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What is Chiropractic?


Updated September 18, 2008

View of Health from a Chiropractors Perspective

View of Health from a Chiropractors Perspective

(c) Anne Asher licensed to About.com 2006
Question: What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a hands on, alternative medicine discipline that views and treats health through the effect of spinal anatomy on the functioning of the body.
Answer: Chiropractic is a healing art and science which aims to remove interruptions to the flow of nerve transmission. The main pathway for nerve messages to and from the brain which carry sensations, as well as the impulse to move, is the spinal cord. The spinal cord is located inside the vertebral column. Nerves branch out from the spinal cord to traverse and ennervate the entire body. The nerve branches exit the spinal cord via holes on either side of the vertebral column. Each of the 26 bones of the vertebral column interfaces with the one above and below, forming a flexible, moveable joint. Should a vertebra move out of alignment, say from trauma, emotional stress or other happening, it is likely that the nerve signals will be compromised. The chiropractic profession believes that this compromise negatively impacts a person's health.

The word chiropractic is Greek in origin and is translated to mean "done by hand". Two foundational beliefs form the hallmark of the chiropractic profession:

  • The body has a self-healing capacity.
  • The relationship between structure and function affects health.
Because of their belief in the body's innate ability to heal, chiropractors commit their professional practices to performing drugless, surgery-free medicine. (However, in the state of Oregon, chiropractors can become certified to perform minor surgery.) Rather than cut at a health problem, chiropractors use their hands to release the impedement to nerves caused by misaligned spinal bones. This core activity of chiropractic is called the adjustment; the misalignment of spinal bones is called a subluxation.

Many chiropractors utilize physical therapy procedures as compliments to the spinal adjustment. For example you might find:

in a chiropractor's office. A study done at UCLA on 610 patients found the use of these procedures by chiropractors did not significantly contribute to patients' progress and healing.

Although chiropractic enjoys a fair amount of popularity as a form of treatment for back pain, the objective findings of the study showed it to be about as effective as conventional medical care for low back pain. However, the when surveyed, the chiropractic patients reported a greater level of perceived improvement than did the medical patients.

1 About Chiropractic and Its Use in Treating Low-Back Pain. Research Report. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
2 Hurwitz, Morgenstern, Kominski, Yu, Chiang. Spine. 2006 Mar 15. A randomized trial of chiropractic and medical care for patients with low back pain.
3 Press Release. What is Chiropractic? American Chiropractic Association website.

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