The word chiropractic comes from the Greek words cheir (hands) and praxis (practice). As the name suggests, it is a hands-on therapy.
Chiropractic manipulation is the application of pressure to a person’s spine or other parts of their body by a qualified chiropractic doctor, or chiropractor. This pressure allows a chiropractor to adjust and correct alignment.
Chiropractic manipulation aims to reduce pain and improve mechanical function, or the way a person moves.
The basis of chiropractic manipulation
Modern chiropractic is based on a spinal care model. But chiropractic manipulation has its roots in less scientific theories.
Historically, chiropractors believed that a misaligned spinal column could cause disease. This was thought to happen via the central nervous system and something called “innate knowledge”.
The theory was called “vertebral subluxation complex”. Early practitioners believed 95 percent of diseases were caused this way. They believed that chiropractic manipulation would correct problems in the musculoskeletal system and, in turn, cure disease.
Skeptics and scientists found this belief to be lacking in scientific basis. Early chiropractors also rejected the germ theory of disease and immunization. As a result, chiropractic lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the scientific community.
Chiropractic theory has since evolved. It is becoming more accepted as a treatment for musculoskeletal pain.
In 2016, an article in Chiropractic & Manual Therapies advocated for a new approach to chiropractic that would leave behind its “bad” unscientific elements.
Aspects of the profession to be left behind included:
• adherence to a flawed chiropractic ideology focusing on innate intelligence and vitalism.
• claims of cures for visceral and other non-musculoskeletal conditions.
• anti-vaccination propaganda.
• anti-drug and anti-medicine propaganda.
• an unhealthy disregard of clinical research, evidence-based practice, and non-specific treatment effects including natural history and the placebo effect
The article went on to lay out a ten-point plan for modernizing the profession. This notably included the need for chiropractors to become “solely musculoskeletal practitioners with a special emphasis on spinal pain”.
Modern chiropractors have, for the most part, left behind the belief systems that claimed spinal therapy could cure unrelated illnesses.
Types of chiropractic practitioner
Although the chiropractic profession has evolved, there are still some chiropractors that believe in unscientific theories. Chiropractors who hold on to beliefs that the rest of the profession has left behind are referred to as “straights”.
Before making an appointment, it is a good idea to find out whether a chiropractor takes a modern or straight approach. This way, a person can make an informed decision about the sort of treatment they receive.
People with musculoskeletal problems may also want to consider:
• exercise therapy
• other medical treatments
It is always a good idea to discuss treatment options with a doctor before deciding which route to take.
There is growing evidence to suggest that chiropractic manipulation may be an effective treatment for:
• Neck pain
• Chest pain