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What exactly is chiropractic care?

Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021
 
A woman having a chiropractic back adjustment

What is a chiropractor?

According to the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, the regulatory body of chiropractors working within Ontario, chiropractors are regulated health professionals that assess, diagnose, prevent, and treat the spine, nervous system, and joint dysfunctions. This includes many common issues such as low back pain, shoulder and knee pain, sports injuries, and overall wellness care. Chiropractors use patient-centered care and hands-on therapies in order to treat these dysfunctions.

Are chiropractors doctors?

Under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, chiropractors have been granted the ability to use the title “Doctor” while providing patient care and diagnosis within the chiropractic scope of practice (i.e. spine/nerve and joint dysfunctions). To avoid confusing themselves with a medical doctor (M.D.), a chiropractor will go by the title of “Doctor of Chiropractic” or “D.C.”

Chiropractors require a minimum of 7 years of post-secondary education, with 4 of those years being spent in an accredited chiropractic college. Many chiropractors end up having 8 years of education as they complete a 4-year undergraduate degree prior to entering chiropractic college.

What can I expect if I see a chiropractor?

  • An initial consultation [assessment] to review your complaint, case history, ask questions and review relevant paperwork and available reports
     
  • An explanation of the fee structure
     
  • An explanation and consent to a physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests
     
  • A chiropractic examination, which may include orthopedic, neurological, muscle function, joint function and radiographic testing
     
  • A report of findings, which will include a diagnosis or clinical impression with a complete explanation by the chiropractor of what has been found
     
  • A referral to another regulated health professional if the chiropractor feels a health condition of the patient is outside the chiropractic scope of practice
     
  • Recommendations for care, which may include a course of chiropractic adjustment or manipulation and/or adjunctive therapies, such as muscle therapy, electrotherapy, lifestyle advice and recommendation of assistive devices
     
  • Informed consent to care and a course of care with appropriate re-examinations

“All chiropractors do is adjust/crack joints”

You may have heard the terms “straight” versus “mixed” chiropractors, which are older terms used to describe chiropractors who only treat using spinal manipulation therapy/adjustments (straight) versus those who use other types of treatments in addition to adjustments (mixed). Overall, adjustments are considered a “tool in the toolbox.”

Some chiropractors focus on adjustments more than soft tissue therapy, exercise therapy, or modalities such as laser, ultrasound, or shockwave. Other chiropractors put more emphasis on treatments that are not spinal adjustments, or may avoid them altogether based on the patient’s symptoms/presentation.

Ultimately it is up to you and your chiropractor to determine which course of treatment is best for your needs and goals; and remember, the chiropractor always has to work within your consent regarding treatment and treatment types.

Do chiropractic adjustments hurt?

The vast majority of adjustments during treatment do not hurt. Patients may describe an adjustment of a joint similar to a “tension/release” sensation or like popping a knuckle or finger.

In some instances, patients may experience immediate relief or an immediate decrease in symptoms such as tightness, stiffness, and pain. Like any treatment, there are risks and side-effects which may or may not occur, but these are minimized by proper technique and education.

Keep an eye out for the second blog in this series. If you're interested in learning more about chiropractic care at Lifemark, check out our services page.

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