What Is Chiropractic Care Like?

By Dr. Chan Yin Keen, DC | Parents Avenue’s Columnist | Images Courtesy of Freepik
You have most likely seen the videos on Facebook or Youtube, someone seated or lying face down on a cushioned table while a man pushes or twists them and you hear a loud pop followed by a sigh of relief. Now you are interested, are looking up any chiropractors near you and contemplating whether to book a session in to see what it is like.

So what exactly is chiropractic? Chiropractic is primarily about pain relief and restoring mobility for muscles, bones and joints. As a chiropractor, we look at you from a biomechanics standpoint, determine whether your pain and stiffness is a musculoskeletal issue or a visceral issue, and perform treatments such as spinal manipulation or soft tissue therapy. 

Often times other modalities may be used such as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), therapeutic ultrasound, kinesio taping or Activator Methods. These are all passive treatment methods where the patient sits still and receives treatment. We may also be using active treatment methods like McKenzie exercises or other rehabilitation exercises as part of our treatment plans. All these modalities are options for treatment of musculoskeletal pain without resorting to surgery or an over reliance on medication.

Before we get all excited about booking an appointment, it is also important to note who chiropractic isn’t for. I get a lot of requests regarding scoliosis, fibromyalgia, low back pain, neck pain, headaches, joint point pain or even sciatic pain. That is all very much within the purview of a chiropractor. People who have osteoporosis, are on blood thinners, visceral disorders (gallstones, appendicitis, heart pain, etc) I would typically advise against seeking chiropractic care either due to the risks involved or it being out of our purview.

Now that we have established what a chiropractor does, the next question is what is a visit to one like? A chiropractor will start with taking a medical history, followed by a physical examination. These first two steps will lead to making a decision over whether lab testing or radiographic imaging (X-Ray, MRI, etc) is needed. All this is done to determine whether treatment is appropriate or if you require referral elsewhere. 

Once a diagnosis has been determined, the chiropractor should explain what the problem is, and their treatment plan for it. A treatment plan should outline the treatment modalities being used as well as the timeline for treatment. Generally speaking, the longer you have been living with the pain or discomfort, the longer the treatment plan may have to be. Conversely, an acute injury (ignoring the seriousness of injury) should resolve quickly and thus the treatment plan should be shorter.

It is from this point that it starts to look and feel like the videos, where the chiropractor will be having you face down, using their hands to perform spinal manipulation or soft tissue therapy. Usually it will involve one or more spinal/joint manipulation, where they perform a quick thrust into a joint to improve the range and quality of motion. Typically, but not always, there is a mild popping sound that follows the thrust. It is important to note that while it sounds amazing, the objective of spinal manipulation is not the reproduction of that popping sound, but the restoration of movement and reduction in pain. Patients typically report feeling that they can move better or that they feel lighter after having a joint manipulated.

The less glamorous modalities that also normally happen during a visit to the chiropractor is the soft tissue therapy and rehabilitation exercises. Soft tissue therapy is used as a catch-all term for modalities such as Trigger Point Therapy, Nimmo Technique, effleurage, petrissage, etc. Most involving kneading the muscles or applying pressure on certain trigger points in a muscle belly to normalise muscle function. Rehab exercises may be done in the office itself, or  be given to you as your take home exercise.

Depending on the stage of back injury, the exercises may serve to either engage the muscle involved, to strengthen it, or even to change old postural habits. Just because it is less glamorous than having your spine adjusted or manipulated, does not make it any less important. A treatment plan is designed to have all these separate modalities work in conjunction with each other, otherwise treatment outcomes may be less than desirable.

If it all sounds a bit like going for physical therapy, you are correct. It absolutely is like going for physical therapy. Joint manipulation and mobilisation, soft tissue work are all tools in a good manual therapist’s toolbox, whether a chiropractor, a physiotherapist or an osteopath. A toolbox alone however, is just a toolbox. A great experience with a chiropractor would be coming away feeling like they understand your problem, empathised with you, helped you understand your problem better, as well as used their tools to help reduce your pain, allowing you to move more and do things that your pain prevented you from doing before.

The take home message from all this is that chiropractic care, condensed down to a one minute video clip may look like it is all about back cracking, but is actually a whole suite of treatment modalities employed to help get you feeling better, faster.

One Spine Chiropractic offers chiropractic solutions for people with musculoskeletal problems. For more information, please contact One Spine Chiropractic at 0 13-810 0373. Find them at D27, 3rd Floor, Center Point Sabah, Jalan Centre Point, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.  

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

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