Chiropractors are health care professionals who provide chiropractic care. Chiropractic care, often simply referred to as “chiropractic,” is a healing art focusing on disorders and problems of the muscular and skeletal systems of the body, in particular the spine. The basic theory behind chiropractic according to Dr. Irwin Teichman, a Santa Barbara Chiropractor, is that disorders of the musculoskeletal system are in fact the root of many if not most health problems.
Every chiropractor is different but the main modalities of treatment are common among practitioners. The mainstay treatment of chiropractors is manual therapy, including the manipulation of the spine, joints, and bodily tissues. Most chiropractors also counsel patients on exercises for proper muscle and joint health, and recommend lifestyle adjustments that can lead to increased spinal functioning. Although chiropractic has a long history of clinical success and many happy patients, other medical professionals generally consider chiropractors to be providers of alternative/complementary care.
Traditional chiropractic theory holds that malfunctions in spinal joints or vertebral subluxations cause an interruption in the body’s “innate intelligence”. This theory, an offshoot of an earlier natural medicine concept known as “vitalism”, is largely considered discredited by mainstream scientific opinion. Chiropractic was formulated as an independent discipline in the 1890s, when scientific understanding of biology and of human body processes was quite primitive compared to that of the current day. The basic theories used by chiropractors in their daily practice, formulated by D.D. Palmer and his son B.J. Palmer more than 100 years ago, no longer have a great deal of plausibility to the scientific mind.
That said, however, many chiropractors themselves recognize this fact and instead point to chiropractic’s empirical success in helping patients with a wide variety of health problems. While some chiropractors remain purists in their approach to theory, other practitioners integrate ideas like exercise, massage therapy, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, and other alternative medicine approaches. Regardless of the theoretical considerations, many thousands of chiropractic patients will attest that the basic therapeutic techniques worked out by chiropractors over the years have considerable clinical efficacy. Many physicians will now refer patients to chiropractors, and many insurance plans will cover chiropractic care.
Chiropractors are called to always put the safety and welfare of their patients first, as with any medical professional, and it is thought that chiropractic care is generally safe when done with appropriate training and diligence. Spinal manipulation, it should be noted, is not an intrinsically riskless process and there have been cases of mild to moderate injury from badly administered spinal manipulation. Neck manipulation in particular is thought to be a somewhat risky procedure which has had very serious consequences in some patients in the past, including death. Such aberrations are of course highly unfortunate but also very rare.
As health care professionals, chiropractors can provide a valuable service to people with musculoskeletal problems, especially including back pain. Chiropractors are well-trained at understanding complex problems that affect the body’s health, including mental and spiritual elements, while simultaneously maintaining a conservative approach about radical interventions and a faith in the body’s own healing power. For the many patients who find that philosophy of medicine appealing, chiropractors can provide an outstanding level of primary care.