By Dr. Marc Davis
Do you know somebody with misconceptions about chiropractic? As is usually the case with misleading information, confusion about chiropractic is based on rumors, not on facts.
Myth: Chiropractic is only good for back problems.
Although doctors of chiropractic, such as Dr. Davis, excel at providing swift, all-natural relief from back pain, chiropractors are much, much more than mere “back doctors.”
Doctors of chiropractic are prevention specialists. Chiropractors focus on warding off disease and injury, rather than masking symptoms with medication. By caring for the whole person, chiropractors help patients create winning wellness plans that combine regular chiropractic checkups with exercise recommendations, nutritional counseling, stress reduction programs and other lifestyle adjustments.
Spinal health is the cornerstone of the chiropractic approach to prevention. Specifically, Dr. Davis works to keep patients’ spines free of vertebral subluxation, areas where movement is restricted or bones (vertebrae) are out of alignment. This condition is linked with a myriad of ailments such as carpel tunnel syndrome, ear infection, back pain, vertigo, neck pain, headaches, high blood pressure and epilepsy. Preliminary scientific evidence also suggests that vertebral subluxations may have a negative effect on the immune system (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1992; 15:83-9).
Chiropractors correct vertebral subluxations with gentle maneuvers called chiropractic adjustments.
Myth: Chiropractic adjustments hurt.
New patients are often apprehensive about receiving their first chiropractic adjustment. Much of this fear comes from knowing that a “cracking” sound results from some adjustments. However, this sound (known as cavitation) is simply a drop in air pressure within a joint, which occurs when a “stuck” joint becomes “unstuck.” Cavitation is NOT the sound of bones cracking or rubbing against each other.
Chiropractors are extensively trained to perform adjustments gently and to custom tailor these maneuvers for each individual’s unique body type. The vast majority of patients experience no discomfort whatsoever from adjustments. Rather, most patients report that they enjoy the procedure and find it relaxing.
Myth: Once you begin chiropractic care, you must continue it for the rest of your life.
The idea that chiropractic is “addictive” — or that patients must continue care forever to maintain relief from a specific injury — is a common misconception. This myth is perpetuated by some factions of the health-insurance industry and other groups that focus on “quick fix” approaches like drugs and surgery, which often fail to provide lasting results and have potentially hazardous side effects. In contrast, doctors of chiropractic concentrate on prevention.
The truth is, most chiropractic patients who seek care for pain relief recover from their symptoms within a short period of time. In 1994, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed this claim after intensive investigation. The AHCPR states that: “For patients with acute low-back symptoms without radiculopathy, the scientific evidence suggests spinal manipulation is effective in reducing pain and perhaps speeding recovery within the first month of symptoms.”
True, popping a pill is faster than phoning your chiropractor for an appointment. But unlike medication, chiropractic produces permanent relief — often in patients who have suffered from chronic pain for years. That’s why many patients choose to continue periodic checkups, after their symptoms have subsided, to ward off other future ailments.
Focusing on prevention means averting disease before the onset of symptoms. For example, prevention-oriented individuals visit their dentist regularly to remove plaque before it triggers tooth decay. Concentrating on prevention also means exercising on a daily basis to prevent the buildup of fat on artery walls, which leads to cardiovascular disease. In much the same way, patients who seek preventive chiropractic care don’t wait until vertebral subluxations multiply before taking steps to correct them. These patients aren’t addicted to chiropractic any more than individuals who see their dentist regularly — or who work out a few hours a week — are addicted to teeth cleanings or exercise.
Myth: Chiropractic is unsafe.
According to a wealth of scientific evidence, chiropractic is an extremely safe health-care option — especially when the alternative (medication or surgery) is considered. Medication and surgery have staggeringly dismal safety records. Even the seemingly benign class of over-the-counter medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has disastrous side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 76,000 people are hospitalized each year due to adverse reactions to NSAIDs. And, an estimated 7,600 will die this year alone as a direct result of NSAIDs.
Myth: Chiropractors are poorly educated.
Think doctors of chiropractic aren’t well educated? Think again. Here are the facts:
Prior to applying to chiropractic school, college students must complete the identical “pre-med” curriculum that medical students follow. This includes courses in physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and liberal arts. These prerequisite courses take at least two years to complete.
Chiropractic school consists of another four years of full-time study. The average number of basic science hours is 1,420, including approximately 570 hours of anatomy, 305 hours of physiology, 205 hours of pathology, 150 hours of biochemistry, 120 hours of microbiology and 70 hours of public health (Chiropractic in the United States: Training, Practice and Research, 1997).
And that’s just the beginning. Merely completing six years of intense study isn’t enough to become a doctor of chiropractic. He or she must pass a series of four comprehensive national board examinations and a local jurisprudence examination before obtaining a license to practice.
Myth: Massage therapy produces the same results as chiropractic.
Massage therapy is a highly effective, drug-free approach to relieving strained muscles, increasing circulation, easing stress and inducing deep relaxation. Preliminary research also suggests that massage therapy boosts the immune system. Because of these benefits, doctors of chiropractic frequently recommend massage as an adjunctive to chiropractic care. Many chiropractors even invite massage therapists to join their staff.
Despite its benefits, however, massage therapy is not a substitute for chiropractic care because it does not correct vertebral subluxations. Unlike chiropractors, massage therapists are not doctors: They do not have the same extensive training and are not qualified to perform spinal adjustments or diagnose medical disorders.
Myth: Chiropractic is expensive.
Industry studies reveal that chiropractic costs less than traditional medical care when chiropractors are the first doctors visited (Med Care 1996; 34:191-204).
Researchers at Oakland University focused on patients suffering from one or more of 493 conditions. Roughly one quarter of the 395,641 patients studied were cared for by doctors of chiropractic. Findings revealed “patients receiving chiropractic care experienced significantly lower health-care costs.” Specifically, chiropractic patients saved approximately $1,000 each over a two-year period (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1993; 16:291-9).
Another study looked at 3,062 workers’ compensation claims for low-back pain. The analysis found that the compensation costs of claims for injuries treated by medical practitioners were 10 times the costs of those handled by chiropractors (J Occup Med 1991; 33:847-52).
Dr. Marc Davis can be reached at 360.823.2225 or at www.davisfamilychiro.com