by: Dr. Christopher J. Morgan
Chiropractic is the largest non-allopathic health profession in North America. Every year more than 4 million Canadians seek the help of a chiropractor for relief from muscle, joint and spinal pain conditions such as repetitive strain injury, whiplash, sports injuries and home and workplace accidents. Despite the rapid growth of the profession and it’s popularity, chiropractic remains surrounded by a cloud of mystery.
Every week, people come to my office who have never been to a chiropractor. Most are referred by current patients, some were simply told by family, friends or co-workers to go see a chiropractor about their problem. They come with hope, anticipation and a little uncertainty of what is going to happen. During our consultation, I always ask them if they have any questions about chiropractic. Invariably they have a few. So this week and next I’m going to share with you my ‘Top Five Chiropractic Questions ‘. Hopefully this will help clear the cloud around chiropractic, especially for those of you who have considered chiropractic in the past or are currently thinking about seeing a chiropractor.
#1a. “What is chiropractic?”
Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts. It’s purpose is to optimize health. Chiropractic is founded on a fundamental principle that the body’s innate (inborn) recuperative power is affected by and integrated through the nervous system. The goal of chiropractic is to facilitate neurological and biomechanical integrity, thereby assisting the body’s efforts to heal and maintain itself. Chiropractic accomplishes this without the use of drugs or surgery! In fact, chiropractic is Greek for “treatment by hand”.
#1b. “How does it work?”
It was Hippocrates, who said “look to the spine for the cause of disease”. Your spinal column, which consists of 33 vertebrae (bones) separated by 23 discs not only supports most of your body weight, it also protects your spinal cord, the “central highway” of your nervous system. You can think of your nervous system as the internet or telecommunication system of your body. Your nervous system allows every cell, tissue and organ of your body to communicate with your brain.
Poor posture, car accidents, sports injuries, falls, poor or strenuous working conditions, poor nutrition and the stress of daily living can affect the proper alignment and function of the joints of your spine. Even the smallest changes to the alignment of your spine can disrupt the normal function of the different joints, muscles and nerves along your spinal column. Chiropractors are skilled at detecting and correcting, by hand, these problem areas of the spine. You may be surprised how far-reaching misalignment of the spinal joints and nerve irritation can affect your overall health contributing to much more than back pain, neck pain, and headaches.
#2 “What’s the difference between chiropractic and physiotherapy?”
There are a few similarities between chiropractic and physiotherapy. Both professions seek to improve the health of individuals without the use of drugs or surgery. Both the chiropractor and the physiotherapist will incorporate exercises, proper biomechanics and posture as part of the rehabilitative programme. Both professionals may use many of the same equipment and therapeutic devices. However, there are a few major distinctions. Chiropractors are legally entitled to the title ‘doctor’ and as such to render a ‘diagnosis’; chiropractors are primary contact health practitioners, which means you do not need a referral to see a chiropractor; and chiropractors are the best trained health professionals at assessing and adjusting the joints of the spine.
#3. “What happens when a chiropractor ‘cracks’ your back?”
Remember the last time you opened a bottle of pop and heard the ‘fizzing’ and ‘popping’ sound and saw bubbles racing to the top. The pop is carbonated, meaning carbon dioxide is dissolved in the fluid. The bottle is packaged under pressure. When you open the bottle, you release the pressure and the carbon dioxide escapes causing the ‘fizzing’ and ‘popping’ sounds you hear. The joints of the body also contain a fluid, synovial fluid, which has nitrogen gas dissolved in it. When the joints of your spinal column are misaligned they are under stress or pressure. To correct the misalignment, a chiropractor performs a very quick, precise movement called an adjustment, or chiropractic spinal manipulation. The ‘cracking’ sound is due to the momentary separation of the joints, relieving the pressure, and the escaping of the nitrogen gas bubbles. Be assured that nothing is breaking or being ‘cracked’.
#4. ” Is it true that once you go to a chiropractor you have to keep going?”
I usually answer this one with a question. Do you brush your teeth every day? Yes. Why? To have healthy teeth and prevent cavities. Precisely. We have all come to understand the value of proper dental hygiene which is achieved through daily maintenance and regular dental check-ups. Just like our teeth, the bones of our spine benefit from proper spinal hygiene and regular chiropractic check-ups. Remember, the joints of the your spine must endure a wide variety of stresses from daily living, working conditions not to mention bad postural habits, accidents and so on. I’m not suggesting daily chiropractic adjustments, but regular chiropractic visits along with regular exercise, proper nutrition and improved posture, will help keep your spine and body healthy. To illustrate, over the past few years, a small but growing percentage of my practice have incorporated regular adjustments (every 3 to 4 weeks) into their healthy lifestyle. They tell me it helps them to stay active and to prevent little problems from becoming big problems!
#5. “Does OHIP cover chiropractic?”
No. OHIP use to partly covers the cost of chiropractic care. In 2004, Ontario Minister of Finance Greg Sorbara announced that the Liberal Government plans to end over 30 years of public funding for chiropractic in Ontario. Thus, by December 01, 2004 OHIP no longer provided funding for chiropractic and optometry examinations and physiotherapy (except in certain cases). However, the majority of extended health care providers (e.g. Green Shield, Manulife Financial, Great-West Life, etc.) provide coverage for chiropractic care. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Bureau (formerly Worker’s Compensation Board) and automobile insurance companies are mandated by law to cover the cost of chiropractic care in the event of a workplace or automobile injury.
Written by: Dr. Christopher J. Morgan is the director of Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, a unique, family-oriented, interdisciplinary health and wellness centre in central Toronto. He is also, Chair of the Black Health Alliance