Chiropractic care in Fresno focus on the connection between the musculoskeletal structure and the body functions with special regards to the spinal area. Our nervous system is responsible for controlling the functions of other organs, muscles, and body systems. The nerves and the nerve roots are connected from the brain into a vast muscular bundle widely known as the spinal nerve. It travels along the spine and branch out in the spinal vertebrae. These vertebrae connect the various body parts and organs towards the spine. Any condition that pinch the nerves, such as trauma, pressure, or spinal misalignments, can cause disruption of the function of the nervous system.
Fresno Chiropractic – What to Expect on Your First Office Visit
Before I begin, let me give you a little insight to where my perspective on the healing comes from. By training, I'm a scientist. I am really good at looking at issues critically and deciphering facts and problems based on factual evidence and sound theories. At the same time, I always had an interest in alternative medicine and while I lived in Seattle for 5 years, I had the chance to experience directly and learn various healing modalities such as naturopathic physician care, acupuncture, homeopathy, Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET). Some of my knowledge comes from being the inquisitive patient, some comes from discussions with students of Bastyr College of Naturopathic medicine who I befriended while in Seattle. While in Seattle I also took several classes on Reiki, and became a Reiki Master/Teacher and hence I have the insiders perspective on how energy healing works and what it can and can't do.
I am a strong advocate of alternative therapies in conjunction with or sometimes instead of traditional medicine. However, recently, I have been really bothered by practices of chiropractors (some not all) and I feel that there are many out there that take advantage of the general lack of understanding of how the human body works in patients to keep their businesses going. I write this article with the goal to educate moms on the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with chiropractic care, especially as many chiropractors now advocate for 'maintenance care' not only for adults but also for children.
As you will see below, I do believe that chiropractic adjustments can be very useful, especially when they are performed as part of the whole body healing, but unfortunately, when done in isolation, chiropractic adjustments often only set you up on a path of going, and going, and going back to your chiropractor for more treatments, rather than getting well.
The work of a chiropractor is to manipulate the spine to remove misalignments. Misalignments in the spine are often referred to as subluxations. Traditional chiropractic philosophy is based on the belief that misalignments in the spine are the root cause of illness. Hence they remove the misalignments in the spine with the hope that the illness will go away as well. The idea behind this theory is that all body organs are connected to the spine through nerves. If there is misalignment in the spine, it will cause a problem with the nerves and then other organs connected to them. If you consider long term chiropractic care for yourself or your family, be sure that this theory of all illness originating from spine misalignments resonates with you. It doesn't with me. Here is why.
The spine connects to joints, then to muscles and ligaments that support the spine and its structure. If there is a problem within the spine, the muscles in the close proximity to the spine misalignment (and often not only in that region) will also be affected. Typically some muscles will become overly tight and some will become weak, as muscles work in pairs. This is what's commonly referred to a muscle imbalance. In addition to the musculoskeletal system in your body, there is a biochemical system, and an emotional system. The biochemical system includes your blood chemistry, hormones, vitamins, minerals, and hence this system is vital to your well-being. Emotions, including moods and attitudes have also been shown to contribute to and to aid illnesses. The musculoskeletal, the biochemical, and the emotional systems within our body are very intimately connected to create our well-being or sickness. If we become ill, all of these systems will be affected and disease will manifest in all. I think it's naive to believe that all disease starts from the spine. For example, if you never go out in the sun and eventually become Vitamin D deficient, it is likely that you will develop problems in your spine since Vitamin D deficiency leads to muscles weakness. This in turn will likely lead to spine misalignments. Similarly, severe emotional trauma, never addressed properly, over time may lead to sickness which will likely cause some spine misalignment. I believe that it's correct to say that most illness will manifest itself in the spine, but that is not the same as saying that all illness originates in the spine. One thing to keep in mind is that the somewhat simplistic philosophy behind chiropractic and illness was developed at time when people had no choice but to eat minimally processed foods from local sources, before there were any chemicals in the environment, and at a time before drugs, vaccinations, and other environmental factors were impacting our health. In our modern society, there are other factors that contribute to creating illness, which must be addressed.
In my opinion, removing the cause of the illness is the best approach for curing it. Finding the cause of the illness is often the tricky part. This is where a doctor with a broad range of expertise and education is most helpful. Ideally, the physician you pick as your doctor is familiar with how disease manifests itself in the musculoskeletal system, as well as in the biochemical and emotional system. Such a physician can best determine how to get all these systems back into balance.
Chiropractic treatments have the best chance of curing problems most directly related to disturbances in the musculoskeletal system of the body. Many joint, and muscle pains can be aided by chiropractic manipulation. The question is, whether the pain will stay away. If the treatment is for an injury such as back pain due to someone lifting a heavy object in awkward manner, one to several chiropractic adjustments will usually get rid of the pain for good. The reason is that the cause of the pain was the spinal misalignment, and once removed, the patient is usually pain free.
What about chronic pain though? Moms often develop neck and shoulder pain from nursing and carrying their children. Lower back pain and sciatica are also quite common. All chiropractors happily address these conditions, but how they are addressed varies greatly between chiropractors.
It is a very common chiropractic practice to manipulate the spine to try to get it back to its proper alignment, and ask the patient to come back multiple times in a week, often for long periods of time. The reason for the multiple return visits is not addressing the cause of the spine misalignment. If the cause of the problem is not removed, few hours to a few days after the adjustment, the spine slowly returns to its previous state.
Why? Because the muscles that are tight are pulling it in the direction of previous misalignment and the weak muscles can't support the corrected structure. So the patient goes back to the chiropractor, and the process is repeated. 5, 10, 20, 40, sometimes 60 times, usually 1 to 3 times a week over a course of weeks. Then once a week, then once a month. After all those adjustments, it is possible that the muscles over time slowly adapt into the new corrected shape from the repeated adjustments, but typically if treatment is stopped, the spine will go back to the misalignment as the cause of the problem was never addressed by the chiropractic practitioner. Many moms I know have chronic neck or lower back pain, and all feel better after visiting a chiropractor. The problem is that they need to keep seeing the chiropractor in order to feel better.
The underlying reason for chronic pain is often postural patterns (such as forward rounded shoulders from computer use) and muscle imbalances (strong quadriceps and weak hamstrings in runners or after pregnancy). That's only part of the picture though. Spine misalignment can also be caused by and exacerbated by a food allergy, such as dairy intolerance, or vitamin deficiency. The misalignments due to these factors can be as severe as from chronic postural patterns. Chiropractic adjustments will keep making the patient feel better after every adjustment, however if the cause is never addressed, the problem will keep coming back. In these examples, it would make most sense to address the cause of the illness (vitamin D deficiency or dairy intolerance) rather than the symptom (spine misalignment).
A good chiropractor should be able to determine what the cause of the muscle imbalance and/or spine misalignment is, whether it is purely structural or whether there is an underlying problem such as a nutrient deficiency, a food sensitivity, a toxic overload, or a hormonal imbalance. This takes not only a good chiropractor but an inquisitive mind set as well as good doctoring skills. These are not taught in all chiropractic schools, and the good chiropractors have usually had lots of other training, for example in applied kinesiology.
Hence in my view, chiropractic adjustments are useful to address some musculoskeletal issues. For sure, for acute injuries to the system. When it comes to chronic pain though, the key to getting rid of the issue is addressing the cause. A practitioner who understands how the body works will use a combination of spinal manipulation with physical therapy to address tight and weak muscles, and offer a plan on removing the cause of the ailment (postural habits, etc). This would be similar to the work of a physical therapist skilled in spinal manipulation. Often however even that is not enough. A chiropractor with a firm belief that removing spine misalignments is all that is needed to treat a person will likely keep a person with a vitamin deficiency or a food allergy in treatment for months (and be unsuccessful). I think that is plain ignorant. To treat a person, all aspects of the body have to be considered and for that a holistic practitioner acknowledging the whole body approach to healing is needed. A good chiropractor will recognize the limitation of his or her work and will refer a patient to someone else if spinal manipulation is not producing lasting results.
Long term Chiropractic Care
Many chiropractors think that regular spinal manipulations are necessary to stay healthy. After all, in their minds, all disease originates in the spine, and hence small misalignments should be frequently removed for optimal health. It is not clear to me whether these chiropractors actually believe this or whether they simply understand that they will have clients for life, as long as the client believes that he or she should see the chiropractor once a month for optimal health. Of course, services are not limited to adults. Many chiropractors now offer a family package and start adjusting children from infancy; For maintenance: once a month for the rest of their lives.
Maintenance may be a good idea a couple times a year or after accidents to prevent the problem of "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree". However, there is more to good maintenance healthcare than adjusting. The biochemical and emotional systems also need maintenance, and typically people with more balanced chemical and emotional systems will need less adjustments to stay feeling good. A good alternative to using a chiropractor for health maintenance is using a practitioner who can address the full spectrum of healthcare and preventive maintenance, such as a Naturopathic Doctor also trained in physical medicine.
The good: chiropractic manipulation can be extremely helpful in reducing or removing pain, often chronic.
The bad: Typical chiropractors address only the structural component of the problem. Some will often guidance on how to stretch and strengthen affected muscle groups to help the spine in alignment. Most do not tackle the chemical/hormonal aspect of the problem which are often the hidden cause of spinal misalignments. There is also an emotional aspect of spinal alignments which is rarely addressed.
The ugly: Chiropractors often set up their practice with the intention of keeping the clients coming and coming and coming. It's not uncommon to see packages of 60 to 80 visits sold upfront: not only for you - but for your entire family, whether they are ill or not!
Optimal Solution: Finding a practitioner who understands the relationship between the musculoskeletal, biochemical, and emotional systems in your body, and can get to the cause of your problem. This can be a holistic chiropractor, naturopathic doctor trained in spinal manipulation, or perhaps a chiropractor who's also an acupuncturist.
Report on the Chiropractic Report of Findings
In most cases, ABSOLUTELY!
While a disc problem can become painful, it doesn't have to take the fun out of your life. A Chiropractor may help provide you with instant relief, as well as avoid possible surgery to your spine.
It is very easy for us to resort to pain killers for immediate relief for our back pain, but is this fixing the problem, or just masking the pain? How many times have you taken pain killers for your back pain only to have the discomfort come on hours or even days later? While pain killers mask the symptoms of a disc problem, a good Chiropractor gets to the cause of your problem, providing you with long lasting results.
Before we can even understand how a Chiropractor may be able to help you overcome disc pain, we must first understand what spinal discs are, their role, as well as how they may become damaged.
What are spinal discs?
Spinal discs or intervertebral discs are small cartilage pads located between your spinal bones. They are composed of an inner jelly-like substance (nucleus pulposus) and a tough outer fibrous ring (annulus fibrosis).
The role of your spinal discs is to allow your vertebrae (bones of the spine) to move freely on one another as well as creating a gap for your spinal nerves to exit from your spine. Your discs also absorb 90% of the weight that goes through your spine and provides a degree of shock absorption. The remaining 10% of the weight rests on the small joints at the back of your spine (facets).
When healthy, discs allow normal turning and bending. Since your spinal discs have a very poor blood supply, they depend upon proper spinal mobility to nourish the disc and expel waste. If your spinal joints lose their normal motion your discs can become malnourished and the health of your spinal discs deteriorates. Like a wet sponge, a healthy disc is flexible. A dry sponge is hard, stiff, and can crack easily. This is how many disc problems begin.
There are various types of disc problems including, disc tear, bulging disc, herniated disc, prolapsed disc, and desiccated disc. Let's have a look at the difference in them all.
This type of disc problem refers to a crack or micro tear in the tough outer ring of the disc. This may lead to fluid leaking from the disc and causing it to wear thin.
Occurs when the soft jelly-like material in the middle of the disc pushes to one side -forwards or backwards - causing swelling. This swelling can contribute to pressure on the spinal nerves triggering off painful symptoms.
When a disc becomes herniated, the fluid from the centre of the disc ruptures through the outer fibres, stretching the disc beyond its normal limits.
Refers to a condition in which part of the disc tears away and becomes a free floating fragment.
Occurs when the disc loses its fluid content, and degenerates down to a rough, worn down appearance. This occurs as the bones begin to fuse to each other.
What are some symptoms I may experience as a result of a disc condition?
Symptoms of a disc problem may vary with each individual person. For some, a disc condition may cause little to no pain. For others, a disc problem can push onto nerves in the spine, resulting in a lot of pain, and limited movement. Some symptoms you may experience as a result of this includes, a dull or sharp pain, muscle spasm or cramping, weakness, tingling or referred pain (pain into other parts of the body). It could even make standing, sitting, walking, lifting, urinating, defecating, sneezing, coughing, and moving nearly impossible. In extreme cases, numbness of the legs or foot, or a loss of muscle control may occur.
What causes disc problems?
While pain due to a disc problem may come on all of a sudden, it is usually the result of wear and tear over a long period of time.
For instance, a middle-aged accountant who sits for long periods of time suffers from disc dehydration, and has poor posture and spinal mobility, then lifts a heavy piece of furniture and experiences acute back pain and leg pain.
Or perhaps many months of repetitive lifting, bending or twisting, he experiences no pain at all, until he sneezes. Bingo! A herniated disc.
How can a Chiropractor help?
We mentioned earlier that a lack of spinal mobility may contribute to problems with your discs and may hence contribute to back pain. Subluxations (spinal misalignments) contribute to poor movement between your spinal joints, thus creating unnecessary pressure on your discs. Chiropractors are the only health professional qualified to correct these subluxations. By doing so, they are able to restore the mobility between your spinal joints, thus allowing the nutrients to pass through the joints and to the discs.
While results cannot be guaranteed, many patients have avoided needless surgery or a dependency on pain killers, by choosing to have Chiropractic care. The traditional approach to disc problems often ignores spinal function. Having regular Chiropractic adjustments is safer and often more effective than back surgery.
As a matter of fact, in one study, Chiropractic care had shown 96% effectiveness in helping disc sufferers, as opposed to those who underwent surgery (3% success rate). When you look at these statistics, Chiropractic for disc problems just makes sense!
Someone once said and I totally agree, "Try Chiropractic first, medication second, and surgery third".
If you are suffering from back pain or from other symptoms due to an unhealthy spinal disc, consider Chiropractic care as a safe, gentle and natural means for overcoming this debilitating ailment.