Top of the page
Chiropractic is an approach to health care that uses spinal manipulation to relieve pain and improve function. It is most often used for back or neck pain. It is sometimes used for headaches or for pain in the arms or legs.
Most doctors of chiropractic (chiropractors) take a natural approach to promoting health through lifestyle changes, nutrition, and exercise.
Many chiropractors have extra training in physical rehabilitation and specific exercise therapy. Some also use nutritional analysis, herbal therapy, and acupuncture.
Chiropractic treatments usually involve spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation, also called spinal adjustment, is a therapy that uses pressure on a joint of the spine. It is used to improve pain and function. Manipulation can be done with the hands or a special device. The careful, controlled force used on the joint can range from gentle to strong, and from slow to rapid. Sometimes other joints of the body are also worked on to help treat the spine.
The goal of chiropractic treatment is to increase movement in the joint and relax the muscles. Some chiropractors use heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to help relax your muscles before doing spinal manipulation.
Other types of treatment may include:
Some chiropractors use X-rays to help diagnose conditions.
If you've never been to a chiropractor before, you may not know what to expect. Visiting a chiropractor for low back pain is actually simple, safe, and usually painless. And a visit to the chiropractor results in relief for many people.
Your first visit will be a lot like a first-time visit to any new doctor. It's likely to include:
You may also have an X-ray of your spine.
When the chiropractor has all the information, it's time to sit down with you and talk about treatment. If the treatment plan includes a spinal manipulation, you could have it the same day or at a later appointment.
What do spinal adjustments feel like?
The most familiar type of spinal manipulation is the hands-on approach: You lie on a table while the chiropractor uses his or her hands or a device to apply pressure to an area of your spine. Some people call this "cracking" your back because of the popping sound that is sometimes made. But nothing is actually "cracking." The sound happens when the tissues of the spinal joint in question are stretched.
Spinal manipulation normally doesn't hurt. If you're already in pain because of your back, it may hurt to move. But manipulation is aimed at making you feel better.
Some chiropractors use a drop table for manipulations. Parts of the table drop slightly when the chiropractor presses down on a patient's back. The table is noisy, but this method is actually very gentle.
Some chiropractors use a hand-held device called an activator to do spinal manipulations. This is also very gentle.
Whenever you are looking for a health care provider, ask friends about who they do and don't like, and why. Check the background and education of providers you're interested in. It is sometimes helpful to have a visit to make sure you are comfortable with a provider's practice style.
Make your family doctor aware of your other providers and the treatments you are getting.
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family MedicineBrian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMarc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.