Do You Have a Chiropractor?

Article for Cape Fear Living Magazine

Title:  “Do You Have a Chiropractor?”

Submitted by: Dr. R. Todd Shaver

24 June 2015


Do you have a chiropractor?  Well, if you do not, you probably have friends or family members who are chiropractic patients and you may have wondered why they are so enthusiastic about chiropractic care.  You probably have many questions.  What is it all about? Why is chiropractic so popular?  Do chiropractors go to medical school?  Is there a basic philosophy underlying chiropractic healthcare?  Is chiropractic care safe?  Is it effective?  Does research support it?  Let’s get answers to these questions and more in this month’s discussion.

Along with medical doctors (designated as M.D.) and osteopathic doctors (D.O.), chiropractic doctors (D.C.) represent one of three physician categories recognized by the United States federal government.  Chiropractors participate in the Medicare system, chiropractors can serve as medical examiners for the federal government Department of Transportation to certify truckers as fit to drive, and chiropractors participate in the military healthcare system.  Doctors of chiropractic are licensed in all 50 states and the educational requirements for chiropractors are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.  To practice chiropractic in North Carolina, individuals must first earn a 4-year premedical undergraduate degree (i.e. Bachelor of Science) followed by 4 – 5 academic years of chiropractic school with a curriculum comparable in rigor to training for the other physician types.  The chiropractic doctor may be referred to as a chiropractic physician, a doctor of chiropractic or simply as a chiropractor; the terms are synonymous.

Chiropractors are portal-of-entry physicians which means that you may consult a chiropractor without referral from another physician.  Chiropractic physicians have broad diagnostic skills; in addition to physical exam, the chiropractic physician may order laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging (such as x-ray or MRI) or other diagnostic interventions to determine when chiropractic treatment is appropriate or when it is not.  If a problem is discovered which is not within the scope of chiropractic practice, the chiropractic physician is trained to refer to and cooperate with physicians and specialists of other disciplines.

Doctors of Chiropractic practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to healthcare.  Chiropractic healthcare is a holistic (i.e. total person) approach.  Chiropractic philosophy emphasizes the importance of maintaining health rather than simply waiting to become ill and then treating disease.  Basic tenets of the science and philosophy of chiropractic include: recognition that dynamics exist between lifestyle, environment and health; understanding the cause of illness in order to eliminate it (rather than simply treating symptoms); recognition that the nervous system coordinates and controls all other body systems; and recognition that human function is influenced by human structure.

Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints including (but not limited to) back pain, neck pain, pain in the arms and/or legs, and headaches.  The most common therapeutic procedure performed by chiropractors is known as a “chiropractic spinal adjustment”.  The purpose of the spinal adjustment is to improve the ability of the spine to bear weight efficiently and to restore mobility to spinal joints where movement has become restricted due to injury.  Injury to the spine may be caused by a single traumatic event (i.e. improper lifting of a heavy object) or through repetitive stress such as sitting with poor posture for extended periods.  The chiropractic adjustment of the affected joint improves mobility and alignment, reducing stress on spinal tissue (i.e. nerve, disc, muscle, joint), alleviating pain and muscle tightness and allowing injured tissues to heal.   To augment the effects of the adjustment, chiropractors may also utilize a variety of other modalities including therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, laser therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, massage, traction, acupuncture and more.  The safety and efficacy of chiropractic care for pain relief has been extensively researched and is widely recognized.  For instance, various studies have shown that both acute and chronic herniated disc sufferers have significantly favorable outcomes with chiropractic care.  Attesting to the safety of chiropractic care, the prestigious medical journal, Spine, reports, “No mechanism by which spinal manipulation (chiropractic adjustment) induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified.” Even Harvard Medical School in its Harvard Health Publications has acknowledged chiropractic as a viable option for people suffering with “back pain, migraine, neck pain and whiplash.”

While chiropractic care is well established as a means to treat painful conditions related to the spine, many people are attracted to chiropractic because of its emphasis on wellness and maintaining health.  In fact, the primary reason to receive a chiropractic adjustment is to optimize health potential.  Remember that the nervous system is responsible for the control and coordination of all other body systems.  Chiropractic care optimizes health potential by minimizing structural interference of the nervous system and minimizing degeneration of the spine’s nerve, bone and soft tissues (i.e. muscle, disc, ligament).

Chiropractic physicians are also trained to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.  In some chiropractic offices, like ours, there is great emphasis on this area of practice.  This is attractive to many people who prefer to use natural methods of healthcare as their initial response to health challenges.  We fashion personalized treatment programs for our patients which might include (depending on each patient’s unique needs & goals) dietary modification and counseling, nutritional supplement recommendations based on lab evaluation, supervised exercise with our exercise physiologist, lifestyle modification, massage, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy modalities and more.  This approach allows us to help our patients naturally prevent and manage health challenges including overweight/obesity, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, thyroid and other hormone imbalance, autoimmune disease, and more.

So, do you have a chiropractor?  If not, shouldn’t you?  For more information on chiropractors and chiropractic care, visit the American Chiropractic Association (from which I’ve borrowed liberally in this discussion) at www.acatoday.org, the North Carolina Chiropractic Association at www.ncchiro.org, or our office at www.shavernaturalmedicine.com.