Answers given by Dr. Barrett Parker to the frequently asked questions about sports injury, back pain, neck pain, and primary spine providers at Allied Spine and Sports Chiropractic in Syracuse.
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a healthcare profession within complementary and alternative medicine(C.A.M.S) It is based upon the understanding that good health depends, in part, upon a normally functioning nervous system (especially the spine, and the nerves extending from the spine to all parts of the body). "Chiropractic" means "effective treatment done by hand." Chiropractic stresses the idea that the cause of many conditions begins with the body's inability to adapt to its environment. It looks to address these conditions by locating and manipulating one or more spinal or other peripheral joints. It incorporates the body's associated soft tissues, which are commonly functioning improperly as well. By manipulating or adjusting the tissues chiropractors can restore normal movement and function and thus restore health to the part and body.
What is a Doctor of Chiropractic? And what is the medical training of a Doctor of Chiropractic?
A Doctor of Chiropractic is a person who is trained in the healing arts. They are trained to evaluate both spine and extremity joints, as well as, other body parts which may or may not be associated with their patient’s symptoms.
The typical applicant at a chiropractic college has already acquired nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding — four to five academic years of professional study are the standard. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic, and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training.
Doctors of chiropractic — who are licensed to practice in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in many nations around the world — undergo a rigorous education in the healing sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation, they receive more intensive education than most medical doctors or physical therapists in their first 4 years. Typically, as part of their professional training, they must complete a minimum of a one-year clinical-based program dealing with outpatient care. In total, the curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency which is fully recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Chiropractic colleges also offer post-graduate continuing education programs in specialty fields ranging from sports injuries and occupational health to orthopedics and neurology. These programs allow chiropractors to specialize in a healthcare discipline or meet state re-licensure requirements.
This extensive education prepares doctors of chiropractic to diagnose health care problems, treat the problems when they are within their scope of practice and refer patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate.
What is an "adjustment" and how does it work?
A Chiropractic manipulation or adjustment works by restoring health to the joint area. Chiropractors do this by stretching open the joint complex, often causing an audible "pop". This pop is air and nitric oxide coming out of the joint. The gases are dissolved in the joint fluid called synovial fluid. When these gases are released they extend into the surrounding tissues creating a vasodilation response (opening of blood vessels) to bring in new blood and push out old blood. It also creates a relaxation response to the associated muscle fibers allowing an increased range of motion. By increasing the range of motion we stimulate nerve fibers called mechanoreceptors in the joint and they respond by releasing endorphins and enkephalins (long and short acting feel-good chemicals).
The chiropractic adjustment is also referred to as a spinal "manipulation". During this procedure, the doctor applies his/her hands to the area of the spine to be treated in such a way as to mobilize the joints. Most commonly, the doctor will administer a quick, short hands-on movement to the joint. Patients usually sense movement of the joint. As explained above, this action stimulates the nervous system to produce endorphins, restores movement to the joint and allows blood vessels to open and bring in new blood. This stimulation decreases the pain signal going to the brain and by bringing in new blood, the old blood, joint fluid and inflammation is flushed away into the body. This further reduces one’s pain and helps start the healing process.
The goal of the chiropractic spinal manipulation is to:
- Increase the joint mobility / range of motion
- Relieve pain
- Reduce muscle spasm
- Restore health and optimal joint function
- Return the patient to their standard of living
What is the cracking sound that occurs during a chiropractic manipulation?
Spinal joints contain a lubricating fluid known as synovial fluid. Within the synovial fluid are dissolved gasses; mostly air, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide. When the spine is manipulated, a vacuum is created within the joint and the dissolved gasses come out of the fluid, forming a gas bubble. This vacuum creates a "cracking" or "popping" sound. The cracking sound is not necessary for treatment to be successful. See above question to see how this works.
I have heard that knuckle cracking causes arthritis. Do chiropractic manipulations cause arthritis?
Contrary to what you may have been told, knuckle cracking does not cause joint arthritis. However, frequent knuckle crackers tend to experience more joint stiffness later in life.
Regardless, spinal adjustments / manipulations are quite different than knuckle cracking. When a spinal manipulation is performed, the joint is momentarily slightly gapped, separating the joint surfaces. Whereas, knuckle cracking actually grinds the joint surfaces together, potentially damaging the joint surface and the cartilage on them. There is no current scientific evidence to suggest that chiropractic manipulative therapy is detrimental to your spinal joints.
Is chiropractic manipulation safe?
YES! It is absolutely safe for all ages from newborn to senior adults. Approximately 20% of patients will experience some temporary stiffness and soreness following the first few treatments. The risk of serious injury has been estimated between one in one million to one in ten million. Chiropractors receive the highest level of education on spinal manipulative therapy and administer greater than 90% of skilled manipulation services provided in the United States. Doctors of Chiropractic have one of the lowest malpractice rates of any medical profession. They also have one of the HIGHEST PATIENT SATISFACTION RATES. If you have specific concerns about potential complications from receiving chiropractic manipulations, please discuss them with the doctor before receiving treatment.
What is a Subluxation?
The term subluxation is a chiropractic term that has many names associated with it. You may also hear the words joint Fixation, intersegmental joint dysfunction, hypomobile joint, or mechanical joint dysfunction, these terms all have the same definition.
Chiropractic subluxation is a joint (usually in the spine) that is not moving in its full and proper range of motion causing degeneration of the bone, muscle and nerve tissues around it. It can be caused by trauma to the area (major, minor or repetitive overload), toxins (infections, chemical build-up) or thoughts (auto-suggestion creating a psycho-somatic, mind-body response.)
What should I do if I am uncomfortable following treatment?
- Apply ice several times to the sore area for 15-20 minutes, with an hour between applications.
- Drink plenty of water and eat less inflammatory foods. Foods to avoid include; Alcohol, Caffeine, processed foods (chips, pizza, hotdogs) and refined sugars (donuts, candy, pastries , specialty coffee drinks).
- Some patients also report benefits from over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Do not hesitate to tell or contact your doctor if you are at all uncomfortable during or following treatment.
Does Allied Spine and Sports Chiropractic work with my medical doctors?
Our team makes it a point to work with anyone who is a part of the patient's healthcare team. Our educational curriculum includes training with Outpatient centers, Multidisciplinary Centers and Hospitals including the "President's Hospital" the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Allied Spine and Sports Chiropractic recommends working with medical providers, complimentary and alternative providers to ensure the best outcome for our patients. Our team has treated a variety of conditions from cervical and low back pain to carpal tunnel syndrome and ankle sprains. We have co-treated patient's problems with the areas Neurosurgeons, Orthopedists, Pain Management Specialists, Internists, Primary-Care doctors, Dentists, Oral-Surgeons, as well as Nurses, Physician Assistants, Dietitians, Physical Therapists and Exercise Physiologists. Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Personal Trainers and alternative healers have also been part of a patient's healthcare team. We have unique understanding of soft tissues and specialized training in soft tissue healing methods, nutrition and exercise prescription.