What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a primary health care profession that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions that occur secondary to the mechanical dysfunction of joints and muscles.
Doctors of Chiropractic are often perceived as “back doctors”. Although this is not entirely wrong, it is very much incomplete. Chiropractors can diagnose and treat problems in any joint in the body from migraine headaches and neck pain to your ankles and toes. The title of back doctor does not cover the full range of problems that chiropractors can manage (see What We Treat for a wide range of examples).
Founded in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer, Chiropractic is now the third largest healthcare profession in the West after Dentistry and Medicine.
Chiropractic uses the principal that mechanical dysfunction can occur in the joints in the spine. The spine protects the nervous system and is the master controller of all living cells, tissues and organs, orchestrating and coordinating all cellular functions. Joint dysfunction is regarded as a complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular (joint) changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence your general health. Because of this intimate relationship, biomechanical and structural problems in the spinal column can irritate parts of the enclosed nervous system. This irritation can result from noxious inflammatory biochemicals released during tissue injury or may result from direct mechanical pressure. In either case, the functioning of the nervous system is negatively influenced as is the functioning of the cells, tissues and organs which are supplied by the affected nerve(s).
Chiropractic treatment aims to restore the joints to normal function through chiropractic adjustment or through various further techniques. An adjustment has a number of physiological effects including increasing movement, decreasing pain and stimulating the nervous system called the viscerosomatic reflex. Chiropractic is a gentle, natural and effective treatment method for a number of problems; please see the Conditions page.
The profession is regulated by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and it is illegal to practise in the UK without being registered with the GCC. In the UK, Chiropractors undergo a minimum of four years internationally accredited training covering topics such as anatomy, neurology, radiology and orthopaedics. The training is extensive and it has to be updated yearly in order to maintain registration with the GCC. Dr Alex is also registered with the United Chiropractic Association and the College of Chiropractors as he believes maintaining an up-to-date knowledge of the latest techniques is of utmost importance. Dr Alex is also a registered professional of the charity BackCare as he believes in promoting awareness of back pain in the population and the effects it can have on people’s lives.
Your First Visit – What to Expect
The consultation and examination will normally take about 30 minutes, and if treatment is offered at the initial appointment this will take about 15 minutes.
The consultation is the first time you will meet Alex. He will ask you to fill out a few forms with respect to details about yourself, including any previous medical problems, even those that you may not necessarily think could relate to your current problem. It is important he knows all your health history to get to the bottom of your current issues. Completing the paperwork will not take more than a few minutes. All the details will be kept strictly confidential and will be only discussed between you and the Chiropractor.
You will then be asked about your problems how they came about, how long you have had them, and your medical history will also be covered at this point.
After the consultation Alex will examine you so the can determine your problem. A variety of thorough orthopaedic, neurological and chiropractic tests examining the joint, nerves and muscles of the body will be performed until the cause of your problem has been identified.
After the examination there are certain cases where an x-ray or MRI scan may be deemed necessary. These circumstances are rare and x-rays are only taken in specific circumstances. In most cases the diagnostic skills of the chiropractor will determine the cause of the problem and further tests are not needed. There are no x-ray facilities on site so, for further tests including x-rays or MRI scans, you will be referred to a facility where these can be done. If at this point the chiropractor thinks another healthcare professional would be better suited to help with your healthcare needs, he will discuss with you the reasons for this and recommend a relevant healthcare practitioner.
Upon completion of the examination, the diagnosis of your problem and a plan of management to alleviate it will be explained to you. Recommendations to improve your health and achieve your health goals will be given at this point. Anything you don’t understand please ask and Alex will be more than happy to go through it again with you. At this point, and if appropriate, treatment will be offered to start you on your journey to better health.
Alex uses an array of techniques including gentle and specific impulses into the joints of your body called chiropractic ‘adjustments’ or ‘manipulation’ which is a painless, safe and effective way to treat the body. Other techniques such as mobilisations, work on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body, stretching and rehabilitation exercises may be used. Treatment is based on the simple premise that mechanical malfunction is best treated by mechanical correction. Therapy is designed to restore the normal range of movement to the joint, relax muscle spasm, and relieve strain on ligaments. This is done by gently unlocking the stiff joints with skilled manipulation by hand, using just the right amount of pressure to restore proper function and mobility.
Most of the time treatment is offered at the initial consultation as Alex believes that, when you have been suffering, you shouldn’t have to wait to relieve your pain. You may be asked to come back for your Report of Findings and treatment at a later time, either the same day or at a time convenient to you. This serves a few purposes:
- Reduces the length of your first visit
- Gives us time to correlate our examination findings with the case history
- Avoids overloading you with too much information
A treatment plan will be discussed before commencing. The initial frequency of treatment is normally fairly high for the first few weeks, with the specific frequency dependent upon your age, the amount of time the condition has been present, and your lifestyle and activities. Whilst this may seem like a lot, it is a vital part of care to begin to reverse some of the adaptations your body has made as a result of pain or poor posture.
After that we want to maintain the benefits you have gained through the treatment and keep you healthy well into future.
The course of treatment is like taking antibiotics. Some people respond quickly and we of course hope you will, however a course of treatment will ensure that not only do we get you out of pain, but we get your spine rehabilitated to its best then maintain it so these problems will not recur in the future.
We work through 3 phases:
- Pain relief
Once the cause of the problem has been identified we want to get you out of pain as quickly as we can and this usually happens in the first couple of weeks through the relief phase of care. Some people will only want to be out of pain and get back to their normal activities and we are happy to help you achieve this goal. However here at The Guildford Spine Centre we want to keep you healthy well into the future so you do not have to go through the pain you were experiencing again. This is where the second and third phases are crucial.
- Correction & Rehabilitation
In this stage the treatment frequency usually drops and there is more emphasis on you completing some easy and gentle home exercises and stretches to try and stretch and strengthen your body to get you at your best. You can be strong in some of the large muscles in your spine but still weak in the smaller key stabilising and supportive muscles of the back. A strong back is a healthy back.
- Maintenance and preventative care
Here the aim is to keep the improvement you have had with the treatment and prevent any recurrences of your problems. It is so easy with today’s lifestyle of poor posture, hectic schedules, and life’s stresses and strains, to leave you open to further injury. Dr Alex recommends maintenance care to combat this: “like a regular dentist check-up this should happen when you are not in pain, and any problems that may be brewing are found and can be corrected before they become painful and you end up back where you started.”
A typical chiropractic visit will require much less time than the initial appointments.
With the groundwork laid we can assess the condition of your spine, nervous system and muscles, complete a treatment and get you on your way. We understand that your time is valuable and we do everything possible to minimise the impact on your busy life.
Treatment session length varies and, if required a longer time will be taken in certain circumstances. A standard treatment session lasts about 10-15 minutes to increase the efficiency of your day and is done in your clothes so you feel most comfortable.
Techniques used will be similar to those in the first session including manipulation, mobilisation and soft tissue work and, as you improve, exercises and stretches will be given to rehabilitate the spine.
“Like a regular workout at the gym, each visit builds on the ones before.”
Dr Alex believes that treatment is very much a partnership between you and your chiropractor. If you have any queries about a particular treatment technique, please inform Dr Alex who can put you at ease or modify the treatment accordingly.