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When Can a Chiropractor Help? And When They Can Not?

Some people have a negative bias toward chiropractors, others swear by them. Let's explore:

  1. What kinds of conditions chiropractors can treat
  2. The different types of chiropractors out there
  3. Some conditions that are better left to an MD
  4. Some misconceptions about chiropractors

Many people are not comfortable stepping outside of the "allied healthcare model" (i.e. primary care, orthopedic, physical therapy, etc). Chiropractic is officially considered "alternative healthcare," so many people never experience this type of care until a close friend or family member recommends it. Once they do, many people swear by it, enjoying improvements in how they feel and move without surgery or injections. Unfortunately, a lot of people never try chiropractic treatments because of their fear, misconceptions, or lack of understanding when it comes to what we can actually offer. In the following paragraphs I will explain what conditions a chiropractor could help you with.

What Most Chiropractors Are Good At:

1) Lower Back Pain - This is the #1 cause of disability in the world. 100% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and the success rates for surgery are very low and the harmful effects of narcotic pain medication and anti-inflammatories are starting to become very clear to the medical community. What most people don't realize is that chiropractic therapies and exercises for the lower back and pelvis can help to reduce strain (and pain) in the area, and increase the flexibility of the hips (where you want to be flexible as opposed to the lower back where you don't).

2) Neck Pain and Whiplash

3) Headaches and Migraines

4) Sciatica - This is the #1 "self-reported" condition by patients, where a lower back nerve gets pinched either in the lower back or in the hip. It causes radiating and at times an electric pain to shoot down the leg and sometimes to the foot.

5) Disc Herniations - Many people treat this condition like the "kiss of death" and automatically schedule a visit with a surgeon. People get very upset and depressed when they find out they might have a herniated disc. But don't fret--it's really not that big of a deal! While the severe cases can be (a big deal), many people have herniated discs and have no pain or discomfort whatsoever. What's more important is to know that herniated discs can reabsorb or heal without surgery or advanced pain medications. Chiropractors can very effectively treat this condition.

Types of Chiropractors:

One of the greatest strengths of the chiropractor can also be considered a weakness to the public eye: Our Diversity. Just as with MD specialization, there are many different types of chiropractors. Most prospective patients don't really know this when searching for a chiropractor and don't understand what they're getting themselves into when they walk into their local chiropractic office. For the purposes of this article, I will separate chiropractors into several different types:

  • Family Chiropractors
  • Sports Chiropractors
  • Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractors
  • Neurological Chiropractors

Family Chiropractors

  1. Pregnancy and post-pregnancy - With all the changes that occur to a woman's body during pregnancy and post-partum, having a chiropractor making sure that no areas develop excess muscular tension or misalignments of the pelvis is a huge deal. Women are able to bounce back from pregnancies very quickly when under proper chiropractic care.
  2. Breached Babies
  3. Inner Ear Infections
  4. Colic
  5. Torticollis

Sports Chiropractors

Sports chiropractors, like myself, are specialists at alleviating physical syndromes like muscle aches, tendonitis, misalignments, bursitis, etc. Common conditions we treat include:

1) Iliotibial Band Syndrome

2) Rotator Cuff Strains

3) Frozen Shoulder

4) Knee Meniscus Injuries

5) Hip Labrum Injuries

6) Hip and Shoulder Bursitis

7) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - This is a huge one with Corporate Wellness. After low back pain, carpal tunnel is the second most common physical reason why people miss work. Chiropractic care can make sure that there are no areas of irritation in the elbow or wrist that are causing the nerve in the carpal tunnel to become irritated.

Typically sports chiropractors combine spinal adjustments, muscle treatments, and exercises to effectively "re-train" how you move your body so you no longer have pain and prevent re-injury.

Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractors

This chiropractor prioritizes the alignment of spinal cord as it exits the brain stem. Specifically the first two vertebrae (C1 and C2). The treatments vary from practitioner to practitioner but they have very good success with:

  • Chronic Conditions
  • Treating Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
  • Migraines
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • 'Weird Stuff' That isn't helped by other practitioners

Chiropractic Neurologists

Typically the Chiropractic Neurologist specializes in making sure that the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) isn't impeded by poor alignment in the surrounding joints, and ensuring that the nervous impulses from the central nervous system to the external tissue (arms, legs, etc) are properly 'firing'. They have great success with conditions like:

  • Migraines
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Rib Cage Pain Syndromes

Better Left to the MD's:

I love referring to my MD's when I feel the patient's concerns are more of the chemical nature. Chiropractic helps a lot of things, but that doesn't mean at times our patients don't need antibiotics, surgery, or steroids. I have a lot of MDs that refer to me, and I refer a lot of my patients to MD's. In my mind, it's whatever the patient really needs that matters most.

Sometimes I hear people tell me, "I don't go to doctors, I'd rather go to a chiropractor." Well, that isn't a great game plan either. We need Medical Doctors. There are times when drug-free, surgery-free methods will not get the job done, and a good rule of thumb would be to seek MD evaluation for the following red conditions:

1) Infection

2) Fractured Bones

3) Failure to get better after 3-5 visits to the chiropractor

4) Completely Torn Ligaments

5) Allergic Reaction

6) Cancer

Misconceptions About Chiropractors:

1) Modern chiropractic schools require a bachelor's degree for admission.

2) Our degree is a doctorate of chiropractic. It's not medical school. . . it's chiropractic school. When some people went to law school, dental school, podiatry school, etc, we went to chiropractic school.

3) We don't always need to "crack" your neck. There are many other treatments available to address your concerns. But, if a cervical adjustment is indicated, we'll walk you through it to ensure your comfort and ease any anxieties.

4) There are many chiropractors that specialize in many different areas. When you're in need, I'd caution against saying 'I've been to chiropractors, they didn't help." All of us are different and specialize in different areas. You wouldn't decide against going to all dentists because one of them put in a bad filling right? So I'd recommend understanding the specialty of your chiropractor and doing your research to make sure that you are choosing the right one to help your condition. Feel free to contact me if you need help in this area!

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