Chiropractic is the third largest primary-contact health care profession in the Western world, next to Medicine and Dentistry. In Canada, there are over 6,000 practicing chiropractors, and approximately four and a half million Canadians use the services of a chiropractor each year. Chiropractic is a regulated health profession recognized by legal statutes in all Canadian provinces and American states, as well as most EU countries. Chiropractors along with medical doctors, dentists, psychologists, and optometrists have the legislated right and obligation to communicate a diagnosis, and to use the title “Doctor”.
All provinces have a regulatory chiropractic college established by legislation, similar to the regulatory bodies for other professions. These regulatory colleges are responsible for protecting the public, standards of practice, disciplinary issues, quality assurance and maintenance of competency.
Chiropractors practice a conservative, drug-free, manual approach to health care that includes patient assessment, diagnosis and treatment. It emphasizes a natural approach to healing by working with the body’s innate recuperative abilities, instead of opposing this innate intelligence by forcing an external framework against the natural healing process. Chiropractors assess patients for disorders related to the spine, pelvis, extremity joints, and their effects on the nervous system. By investigating the relationship between the structure of the spine plus related anatomical structures (such as the muscles, tendons and ligaments) and their physiologic functions, chiropractors can deduce the cause of the condition. Therefore, chiropractors aim to treat the cause of a disease, not just its symptoms.
As a result of taking a physical assessment and patient history, chiropractors are able to provide a differential diagnosis for the patient’s presenting condition(s) and develop a comprehensive treatment/management plan. Chiropractors are also trained to recommend therapeutic exercise, to utilize other non-invasive therapies, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary, lifestyle and ergonomic counselling.
Legislative bodies across Canada, as well as researchers and governments around the world have conducted extensive scientific reviews of the chiropractic profession, and have consistently endorsed chiropractic services.
The chiropractic adjustment is the most common form of treatment utilized by chiropractors. Also known as spinal manipulative therapy, the adjustment is a non-invasive, manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed through four years of intensive chiropractic education. An adjustment is a carefully controlled procedure delivered by a skilled practitioner to dysfunctional spinal or extremity joints. The primary goal is to decrease pain, improve areas of restricted movement, particularly in the spine, and to decrease muscle tightness or spasm through the restoration of normal biomechanics and improved functioning of the spine, extremities and supporting soft tissue structures.
Chiropractic adjustments rarely cause discomfort. However, as it is a manually applied therapy, patients may sometimes experience mild soreness or an ache following treatment, which typically resolves within 12 to 48 hours.
The chiropractor adapts the procedure to meet the specific needs of each patient. For example, the technique is modified when treating children, pregnant women and older patients. Patients typically note positive changes in their symptoms immediately following treatment. The vast majority of patients who seek chiropractic health care do so for complaints of the musculoskeletal system, most often for conditions affecting the spine such as low back pain, neck pain and headaches. Research has proven that chiropractic treatment is effective for these conditions.
In many conditions such as low back pain, chiropractic may be the primary method of treatment. Where other medical conditions exist, chiropractic may complement or support medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with the condition.