropractic
Through carefully applied pressure, massage, and manual manipulation of the vertebrae and joints, pressure and irritation on the nerves is relieved and joint mobility is restored, allowing your body to return to its natural state of balance, called homeostasis.
In general, proper chiropractic treatment of your body's lumbar, or lower back, region, involves very little risk and the rewards can be significant.
Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations can be especially helpful in relieving pain for facet joint injuries, osteoarthritis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, because such conditions respond well to mobilization. Moreover, scores of patients with chronic headaches, sinus problems, high blood pressure, ear infections, leg pain, arthritis, and many other illnesses have reported significant relief after chiropractic therapy.
Increasingly over the past few decades, the medical community has come to accept and recognize chiropractic care as a valid form of treatment for a variety of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, and as a conservative treatment option for patients with lower back pain. Moreover, many medical doctors recognize a chiropractic diagnosis and accept it as the first line of treatment for functional disorders of the entire musculoskeletal system.
Studies by leading medical journals in recent years have confirmed the benefits of chiropractic care:
- A 1993 report by the Ontario Ministry of Health concluded that chiropractic care was the most effective treatment for lower back pain. The agency also recommended that chiropractic care be fully integrated in the Canadian government's health care system.
- In 1994, the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published its Clinical Practice Guidelines, which asserted that spinal manipulation was effective in reducing pain and speeding recovery among patients with acute low back symptoms without radiculopathy.
- A 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study of outcomes and costs for acute low back pain found that patients treated by chiropractors were significantly more satisfied than those who saw primary care, orthopedic or managed care practitioners.
- A 1996 study in the journal Spine echoed that study and found that patients who sought chiropractic care were more likely to feel that treatment was helpful, more likely to be satisfied with their care, and less likely to seek care from another provider for the same condition, compared to those who sought care from medical doctors.
- In 2001, the Center for Clinical Health Policy Research at Duke University concluded in a study that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for cervicogenic headaches, or those that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.
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Basic Spinal Anatomy
The spinal column is an intricate framework of interlocking bones that, when viewed from the side, form a gentle "S" shape. The spine is a sophisticated
system both fragile and sturdy - of muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, discs, a spinal cord, and nerves.
Joints, called "facet joints," and discs allow the spine to bend and twist and absorb mild shocks and bumps. The brain, spinal cord, and nerves manage your body's movement by sending messages to muscles. Supporting the entire structure is an intricate system of ligaments, tendons, and discs.
The vertebrae, facet joints, and discs are vertically stacked in a healthy spine. Ligaments support that alignment and discs, which are flexible, spongy pads, absorb shocks between the vertebrae and joints.
The spine has four natural curves, which help to evenly distribute the loads incurred by daily activity - from sitting, walking, and running, to lifting and carrying.
There are three major parts of your spine:
- The cervical spine, or neck
- The thoracic spine, or upper back
- The lumbar spine, or lower back
The sacrum, which lies at the base of your spine between the fifth lumbar and the tailbone, or coccyx, is a triangular-shaped bone made up of five fused parts. These are called "S1, S2, S3, S4 and S5." These unique parts connect to your pelvis by way of structures called sacroiliac joints.
Basically, your spine is composed of four types of material. These are:
- Vertebral bodies = These are the large bony structures you see in the spinal anatomy and essentially are the support column of your back. This amazing structure supports about half of your body's weight; your muscles do the job of the remaining half. Vertebral bodies are separated by small spaces containing discs. Most of the vertebral bodies in your spine have several joints that allow your back to bend and flex. When you bend forward, your hips provide about half of the impact, while your lower spine, or lumbar, takes on the rest.
- Vertebral discs = The shock absorbers that are found between vertebral bodies, discs are essentially made up of two major parts: a tough outer core and a soft inner core. When you are born, these discs are mostly water. As you get older, the discs slowly lose their water content and get harder. As they dehydrate over time, your discs provide less of that soft and cushy support they provided when they were new. Because they have no blood supply and few nerve endings, discs are unable to repair themselves. Disc degeneration can be painful in later years; in some cases, the inner core of the discs leak proteins that can inflame the nerve roots.
- Spinal cord and nerve roots = As it leaves the base of your brain, your spinal cord weaves through the neck and upper back, ending up at the bottom of your thoracic spine. Actually, your spine ends before it reaches your lower back, shooting off a series of nerve roots that are dispersed through bony canals throughout your body.
- Muscles = The soft tissue surrounding your spine is largely composed of muscles, which support your spine as it bends and flexes. Two large muscles in your lower back, called erector spinae, help hold up the spine.
The soft tissues that envelop and support your spine make up an intricate network of muscles.
With the help of your body's abdominal muscles, this network helps to keep your body stabilized and upright, and allows it to bend and flex.
The types of muscles that support your spine include:
- Extensors = These are composed of back and gluteal muscles. These muscles help keep your back straight, assist in efforts involving lifting, and moving your thigh away from the body.
- Flexors = These are your abdominal and iliopsoas muscles, which support the spine from the front. They also control the arch of your lower back and move the thigh in toward the body.
- Obliques (also called rotators) = These "side" muscles stabilize your spine when you are standing upright and help rotate your spine and maintain proper posture and spinal curvature.
Your nervous system looks much like an upended tree, suspended from its roots at the base of your brain, its millions of limbs reaching out to every corner of your body.
Your spinal cord is like a thick braid formed by billions of these nerves. Your body has approximately 15 billion nerve cells-all of which receive and transmit nerve impulses by way of the spinal cord. These impulses control virtually all functions of your body-from your senses to mobility.
Nerve roots and your spinal cord
Your spinal cord actually ends near the base of your upper back, shooting out braids of nerves called "nerve roots." These nerve roots run through a large tunnel-like canal, and at each level of your spinal column, a pair of nerve roots exits from the spine.
Nerve roots are named for the level of your spine they exit from, beginning with a letter and followed by a number. For example, a nerve root in the cervical spine may be called "C6,"while a nerve root in the lumbar region may be called "L4."
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In spite of it's long recognition by the medical community and the government as a safe, proven, and effective treatment, many people today still lack understanding of Chiropractic care.The established medical community's assault on the chiropractic profession continued even as late as the 1970s, when a group of chiropractors sued the American Medical Association (AMA) and several other medical organizations for disseminating untrue and damaging information about their profession. The plaintiffs alleged that the AMA and others deliberately lied in order to destroy the chiropractic held because they viewed it as a threat, or competition, for their health-care dollars. The court agreed with the chiropractors and called the AMA's actions "lawless" and unfounded. The case was eventually heard in the United States Supreme Court, which upheld the original verdict against the AMA.
Much has changed since that landmark decision, and today, the medical community has come to recognize the value of chiropractic care.
Today, hundreds of thousands of patients routinely receive competent care - and relief from their suffering - from the nation's more than 60,000 doctors of chiropractic.
Here's a look at some of the more common misconceptions about chiropractic care.
Myth #1: Chiropractors treat back pain and little else.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While chiropractic adjustments can be especially helpful in relieving pain for facet joint injuries, osteoarthritis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction, scores of patients with chronic headaches, sinus problems, leg pain, arthritis, and many other illnesses have reported significant relief after chiropractic therapy. Chiropractors do more than manipulate the musculoskeletal parts of the body, and are capable of providing a myriad of services that include acupuncture, electric muscle stimulation, exercise programs and instruction, heat/cold therapy, herbal therapy, lifestyle and nutrition counseling, manipulation under anesthesia, massage, physical rehabilitation, physiotherapy, traction, and ultrasound.
Myth #2: Chiropractors prescribe medications to relieve pain and perform surgery, when needed.
Chiropractors believe that many ailments can be corrected if the body's interrelated bone, nerve and vascular systems are in balance, allowing the body to heal itself. A branch of the healing arts concerned with disease processes, chiropractic care is a recognized form of therapy that focuses on improving your overall health and well being without the use of drugs or surgery.
Myth #3: Those who undergo spinal manipulation are at high risk of injury.
In general, proper chiropractic treatment of your body's lumbar, or lower back, region involves very little risk, and the rewards can be significant. In fact, a recent study by the Rand Corporation found that a serious adverse reaction from cervical (neck) manipulation might occur less than once in 1 million treatments. The American Chiropractic Association believes slimmer-about one in every 2 million treatments-the same odds of dying in a commercial airline crash. A more recent article in theCanadian Medical Association Journal found only a 1-in-5.85 million risk that a chiropractic adjustment of the neck may result in vertebral artery dissection.
Myth #4: Chiropractors are not viewed as being in the medical mainstream.
The medical community today formally recognizes the value of chiropractic care, and medical doctors routinely acknowledge chiropractic care as a conservative treatment option for patients with lower back pain. Moreover, many medical doctors recognize a chiropractic diagnosis and accept it as the first line of treatment for functional disorders of the entire musculoskeletal system.
The prestigious Texas Back Institute (TBI), the largest freestanding spine specialty clinic in the country, once included only surgeons and other medical doctors among its staff. In the late 1980s, TBI hired its first doctor of chiropractic. Today, close to half of TBI's patients see a chiropractor first when beginning their treatment.
The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and the successful Complementary and Alternative Medicine Center at the National Institutes of Health have established chiropractic internship programs.
Myth #5: Chiropractic care is generally unsafe and ineffective.
Numerous studies throughout the world have shown that chiropractic treatment, including manipulative therapy and spinal adjustment, is both safe and effective for back pain.
In 1994, the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research published its Clinical Practice Guidelines, which asserted that spinal manipulation was effective in reducing pain and speeding recovery among patients with acute low back symptoms without radiculopathy (nerve roots exit the spine and enter the body; if one of these roots is sick or injured in the area where it leaves the spine, it is called a radiculopathy). A 1996 study published in the journal Spine echoed that study and found that patients who sought chiropractic care were more likely to feel that treatment was helpful, more likely to be satisfied with their care, and less likely to seek care from another provider for the same condition, compared to those who sought care from medical doctors.
Myth #6: Cervical manipulation can cause a stroke.
A 2003 study published in the journal Neurology asserted that chiropractic treatments were the culprit in a patient's stroke, claiming that a cervical adjustment led to a vertebral artery dissection (VAD). According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), the study is fraught with design flaws and needlessly alarms the public about a safe and effective form of treatment for neck pain and headaches. The ACA claims that VAD is a rare type of stroke associated with many other commonplace activities, such as talking on the telephone, swimming, stargazing, overhead work, hair shampooing, and even sleeping. In fact, according to the ACA, a recent biomechanical study found that the forces transmitted to the artery during cervical manipulation are less than one-ninth the force necessary to stretch or otherwise damage a normal vertebral artery.
"Based upon this study and other recent evidence, many experts now believe that it is physically impossible for a competently performed neck manipulation or adjustment, as provided by a trained doctor of chiropractic, to cause a vertebral artery dissection unless the artery already has a significant pre-existing weakness," according to the ACA
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