If you’ve ever suffered from a back injury, you’re likely well aware of the healing power of chiropractors. If you haven’t, you may not know, that chiropractors do much more than fix broken backs, and without that knowledge, you’ve probably never considered visiting one for yourself. The reality is that chiropractors can heal your entire body, and once you’ve let go of certain misconceptions, a good chiropractor can—and should—be an integral part of your total health program.
First, says Dr. Jose Aguilar of Helping Hands Massage and Chiropractic in Chicago, chiropractors are most certainly real doctors. “In school, our concentration is the human body, and the course load is very similar to that of traditional M’s during the first one-and-a-half to two years,” he explains. “The biggest difference happens at about the second year of schooling where chiropractor’s continue to take additional coursework on anatomy, physiology and rehabilitation, and MDs do more pharmacological/chemistry studies.”
This comprehensive, anatomical approach to healing enables chiropractors to address the root causes of various health issues, which, according to Aguilar, are most often the result of a misalignment of the spine that applies pressure to the spinal nerves. “The nervous system controls and coordinates all of the organs, tissues and cells of the human body,” he says. “By adjusting these misaligned bones back into proper position, we remove the pressure being applied and, thus, can restore proper function of the body’s systems.”
Chiropractors can use varying methods for spinal adjustments, including a manual, or hands-on, method, instrument-assisted, and many others. And while this process can seem intimidating—or painful, even—for those who have never visited a chiropractor, there’s really no need for concern. “There are many different techniques in a chiropractor’s arsenal, but the most important thing in my office is patient comfort,” says Aguilar. “When I am getting ready to adjust a patient and see that they are not comfortable or squirming around, I modify my technique to something that will allow her to be at ease, so that it won’t hurt.”
So why, exactly, should you book your first chiropractic appointment? The reasons are as numerous as the vertebrae in your spine.
You want to take a holistic approach to your health
Ultimately, the core a chiropractor’s work is rooted in the theory that when the body is operating at its maximum physiological potential, it will naturally heal itself. And that’s good news for patients who have grown tired of the traditional medicine’s heavy reliance on prescription meds.
“We evaluate and diagnose the contributing core reasons a patient is having symptoms,” says Dr. Robert Pomahac, head chiropractor and founder of MaxHealth LA. “We objectively examine the muscular, neurological and structural systems of the body and are able to provide clinically significant data that correlates to your symptoms; then we correct the causes. There is no guesswork.”
Getting to the underlying root of symptoms often means that chiropractors must address the patient’s involvement in their own illness, while also providing a personalized approach for correction. “80% of today’s chronic health conditions are due to what we do to ourselves,” Pomahac says. “If you do not change your environment, then it’s much more difficult to achieve a lifetime of optimal wellness, so we provide systems to help a patient achieve their goals. For example, instead of saying, ‘You should exercise,’ we provide the patient with a supervised individual exercise protocol at our facility.”
You suffer from seasonal and/or food allergies
The number of Americans suffering from some type of allergy is in the tens of millions, and for many of those people, a faithful allegiance to Claritin and Benadryl aren’t doing enough to help. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “allergies are diseases of the immune system that cause an overreaction to substances called ‘allergens’”—that is, those substances that the body recognizes as foreign or harmful. And because chiropractic care helps to strengthen the immune system by improving communication between the brain and spinal cord (and thus lessening an overreaction to relatively harmless substances), chiropractic may be an effective treatment for allergies.
“I personally suffer from strong seasonal allergies that can wreak havoc on my system for months at a time,” says Aguilar. “But when I am under regular chiropractic care, along with taking all natural vitamins, my symptoms are nonexistent.”
Your back and neck are fine—but you’re in pain somewhere else
In addition to healing a sore back, a good chiropractor can help alleviate pain all over your body, and he can do it naturally—without harmful, potentially addictive pain medications.
According to Dr. Todd Sinett, an NYC-based chiropractor and author of the upcoming book, 3 Weeks to a Better Back (to be published in October 2015), much of the pain people experience can be traced to their emotions. “When we get stressed or are uptight, our muscles and bodies tighten and get tense, which raises cortisol levels and inflammatory factors in the body,” he explains.
Sinett guides his patients through spinal adjustments that can release pressure on spinal nerves and ease pain, but he also notes that adjustments can produce natural endorphins in the body that work to reduce those levels of stress-induced cortisol. “Chiropractors can help people slow down, breathe and restore their sense of calm, which helps people relax their muscles as well as emotions,” he says.
You want to have a healthy child
Numerous reports have stated that today’s generation of children are the sickest ever—despite the fact that most are under regular doctor’s care. But when checkups when a traditional MD aren’t enough to keep their kids healthy, parents should be aware that the aforementioned chiropractic benefits for adults are also available to children.
“Common symptoms we see children for vary from chronic ear infections to colic, constipation and general fussiness, and children can be seen as young as one month and continue receiving care as they grow,” Says Dr. Josh Koenig, a Plymouth, Massachusetts-based chiropractor. “A typical chiropractic adjustment for a child is not performed at the same strength as an adjustment of an adult. The adjusting of the bone in a child is more like molding clay because children are much more pliable and flexible. The adjustment is very gentle and usually the child has no clue it even took place.”