The term “chiropractic” is derived from the Greek words cheir (meaning “hand”) and praktikos (meaning “done”) – specifically, “done by hand.” Chiropractors are the first point of contact for patients (which means they can see patients without a referral from a GP). They specialise in treating the spine by using their hands to examine and treat bone, muscle, and joint problems (musculoskeletal problems).
Chiropractors are trained to recommend exercises to treat and rehabilitate bone, muscle, and joint health conditions and provide nutritional, dietary, and lifestyle advice.
They employ various techniques to diagnose musculoskeletal problems, including hands-on clinical examination and diagnostic imaging such as x-rays or MRIs. When chiropractic treatment is indicated, these and other diagnostic methods are used.
If chiropractic care is inappropriate for you or your health condition requires collaboration with other health care providers, your chiropractor will refer you to the appropriate health care provider.
Chiropractic care may be a person’s primary treatment method in many cases, such as lower back pain. In addition, chiropractic services may supplement or support medical treatment for certain medical conditions by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects of the condition.
Unless you are seeking treatment through Veterans Affairs or the Medicare Chronic Disease Management programme, you do not need a referral to see a chiropractor.
When should you consider chiropractic care?
Work, accidents, sports injuries, household chores, and even daily stress can all cause painful joint and back problems.
Chiropractic care may be beneficial if you have aching joints or muscle pain that is interfering with your ability to get through the day or preventing you from doing your favourite activities. Even if you don’t have painful symptoms, it can help maintain a healthy spine and joint function.
People frequently seek the assistance of a chiropractor for:
- Neck pain
- Whiplash strains and sprains caused by everyday activities
- injuries caused by overuse
- Workplace and athletic injuries
- movement restrictions in the back, shoulders, neck, or limbs
Examination by a chiropractor
When you go to a chiropractic examination, your chiropractor will do the following:
- Perform a thorough medical history
- Examine your vital signs, precisely your body temperature, pulse, respiration rate (breathing rate), and blood pressure.
- Look for spinal curves or other visible health indicators.
- Palpate (feel) your spine and the muscles and soft tissues that support it with their hands.
- Perform orthopaedic examinations – these are designed to detect health conditions involving the spine, bones, joints, muscles, and soft tissues, including ligaments and tendons. An orthopaedic exam includes, among other things, moving the joint and measuring its range of motion.
- Perform neurological examinations – these are tests to determine the function of your motor, sensory, and cranial nerves (such as testing your reflexes and testing for numbness).
Your chiropractor can also refer you for other diagnostic tests, such as an MRI or x-ray, if necessary.
Based on their examination, your chiropractor will provide you with a differential diagnosis (which considers all of the possible causes of your primary complaint) and a working diagnosis (the most likely cause of your primary complaint). They will explain this diagnosis, including its natural history (when you can expect it to resolve), treatment options, and any benefits or risks associated with those treatments.
Chiropractic treatments commonly used include a variety of techniques such as:
- spinal manipulation, also known as an adjustment – applying controlled force to a spine joint with the hand’s mobilisation – a gentle movement of the joint to increase its range of motion exercises
- application of heat or ice for reassurance stretching soft tissue techniques – such as massage activity modification – advising you on how to modify your daily activities to alleviate discomfort and facilitate recovery
- Healthy eating and physical activity advice are examples of lifestyle advice.
- Physiologic therapeutics, such as the use of ultrasound, laser, or TENS orthotics, which are shoe inserts that help support the feet and improve posture and alignment
- Drop piece table technique – the use of a specially designed table to help mobilise a joint in a controlled manner treatment of other joints, such as the feet, ankles, shoulders, wrists, and elbows
As part of a collaborative decision-making process, your chiropractor will discuss these with you.