How Do Chiropractors Treat Problems?

If someone asked you what a chiropractor does, what would you say? Do they “pop” or “crack” joints (aka “adjust”)? Do they perform exercises with you? Do they teach you how to avoid injury during common everyday activities at home and work? Maybe they hook you up to a machine that delivers therapeutic current to your area of complaint? Chances are, most people would have a slightly different version of that a chiropractor means to them, but largely there should be more similarities than differences.  Chiropractic is the most widely utilized complementary health care approach in the United States today and many people of all ages have have sought treatment in chiropractic offices for a variety of musculoskeletal complaints. Chiropractors are licensed physicians  according to most state statutes and the federal Medicare Program. As such, they are responsible to deliver safe, evidence informed care for a variety of musculoskeletal complaints. They are increasingly found in most areas of healthcare delivery including many hospitals, the VA and DOT programs, in sports medicine (including most professional sports teams), and in private offices. Today, I’d like to cover a few of the different types of treatments that one would likely find in a modern chiropractor’s office.

Chiropractic education today is a rigorous post graduate 4-year doctoral school program that trains clinicians on to accurately diagnose and treat a variety of conditions related to the musculoskeletal systems. Chiropractors are trained to a high level in performing accurate neurological and musculoskeletal examination and diagnosis including interpretation of special studies such as blood work, x-ray, MRI, CT, and ultrasound. Famous for their adjustments, chiropractors also receive training in a variety of physiotherapeutic interventions including but not limited to exercise rehabilitation, movement screening, ergonomics, foot orthotics, sports taping, spinal decompression, hot/cold therapy, laser therapy, electrical stimulation,  myofascial release (and other “body work” techniques), topical analgesics, and nutritional supplementation. This list is not exhaustive but it covers the majority of evidence based treatments that are utilized in a modern chiropractic office. Our office offers most of these treatment options and chiropractic as a profession has performed adjustments, exercise rehabilitation, and a variety of other treatments for over 100 years!

A typical initial patient encounter with a chiropractor will involve an examination of their complaints followed by treatment recommendations that generally includes some of the treatments listed above. Occasionally, the need for more information (such as an x-ray or MRI) will arise and your chiropractor will order that at the appropriate time. The evidence based approach to patient care means that the best available evidence for treating a specific condition is considered alongside a doctor’s clinical experience, and the patient’s values. I sometimes have patients come into my office for spinal complaints that are afraid to “have their back cracked” (aka getting adjusted) for one reason or another. The nice thing about having many different types of tools in the modern chiropractors toolbelt is that a patient’s problems can often be treated using different types of therapies and I can offer them a treatment plan that does not have to include options that the patient isn’t comfortable with. Alternative treatments allows our doctors to deliver more comfortable care for the patient that aligns with their values and sensibilities.

Chiropractors are allied healthcare providers and therefor work with other physicians including medical doctors, surgeons, osteopaths, physicians assistants, nurses, and physical therapists to coordinate care for patients. When a chiropractor sees an issue that falls outside of their areas of expertise, they will refer for co-management of the condition. Most musculoskeletal conditions are treated within the chiropractic setting without need for co-management but occasionally the need arises to bring another provider into the picture. In fact, people often seek out a chiropractor because it is an alternative to medications, injections, and surgery. There is nothing inherently wrong with those treatment types in the appropriate setting, but some people feel that they would like to try a more conservative option 1st and a brief trial period of care is usually enough to see whether or not the conservative option is likely to work.

If you are curious about modern chiropractic interventions, or have seen a chiropractor in the past and would like a 2nd opinion, I recommendation calling our office to schedule a free consultation. A brief consultation will provide an opportunity for you to ask questions about your symptoms (or known diagnosis) and explore the various way that chiropractic might benefit you. Spring is coming fast, and we are going to want to be outside enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Are you ready and feeling well enough to do that? If not, let us help you get there.


Dr. Kelly


P.S. – If you’re curious, click on the video below to see a short clip that shows a couple of treatment rooms in our office and a demo of a few of the manual treatments we provide.

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