Chiropractic is a system of health care based on the theory that disorders of the musculoskeletal system (especially the spine) affect the nervous system as well as overall health. The spine houses the spinal cord, from which extend nerves which regulate body functions like digestion, blood pressure, and other functions. For example, research has shown that chiropractic treatment can reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure). The goal of chiropractic care is to reduce pain and improve health through proper spinal alignment.
Chiropractors must usually have a Bachelor’s degree to enter a college of chiropractic. In their four-year doctoral program, chiropractors study anatomy, physiology, and the musculoskeletal system, but they also receive training in nutrition, dietary and lifestyle counseling, as well as therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises. They are trained in the use of diagnostic imaging (X-rays) and laboratory testing. Chiropractors must pass a licensing examination in all states and complete regular continuing education to remain licensed.
Spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustment is probably the best-known of chiropractic techniques. Joints in the spine can become hypomobile (restricted in movement) because of a tissue injury related to trauma or poor posture. The chiropractor applies controlled force to the hypomobile joints to free them up and promote normal movement. Other chiropractic treatments include massage, stretching muscles, spinal decompression, and electrical stimulation. Chiropractors may also offer nutritional or lifestyle advice, or teach patients exercises to promote flexibility and strengthen muscles.
Musculoskeletal problems are the most likely reason for a patient to seek care from a chiropractor. These might include back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and joint pain in the knees or other joints. Chiropractic care can also help alleviate headaches for many people, both tension-type headaches and migraines. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, which causes jaw pain and can contribute to headaches, may also be relieved by chiropractic care.
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