By JC Smith, MA, DC
People often ask why chiropractic is growing in popularity. There are many reasons, such as its effectiveness with back pain that will strike 90% of adults sometime in their lives. It’s also a non-drug solution to many ailments and its approach to wellness is growing, too. Indeed, chiropractic is more than a good treatment for back pain when you understand the totality of chiropractic care.
One big reason people are turning to chiropractors is the epidemic of back pain that is now the #1 disability in the world. People are increasingly hesitant to use medical treatments that have proven to be often addictive, dangerous, expensive, or simply ineffective.
Narcotic painkillers like OxyContin have led to the Hillbilly Heroin addiction epidemic and epidural steroid shots are no more effective than placebo as well as dangerous as we saw in the recent meningitis contamination.
Most of all, back surgeries have also been shown to be over-used, disabling, and based on an outdated “bad disc” diagnosis. Indeed, researchers now refer to bad discs as “incidentalomas” since they are incidental to back pain. Others liken bad discs to finding grey hair because it is a natural part of the aging process.
In 1994 the US Public Health Service determined only one in 100 back pain cases require surgery. Don’t be fooled into thinking you may need a spine fusion just because you have a few bad discs. In fact, some insurance policies refuse to pay for spine fusion if the only criterion is a bad disc since they are also found in asymptomatic patients.
Chiropractors, on the other hand, realize most back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning misaligned spinal joints cause pain and nerve inflammation. This explains why spinal manipulation, decompression, traction, flexibility exercises, inversion tables, or any treatment that restores joint motion works better than drugs, shots, and surgery.
Function & Chiropractic
Let’s be frank: the era of “wonder drugs” and “heroic surgery” have not panned out considering Americans lead the world in every category of degenerative disease, so more people are turning to chiropractors for a different approach.
Aside from help with back pain, chiropractic also offers patients a neurological approach to healing—in other words, the role the nerve system plays in health and disease—a “high-tech” approach that few people understand.
People do realize the brain commands and controls all the systems of the body, such as the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, etc., but they don’t understand how the spine relates to these organic problems.
Rather than dispensing drugs to alter the brain chemistry and system function, chiropractors believe spinal problems may also interfere with spinal nerve function that leads to organ malfunction.
The treatment by spinal manipulation of organic disorders has been supported by clinical experience and case reports according to an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine by William Meeker, DC, MPH, and Scott Haldeman, DC PhD, MD, FRCP(C). These include randomized clinical trials for primary dysmenorrhea,, hypertension,, chronic asthma,, enuresis, infantile colic, and premenstrual syndrome, which have been completed with varied results.
Chiropractic care does not stimulate or suppress the nervous system as medicine does. Chiropractic normalizes the nervous system. The spinal adjustment, by normalizing the body’s nervous system, restores coordination to the body’s far-reaching system of homeostasis. Some liken adjustments to tuning up a car’s electrical system or rebooting a computer.
This phenomenon is called a “spino-visceral reflex.” The public knows this as the “pinched nerve” concept, but new research better describes this problem. This reflex action explains why some patients with organic problems also respond to spinal adjustments. Surveys suggest 7 to 10% of patients with back pain report improvement with other organic problems. One study reported as many as 10% of angina cases are due to the spino-visceral reflex.
This approach to health and disease has nothing to do with germs, genetics, diet, or exercise or emotions. It has to do with the tone of your organ tissue caused by nerve reflexes. The change in muscle tone (remember the heart and all organs are muscles, too), in turn, may cause altered function.
Another issue is the concept of brain circuitry. At Life University’s department of functional neurology, Dr. Ted Carrick has explored the concept of intra-cranial neuroplasticity, which is the re-routing of nerve circuitry in the brain around problems areas such as tumors or injury.
This is similar to the re-routing of arteries around the heart, a natural phenomenon known as anastomosis where the heart forms new arteries around a blockage. He has successfully treated many pro athletes with concussions.
Researches in New Zealand also found cranial benefits to neck adjustments done by chiropractors. This remarkable study found that the sensitive measurements in the brain (called sensory evoked potentials) indicated that neck adjustments may “reboot the nervous system” to help it to function better. This is the first time that anyone has used electroencephalograph (EEG) to prove that there are definite changes to the way the brain processes information after chiropractic care.
“The process of a spinal adjustment is like rebooting a computer. The signals that these adjustments send to the brain, via the nervous system, reset muscle behavior patterns,” said Dr. Haavik-Taylor. “By stimulating the nervous system we can improve the function of the whole body. This is something that chiropractors and their patients have known for years; and now we have some scientific evidence to prove it.”
Bright Future for You & Chiropractors
If you’ve never visited a chiropractor, it’s past time to have your spine checked. Sadly, too many patients wait until they have a back attack before they see a chiropractor, which is equivalent to seeing a dentist only after a toothache.
I also recommend children visit a chiropractor since 3/5ths of adult problems began in their youth when kids fall off bikes, roller skates, sport injuries, and even cheerleading. Just as you take them to the dentist regularly, I urge you do the same with chiropractors to maintain good spinal health.
The aging of the large baby-boom generation will lead to new opportunities for chiropractors, because older adults are more likely to experience musculoskeletal and joint problems and too many people ignore their spine until late in life.
Employment of chiropractors is expected to increase by 28 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Recently CareerCast.com, a career website, ranked 200 jobs from best to worst based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook. In the 2013 rankings, chiropractors rank 11th, which is an improvement from 19th in the 2012 rankings.
As I tell my patients, you just don’t know how good you can feel until you’ve had your spine adjusted by a good chiropractor.
JC Smith, MA, DC, is a 33-year practicing chiropractor, author of The Medical War Against Chiropractors, and he maintains a website, Chiropractors for Fair Journalism.