It’s 10 a.m. on a weekday morning, and you’re sitting at work with a cup of coffee. You’ve turned on the computer and reviewed your to-do list. You twist to the left and reach ever so slightly to grab a pen when suddenly…you throw out your back.
You know the feeling. Simple movements are not so simple anymore when your range of motion is compromised. Sitting down hurts. Standing up hurts. Laying down hurts. The pain makes it difficult to get through the day, and your energy is low. So what can you do to restore function and reduce the pain and tension?
One option is to visit a chiropractor. Chiropractors are spine, muscle, and nervous system experts who provide effective treatment to promote health, alleviate pain, and improve your quality of life.
One of the main therapeutic techniques used by chiropractors and other health care providers is spinal manipulation (most commonly known as an adjustment). However, depending on your health history and specific condition, your chiropractor may opt to include other treatment methods as well.
Here are some treatment options you can expect during a chiropractic visit (after the initial health history and examination):
Definition: A quick, gentle thrust to the spine intended to provide pain relief and increase mobility.
What to expect: Your chiropractor will ask you to sit or lay down on the treatment table, depending on where your pain is located. They will apply a gentle force to the joint with their hands – which will often be accompanied by a “popping” sound. That “popping” sound is believed to be the release of air pockets from the fluid inside the joint – like cracking your knuckles, according to a study led by Dr. Greg Kawchuk, a University of Alberta professor and chiropractic researcher.5
Is this right for me? You should discuss with your chiropractor directly. Before providing any treatment, your chiropractor will integrate their clinical expertise, your personal preferences and values, with the best scientific evidence available.
Definition: Planned, structured and repetitive activities that improve health, maintain fitness, and condition any part of the body for physical rehabilitation.1
What to expect: After your initial assessment and diagnosis, your chiropractor may recommend specific exercises or stretches to help strengthen your muscles and improve function. Examples include the use of resistance bands to strengthen your shoulders and back, or gentle neck stretches for headaches and tension.
Is this right for me? It’s important to make sure you’re performing your exercises correctly, so you don’t pull a muscle or injure yourself. Your chiropractor will guide you through the movement and help correct your form if needed.
Definition: A technique involving the insertion of thin needles into the skin at particular pressure points in order to produce an analgesic—or painkilling—effect (among other observed benefits).
What to expect: Acupuncture causes little to no discomfort. During an acupuncture session, your chiropractor will insert very thin needles through the skin to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue.2 Once the needles are in place, you will relax for a period of time, during which time your chiropractor may gently twirl the needles, apply heat, or stimulate the needles with electric pulses – this generally applies more stimulation and is intended to increase the effects of standard acupuncture.
Is this right for me? There are a few instances where acupuncture could cause complications. If you have a bleeding disorder, a pacemaker, or you’re pregnant, acupuncture may not be right for you. This is why it’s important to fill out intake forms with your medical history and maintain open dialogue with your chiropractor.
*Chiropractors are permitted to use acupuncture as a treatment method in all Canadian provinces except Quebec and British Columbia.
What to expect: Your chiropractor may discuss what you typically eat in a day, and make any recommendations for additions or subtractions to help with your condition.
Is this right for me? Chiropractors help manage many conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. There is evidence that dietary changes can reduce inflammation and help alleviate pain.4 Talk to your chiropractor about your diet, and whether there are any changes you can make in your daily life.
These are a few of the most common treatment options used by chiropractors in Canada. There are other techniques, but those will be covered in a future blog post.
We always advocate for a patient-centred approach, so don’t hesitate to work with your chiropractor to identify the best treatment for you and your needs. Visiting a chiropractor is about relief, so take an active role in your body’s healing – ask questions, notify your chiropractor if you have any concerns, and get on the path to recovery.
1 “Exercise.” Collins Dictionary of Medicine. 2004, 2005. Robert M. Youngson 27 Jun. 2019 https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/exercise
2 “Electroacupuncture: Uses, Process, Evidence, Side Effects, and Safety.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/electroacupuncture.
3 “Nutrition Counseling.” Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, www.minddisorders.com/Kau-Nu/Nutrition-counseling.html.
4 Holtzman, Denise, and Jeanmarie Burke. “Nutritional Counseling in the Chiropractic Practice: a Survey of New York Practitioners.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, Elsevier, 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647073/.
5 Person. “Canadian Team Cracks Secret to Knuckle-Popping Sound.” CTVNews, CTV News, 16 Apr. 2015, www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-team-cracks-secret-to-knuckle-popping-sound-1.2328596.