It is estimated that about 27 million Americans visit a doctors of chiropractic each year, and millions more receive chiropractic care throughout the rest of the world. Chiropractic is the third largest primary health care field (after medicine and dentistry).
Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts which is based upon the understanding that good health depends, in part, upon a normally functioning nervous system (especially the spine, and the nerves extending from the spine to all parts of the body).
"Chiropractic" comes from the Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning "effective treatment by hand." Chiropractic stresses the idea that the cause of many disease processes begins with the body's inability to adapt to its environment.
It looks to address these diseases not by the use of drugs and chemicals, but by locating and adjusting a musculoskeletal area of the body which is functioning improperly.
The conditions which doctors of chiropractic address are as varied and as vast as the nervous system itself.
We use a standard procedure of examination to diagnose a patient's condition and arrive at a course of treatment. Chiropractors use the same time-honored methods of consultation, case history, physical examination, laboratory analysis and x-ray examination as any other doctor. In addition, they provide a careful chiropractic structural examination, paying particular attention to the spine.
The examination of the spine to evaluate structure and function is what makes chiropractic different from other health care procedures. Your spinal column is a series of movable bones which begin at the base of your skull and end in the center of your hips. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves extend down the spine from the brain and exit through a series of openings. The nerves leave the spine and form a complicated network which influences every living tissue in your body.
Accidents, falls, stress, tension, overexertion, and countless other factors can result in a displacements or derangements of the spinal column, causing irritation to spinal nerve roots. These irritations are often what cause malfunctions in the human body. Chiropractic teaches that reducing or eliminating this irritation to spinal nerves can cause your body to operate more efficiently and more comfortably.
We also places an emphasis on nutritional and exercise programs, wellness and lifestyle modifications for promoting physical and mental health. While chiropractors make no use of drugs or surgery, Doctors of chiropractic do refer patients for medical care when those interventions are indicated. In fact, chiropractors, medical doctors, physical therapists and other health care professionals now work as partners in occupational health, sports medicine, and a wide variety of other rehabilitation
Your spine includes an incredibly complex network of nerves that originate in your brain, coursing their way downward through the spinal column and exiting at more than 60 different locations from the base of your skull all the way to the top of your lower back.
There are almost limitless ways for nerves to become damaged in your spinal column and other bony structures of your body, such as your wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.
A general term for nerve disorders in the spine is "compressive neuropathy," which occurs when nerves in the spine are compressed. The nerves that exit the spinal canal become trapped, compressed, and swollen. A compressive neuropathy may cause pain to radiate from your buttocks all the way down to your ankles and toes.
Subluxations (misalignments in the vertebrae), genetic disorders, diseases such as osteoarthritis, and traumatic injuries are all leading causes of spinal nerve disorders. Bone spurs or herniated, ruptured or bulging vertebral discs, can also compress and damage a nerve.
Symptoms of nerve damage range from mild cases of numbness or weakness to severe cases of radiating or stabbing pain, fatigue, loss of motor control, difficulty walking, sitting or standing, and in the extreme, paralysis.
Moreover, if nerves in your spine become permanently damaged, you may experience long-term adverse health effects in other systems and organs in your body. A pinched or damaged nerve in your spine may lead to blurred vision or headaches, loss of hearing, slurred speech, and bowel and bladder problems, to name a few.
Here's a look at some common nerve disorders:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – Nerves also can become pinched in the carpal tunnel, a small area inside the wrist that provides a passage for finger flexor tendons and the median nerve.
- Foraminal stenosis – A form of compressive neuropathy, foraminal stenosis is a nerve impingement in the lower back. Because lumbar stenosis almost always impinges the sciatic nerve, one or both of the legs can also be affected. Radiating pain or numbness in the legs, and sometimes the ankles, feet and toes, is common.
- Peripheral neuropathy – A form of nerve degeneration that mainly affects the arms, hands, legs, and feet, peripheral neuropathy has been associated with poor nutrition and diabetes. Because peripheral neuropathy can cause nerve endings to deaden, people with this condition often report losing feeling in their fingertips and toes.
- Sciatica – Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve is impaired. A bundle, or cable, of small nerves travels down the spine and into the pelvis area, where they come together to form the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve then branches off into each lower extremity, through the buttock and into the tops of the legs. People who have sciatica often complain of numbness or tingling in the feet or toes, or sharp stabbing pains in the buttocks or shooting down the backs of their legs.
- Spinal infections – including spinal meningitis. Although rare, spinal infections have been linked to nerve disorders. As in any infection, the affected area of the spine may become swollen, causing pressure on spinal nerves. In addition, the infection, left untreated, could lead to an abscess and permanently damage soft tissues and nerve cells.
- Piriformis syndrome – This is a condition caused by the sciatic nerve getting pinched as it exits the spinal column. (Sometimes, it can mimic the symptoms of sciatica.) The pinching is sometimes caused by muscle spasms. Piriformis syndrome sometimes causes pain along the back of the thigh to the knee, or loss of feeling in the soles of the feet.