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Chiropractic care isn’t too much of a stretch
Pain relief and wellness model to prevent problems
Many people see chiropractors to help control back or joint pain, but usually by the time pain appears as a symptom a large amount of joint degeneration has taken place, says Scott Bautch, DC, past president of the Occupational Health Council for the Arlington, VA-based American Chiropractic Association and a practicing chiropractor in Wausau, WI.
Chiropractic works better as a prevention model, he says. That’s why most teams in the National Football League have a chiropractor on staff. People who participate in sports or recreational activities that are physically traumatic or who have physically stressful jobs might benefit from preventative chiropractic care.
Bautch likens such care to having the front end of a car aligned. When a car is out of alignment the parts wear wrong. "To get the most miles out of your body that you possibly can, you want to make sure it is working as efficiently as it can, and if you are abusing it and really pushing your body, it becomes even more important," he says.
If news reporters spend six hours a day on the computer for more than six years, about 80% will have some sort of upper-extremity problems such as neck, back, hand, elbow, or shoulder pain or headaches and eye problems. Chiropractic care could help prevent these problems, says Bautch. "If they get to the six-year mark and start having symptoms, those symptoms are the end result of something not working right not the beginning," he explains.
The definition of chiropractic given by the American Chiropractic Association is: "That science and art concerned with the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system as it effects the restoration and maintenance of health primarily utilizing the hands to adjust misaligned or malfunctioning vertebrae."
The idea behind chiropractic, which originated in 1895, was that spinal misalignments interfere with the proper function of the nervous system and since the nervous system influences other bodily systems these misalignments result in health problems. The thinking was that with a normally functioning nervous system, people are better able to adapt and cope with stresses that come to their body whether mechanical, viral or bacterial, says Bautch.
People go to chiropractors for a variety of reasons and therefore must learn to select a practitioner that matches their health care goals. "As in medicine, there are many specialties," says Bautch. There are chiropractors that orient their business toward acute care and others towards wellness care. The wellness care model is focused on preventing joint and back problems. The acute model might treat a patient who bent over and can’t stand up.
A practitioner also might be geared toward nutrition, sports, industry, or pediatrics. Some chiropractors have a subspecialty such as occupational health, orthopedics, or neurology, he says.
The best way to find a chiropractor is by word of mouth. He advises people to talk to others who have gone to a chiropractor to learn as much as possible about the practitioner. This will help them determine if the model of care matches their need. "Getting a chiropractor from an ad in the newspaper or the Yellow Pages should be a last resort," says Bautch.
One of the myths about seeking help from a chiropractor is that patients will need to come back for the rest of their life, he says. However, patients choose the kind of health care they want. "They can have acute care which means they come when they are symptomatic or they can choose to have wellness care," he explains.
It is similar to dentistry, says Bautch. People can have regular dental checkups to maintain healthy gums and teeth or they can go to the dentist when their teeth hurt.
It’s best for patients to discuss their needs with their chiropractor, he says. "Some patients come in to the chiropractor’s office once a month because if they go much longer they start to develop symptoms. They are called supportive care patients," he says. Other patients might come in every six weeks or every three months depending on their history.
The care is much more than the office visits, however. Patients are often given a set of exercises and nutrition is discussed. Patients don’t just come in to receive treatment and then leave; often they must change their behavior if they want to prevent repeated regular visits, says Bautch.
During a typical visit, the chiropractor will look at individual motion of the spine having patients bend over and touch their toes to determine how the vertebrae are moving in their back. They will also check to see if patients’ motions are symmetrical by having them move forward, backward, left, and right from a sitting position. Watching patients walk and complete some functional challenges such as standing on one foot with their eyes closed to determine if they can maintain their balance are also pieces of the exam. Chiropractors want to know if there are functional abnormalities that aren’t showing up as symptoms yet, says Bautch.
For more information about educating patients on chiropractic care, contact: