Understanding the Role of Chiropractors in Holistic Pain Management

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A holistic approach to pain management combines effective physical manipulation with practical lifestyle advice. It improves healing results and lowers costs.

Chiropractors view the body as a whole, recognizing how imbalances in the musculoskeletal system affect the nervous and overall health systems. They understand that symptoms like back pain result from misalignments in the skeletal structure, not the cause.

Chiropractors are Medical Doctors

A chiropractor is a medical doctor who focuses on the neuromusculoskeletal system. This system includes nerves, bones, muscles, and ligaments. Unlike standard medical doctors, who treat symptoms once they develop, chiropractors provide preventative care.

Chiropractors take an oath upon graduation to “do no harm and serve the sick.” They are required to meet state and national education standards, and they must comply with specific professional guidelines.

Chiropractors’ treatments may include spinal manipulation, soft-tissue therapy, joint bracing, and taping (Kinesio taping), exercise and stretches, hot and cold treatment, and referrals to integrative medicine experts for diet and weight loss guidance. They also educate patients on how to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce stress. Pain management with a chiropractor can treat the whole body to lower inflammation, which is the root cause of many health issues.

They Perform Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation is a manual therapy in which your chiropractor applies a controlled force to spine joints (aka vertebrae). In this treatment, your chiropractor looks for subluxations, a term medical doctors use for partial dislocations.

These subluxations can cause pain, and they may restrict healthy spinal movements. Manipulation reduces muscle tension, allowing your body to heal and improve healthy function.

A 2022 study found that spinal manipulation may decrease neck pain and lessen your need for prescription pain relievers. However, some people have conditions incompatible with spinal manipulation, such as a herniated disc or osteoporosis. These patients may prefer a gentler technique known as spinal mobilization. Some practitioners use a traction device to stretch the spine and use ice and heat for pain relief.

They Perform Physical Therapy

Holistic chiropractors treat the spine and other parts of the body that are causing pain. They also perform physical therapy to improve movement, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain.

In addition, they often use the direct thrust technique to encourage the alignment of misaligned vertebrae. This involves quick, shallow movements of the chiropractor’s hands or a specially designed instrument.

The chiropractors are also experts in preventing problems, such as pinched nerves. These are caused by injuries or other bodily stress that causes the tissue to press against nerves. A chiropractor will correct this and teach you to prevent it from happening again. They do this by optimizing the function of your nervous system. The more the system works correctly, the healthier your whole body will be.

They Provide Nutritional Counseling

Chiropractors often recommend dietary supplements, especially vitamin C and calcium. These help the body heal and reduce inflammation, contributing to musculoskeletal pain.

Nutritional counseling also helps patients maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can contribute to spinal misalignment and musculoskeletal problems.

Those who completed the survey indicated that more than 80% of chiropractic physicians incorporate some form of nutritional counseling into their practices. These nutritional services are holistic; more than 50% of these practitioners do not limit their counseling to issues affecting the musculoskeletal system but address obesity, coronary artery disease, and other chronic conditions.

These survey results suggest a need exists to investigate further the scope and quality of nutritional counseling in chiropractic practice. This will help develop standardized protocols that can be used nationwide.

They Refer Patients to Other Health Care Professionals

Chiropractors are commonly employed in a multidisciplinary care setting, interacting with other health care professionals. For example, a chiropractor might manually manipulate your back and then follow up with adjunctive therapies, such as massage therapy, joint bracing, hot and cold treatments, and kinesio taping.

These adjunctive therapies are designed to relieve pain and speed up the healing process. They may also include ultrasound, a device that uses sound waves to reduce inflammation in soft tissues and joints.

Many PCPs recommend that their patients contact a chiropractor for neck or back problems, such as unresponsive chronic pain and fibromyalgia. However, a significant number of PCPs have yet to make a formal referral to a chiropractor. This can result in missed opportunities for informal curbside consultations and the sharing of clinical information.

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