Photo of someone standing, holding their lower back as though in pain. There is a doctor seated in front of them pointing to a model of a spine

Live Comfortably - February 10, 2020

Snap, Crackle, POP! Exploring Potential Benefits of Chiropractic Care

By: Amber McCracken

Oh, my achin’ back! For many, back pain is a fixture of their daily lives. Studies have suggested that 36 to 70% of older adults suffer from its debilitating effects. If you’re one of them, it might be worth exploring potential benefits of chiropractic care.

More and more, people with back pain are consulting chiropractic care, especially in their later years. With growing concerns over pain medications and the side effects related to combining various prescription drugs, chiropractic care is growing in popularity. The need for natural alternatives to prescription painkillers is evident in the rise of the opioid epidemic in the US. In the journal Pain Medicine, a 2019 study found that chiropractic patients had 64% lower odds of receiving an opioid prescription than those who did not utilize chiropractic care.

The core philosophy in chiropractic care is that the central nervous system is encased in the spinal cord. Any injury to the spine (often called subluxations) or irregularity in the alignment of the vertebrae therefore affects the nervous system, which controls the function of every cell, tissue and organ in the body. By keeping your spine healthy, you are serving your overall health.

What to Expect

If you are considering chiropractic care, it’s good to know what to expect when you visit. At your first appointment, the chiropractor will most likely discuss your concerns, get a health history and conduct a thorough orthopedic, neurologic and chiropractic examination. X-Rays will be taken to look specifically at your spinal column. These examinations help identify areas of spinal malfunction and resulting nervous system deficits. Once this evaluation has happened, the chiropractor will discuss whether you are a good candidate for chiropractic care.

The length of time for care may vary. Some patients seek care only when their aches and pains become too much. This is called “crisis management” care. Chiropractors generally recommend coming to see them before the pain has escalated to such unbearable levels, and then scheduling periodic checkups, especially for those with high stress or physically demanding jobs. You’ll commonly hear chiropractors remind you that it took a long time to get your back in bad shape – it will take time to get it back to full health.

What is an Adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment is the process of using a specific pressure in a precise direction to a joint that is not moving properly. This adjustment is said to add motion to the joint, helping the bones gradually return to a more normal position and motion.

There are many ways to adjust the spine. Usually the chiropractor’s hands or a specifically designed instrument delivers a brief and precise thrust. You’ll most likely hear a “pop,” indicating that the spine has snapped back into alignment. This is not the same as when you hear your back crack during a gentle stretch or when you attempt to adjust it yourself by twisting. This type of joint manipulation is usually counterproductive, often making an already unstable area even more unsteady. These segments that you’re feeling are “hyper-mobile,” meaning they go in and out regularly. The chiropractor’s adjustments are made to “hypo-mobile” joints.

Chiropractors say that these professionally done adjustments improve spinal function, improve nervous and immune systems’ function, and therefore maximize overall health.

Talk to Your Doctor

While chiropractic care claims to help with neck and back pain, headaches, allergies, asthma and digestive disorders, it certainly comes with risks, especially for the older population. According to SeniorsMatter.com, bone damage, soreness, injury and risk of stroke are all possible concerns.

As with any new health regimen, it is imperative to check with your doctor before visiting a chiropractor. If together you decide this might be a good option for you, ask your doctor for recommendations. If he or she is not familiar with an accredited chiropractor, the American Chiropractic Association has a search option for your area.

For those suffering from back or neck pain, it may be worth a visit to put a pep back into your step. In fact, many of the greatest athletes of our time have attributed chiropractic care to their success, including Emmitt Smith, leading rusher in NFL history, Pro Bowler and three time Super Bowl Champion. When he retired with over 18,000 yards, he famously said, “I thank God, my family and my chiropractor!”

Chiropractic care is just one form of alternative treatments. For other ideas on alternative care treatments, check out our blog post about acupuncture.

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Amber McCracken is the executive director of Current Communications, a boutique consultancy that helps organizations with their marketing and public relations activities. Amber has worked with GHI since 2014, providing her expert advice to support Goodwin House at Home. She contributes regularly to The Good Life, both as a writer and editor. Amber lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children.

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