Chiropractors are not normally licensed to write medical prescriptions or perform major surgery in the United States, (although New Mexico has become the first US state to allow "advanced practice" trained chiropractors to prescribe certain medications.). In the US, their scope of practice varies by state, based on inconsistent views of chiropractic care: some states, such as Iowa, broadly allow treatment of "human ailments"; some, such as Delaware, use vague concepts such as "transition of nerve energy" to define scope of practice; others, such as New Jersey, specify a severely narrowed scope. US states also differ over whether chiropractors may conduct laboratory tests or diagnostic procedures, dispense dietary supplements, or use other therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture; in Oregon they can become certified to perform minor surgery and to deliver children via natural childbirth. A 2003 survey of North American chiropractors found that a slight majority favored allowing them to write prescriptions for over-the-counter drugs. A 2010 survey found that 72% of Swiss chiropractors considered their ability to prescribe nonprescription medication as an advantage for chiropractic treatment.
Chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort. However, patients may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching following treatment (as with some forms of exercise) that usually resolves within 12 to 48 hours. Compared to other common treatments for pain, such as over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, chiropractic's conservative approach offers a safe and effective option.
In 2005, the chiropractic subluxation was defined by the World Health Organization as "a lesion or dysfunction in a joint or motion segment in which alignment, movement integrity and/or physiological function are altered, although contact between joint surfaces remains intact. It is essentially a functional entity, which may influence biomechanical and neural integrity." This differs from the medical definition of subluxation as a significant structural displacement, which can be seen with static imaging techniques such as X-rays. This exposes patients to harmful ionizing radiation for no evidentially supported reason. The 2008 book Trick or Treatment states "X-rays can reveal neither the subluxations nor the innate intelligence associated with chiropractic philosophy, because they do not exist." Attorney David Chapman-Smith, Secretary-General of the World Federation of Chiropractic, has stated that "Medical critics have asked how there can be a subluxation if it cannot be seen on X-ray. The answer is that the chiropractic subluxation is essentially a functional entity, not structural, and is therefore no more visible on static X-ray than a limp or headache or any other functional problem." The General Chiropractic Council, the statutory regulatory body for chiropractors in the United Kingdom, states that the chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex "is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease."
Early chiropractors believed that all disease was caused by interruptions in the flow of innate intelligence, a vitalistic nervous energy or life force that represented God's presence in man; chiropractic leaders often invoked religious imagery and moral traditions. D.D. Palmer said he "received chiropractic from the other world". D.D. and B.J. both seriously considered declaring chiropractic a religion, which might have provided legal protection under the U.S. constitution, but decided against it partly to avoid confusion with Christian Science. Early chiropractors also tapped into the Populist movement, emphasizing craft, hard work, competition, and advertisement, aligning themselves with the common man against intellectuals and trusts, among which they included the American Medical Association (AMA).
Once your history is gathered, the chiropractor may complete a physical exam, or they may begin treatment. This may be a manual spinal manipulation, or the chiropractor may use various chiropractic instruments. After your adjustment is complete, the chiropractor will recommend a schedule of follow-up visits. The number of visits will depend on your current health condition, how much pain you’re in, and what other therapies you’re using to treat your pain. Chiropractic care is always best done in addition to other pain management treatments, such as physical therapy, medication, or pain-reducing injections.
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Regulatory colleges and chiropractic boards in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Australia are responsible for protecting the public, standards of practice, disciplinary issues, quality assurance and maintenance of competency. There are an estimated 49,000 chiropractors in the U.S. (2008), 6,500 in Canada (2010), 2,500 in Australia (2000), and 1,500 in the UK (2000).
One of the most common concerns about the neck that is not especially worrisome: signs of “wear and tear” on the cervical spine, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease, as revealed by x-ray, CT scans, and MRI. Many people who have clear signs of arthritic degeneration in their spines will never have any symptoms, or only minor, and/or not for a long time.10 For instance, about 50% of fortysomethings have clinically silent disk bulges, and even at age 20 there’s a surprising amount of spinal arthritis. The seriousness of these signs is routinely overestimated by patients and healthcare professionals alike.11
Chiropractic works by making carefully placed adjustments to realign your spine. These adjustments allow the muscle tissues to properly support the spine and vital neurological processes that occur within it. When the spine is able to function without interference, the body is better able to facilitate healing, thereby relieving pain and restoring health in a variety of ways.
Determining a treatment strategy depends mainly on identifying the location and cause of the irritated nerve root. Although neck pain can be quite debilitating and painful, nonsurgical management can alleviate many symptoms. The doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the pain or inflammation and muscle relaxants to allow time for healing to occur. Reducing physical activities or wearing a cervical collar may help provide support for the spine, reduce mobility and decrease pain and irritation. Trigger point injection, including corticosteroids, can temporarily relieve pain. Occasionally, epidural steroids may be recommended. Conservative treatment options may continue for up to six or eight weeks.
Chiropractic is well established in the United States, Canada, and Australia. It overlaps with other manual-therapy professions such as osteopathy and physical therapy. Most who seek chiropractic care do so for low back pain. Back and neck pain are considered the specialties of chiropractic, but many chiropractors treat ailments other than musculoskeletal issues. Many chiropractors describe themselves as primary care providers, but the chiropractic clinical training does not support the requirements to be considered primary care providers, so their role on primary care is limited and disputed. Chiropractic has two main groups: "straights", now the minority, emphasize vitalism, "innate intelligence", and consider vertebral subluxations to be the cause of all disease; "mixers", the majority, are more open to mainstream views and conventional medical techniques, such as exercise, massage, and ice therapy.
If your chiropractor does recommend an X-ray, one piece of advice: wear proper clothing! I made the mistake of wearing jeans to the appointment. And that meant had to change into some not-so-attractive disposable medical shorts… NOT a good look. I would recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing you can move in (that helps for the movement assessment too!) and nix the jewelry. I was smarter for my second appointment and wore my workout gear, so the medical shorts didn’t have to make a second appearance.