What is Chiropractic?

The Truth

"We Chiropractors work with the subtle substance of the soul. We release the imprisoned impulse -- the tiny rivulet of force -- that emanates from the mind and flows over the nerves to cells and stirs them into life. We deal with the majestic power that transforms common food into living, loving clay; that robes the earth with beauty, and hues and scents the flowers with the glory of the air."

"In the dim, dark, distant long ago when the sun first bowed to the morning star, this power spoke and there was life; it quickened the slime of the sea and dust of the earth and drove the cell to union with its fellows in countless living forms. Through eons of time, it finned the fish and winged the bird and fanged the beast. Endlessly it worked, evolving its forms until it produced the crowning glory of them all. With tireless energy it blows the bubble of each individual life and then silently, relentlessly dissolves the form, and absorbs the spirit into itself again."

"And yet you ask "Can Chiropractic cure appendicitis or the flu?" Have you more faith in a spoonful of medicine than in the power than animates the living world?."

B.J. Palmer D.C. -- Son of the Father of Chiropractic

Chiropractic is a Science, Philosophy, and an Art

The science is based on the relationship between the body's structure and function. It is the study of how the nervous system affects the body's system and organization. The science of chiropractic is one of diagnostic evaluation and of clinical trials and research.

The philosophy of chiropractic is based upon the body's innate intelligence, that is, the wisdom of the body to heal itself.

In its infinite wisdom, the body seeks to maintain homeostasis, a balanced state. It is capable of adapting to external and internal stresses, for example, shivering when we are cold, sweating when hot, and the release of adrenalin in a fear response.

The art of chiropractic is the hands-on sensitivity that the doctor of chiropractic learns through time and experience. Through motion and static touch the chiropractor becomes skilled at the art of an adjustment, which involves a specific force, speed, and torque.

In 1895, Daniel David Palmer, the father of chiropractic science, coined the term chiropractic -- a practice done by hand.

He was a magnetic healer who was the first to establish the cause and effect relationship between spinal subluxations and dysfunction of the nervous system. He believed that when the interference of nervous transmissions was eliminated by adjusting the vertebrae, the body was returned to balance, and could heal itself. With this discovery, chiropractic was born.

When the bones of the body are properly aligned and are not fixated, there are clear signals of communication between the body and the brain, resulting in balance that leads to health.

Chiropractic differs from the medical model in it's philosophy and approach.

Chiropractic views the body holistically. It is a natural approach that does not use drugs or surgery. It is not based on "curing" symptoms but rather on maintaining wellness and vitality .

What do chiropractors do?

Chiropractors palpate (touch) the spine to detect vertebral subluxations (misalignment or partial dislocation of the vertebrae, a bone that has moved out of alignment and is fixated.) When a vertebra has moved out of alignment and is fixated, there is an interference in the transmission of nerve signals to various organs, muscles, etc. and the result is a depletion of health. The body cannot adapt easily to stresses and healing is impaired.

Vertebral subluxations can often be painless, especially in the early onset stage. Even though they are painless, they can affect many of the body's vital systems. Damage cause by subluxations can be categorized as:

  1. Neuropathology, or nerve damage.
  2. When nerves become compressed or stretched, inflammation and irritation occurs. Pain often is a result and over time, there is a decrease in organ function.

  3. Kinesiopathology, or joint damage.
  4. This occurs when there is a locking (fixation) of misaligned vertebral joints. A result is a decrease in the joint's range of motion. When the spine is misaligned, the discs between vertebrae become compressed over time.

  5. Histopathology, or tissue damage.
  6. A vertebral subluxation causes tension and pressure on the soft tissues in the surrounding areas. This commonly results in great tenderness to the touch.

  7. Myopathology, or muscle damage.
  8. Muscles become weakened over time and as a result will tighten and contract. This often will cause postural distortions.

  9. Pathophysiology, or overall health damage.
  10. Subluxations can affect our immune system, causing abnormal hormonal responses, and decrease our adaptation to life's stresses. Disease is the result of the inability to adapt to stress. The body loses energy, and degeneration quickly follows. A person with subluxations may often experience fatigue and may even age rapidly.

The Spinal Column and the Nervous System

Your life-line. A vital connection.

The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is the center of consciousness, learning, thoughts, and emotions. The central nervous system controls the tension of our muscles, blood vessels, glands, and hormones. It controls pain and temperature, touch and vibration, and our special senses such as hearing, seeing, tasting. It gives us spatial orientation (proprioception).

The central nervous system is a coordinating mechanism and source from which energy, feeling, or dynamic action are derived. It connects our inner world to our outer world.

The spine's main functions are to protect the spinal cord, support the head and ribs, hips and shoulders, and provide an attachment base for muscles.

The spine consists of 24 movable vertebrae, plus two sets of fused vertebrae. The sacrum(sacred), often called the base of the spine, consists of 5 fused vertebrae, and the coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is made up of 3 or 4 fused vertebrae.

The cervical spine, more commonly called the neck, is comprised of 7 vertebrae. These are the smallest of our vertebrae. The first vertebra holds up our world -- the skull -- and is called the atlas. The second vertebra is called the axis, and it serves as a lever that allows the greatest amount of head rotation.

The thoracic, or dorsal, spine is found in the upper and mid back. It is comprised of 12 vertebrae to which our ribs are attached.

The lumbar spine in the lower back is comprised of 5 vertebrae. These are the largest vertebrae and they support most of the weight of our spine. The lumbar spine often is a problematic area.


Every chiropractor has the same goal -- to allow the body to heal itself through the correction of the vertebral subluxation, in other words, to align the vertebrae and reduce pressure on the nerves in order to allow optimal functioning of the nervous system.

There are over 100 chiropractic techniques all of which work and it would be good to inquire which method your chiropractor uses as some might be more effective than others for your particular body structure.

Some methods are used specifically to correct the subluxation of the upper cervical spine, which includes the atlas and the axis -- the 1st and 2nd vertebrae of the neck.

These techniques are called NUCCA (National Upper Cervial Chiropractic Assos.), Toggle Recoil, Atlas Specific, Blair, Grostic, and others.

Some techniques use little or no force. These include: DNFT (Direct Non-Force Technique), Activator, which uses an instrument, SOT (Sacral-Occipital Technique), BEST (BioEnergetic Sychronizaton Technique), Logan-Basic, and others.

Full spine techniques, such as Gonstead and Diversified, etc., adjust the entire spine, including cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and occiput.

Other techniques concentrate on adjusting extremities, such as the shoulder, elbow and knee and their attachments.

Pregnancy and Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care can benefit both pregnant women and their babies. A pregnant woman undergoes many changes that affect the body, and the spine in particular. For some pregnant women, these changes result in discomfort and even pain. Chiropractic spinal care has been shown to help relieve the discomfort of pregnancy, and ease the stress of childbirth.

A spinal checkup by a doctor of chiropractic will ensure that the spinal column and pelvis are aligned, free of vertebral subluxations, and moving freely. If treatment is needed, chiropractic's gentle, drug-free approach is especially suitable for pregnant women.

Periodic spinal checkups are recommended for every pregnant woman. Chiropractic care can benefit a pregnant woman who is experiencing back pain. Many women continue their regular chiropractic care in addition to seeing their pediatricians.

Chiropractors have been successfully performing spinal adjustments on pregnant women for over a hundred years, and studies have shown that regular chiropractic may help the mother carry her baby more comfortably, relieve morning sickness, and ease the stress of delivery.

Post-delivery chiropractic care can help a mother return to pre-pregnancy normalcy. Postpartum depression is less frequent in mothers receiving chiropractic care, according to studies reported in journals.

Infants and Children Need Spinal Checkups

Spinal checkups can be as important to your child's health as checkups for eyes, ears, nose, and teeth. With an aligned spinal column, the body will grow in a balanced, healthy manner. Corrections of vertebral subluxations in an infant's or child's spine can have a powerful healing effect.

Even a newborn's spine may be misaligned because of the stresses imposed by a difficult birth. Vertebral subluxations have been observed to lead to problems such as vomiting, colic, and lowered resistance to infection, particularly ear-nose-throat illnesses.

Today, more parents bring their young children to a chiropractor for a spinal checkup. Chiropractic care for children can yield dramatic results. Removing vertebral subluxations and aligning the spine releases the body's own power to heal infections and disorders.

Chiropractic care not only produces improvements in physical health, but also in emotional and behavioral states. Many parents notice that children are less upset and more emotionally stable after chiropractic adjustments have been made.

Children with disorders such as hyperactivity, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, poor posture and other behavioral problems have been shown to benefit from chiropractic care. Children with diseases such as asthma, colic, arthritis, neck and back aches, scoliosis, clumsiness, foot turned in or out, or one shorter leg often can be helped by chiropractic treatment. Chronic ear infections, surprisingly, also may respond well to chiropractic treatment in many cases.

Wellness for Women

Women who suffer from pelvic and gynecological conditions, such as lower back pain, menstrual and premenstrual problems, or bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunctions, may benefit from chiropractic treatment. Symptoms of menopause may also be alleviated with chiropractic's natural healing approach.

There is a direct connection from the spinal column to the reproductive and hormonal systems. A healthy spinal column is essential for proper functioning of a woman's reproductive system. Many women have discovered the natural healing benefits of regular chiropractic adjustments.

Headache and Migraine

A headache or a migraine occurs when arteries and cranial nerves are inflamed, irritated, or infected. Drugs can mask the pain, but they do not affect the causes of the disorder and often have undesireable side effects.

Chiropractic care is recommended for anyone who suffers from headache or migraine.

Eliminating spinal subluxations allows the body to restore itself to health.

Sports and Shaping Up

Sports athletes have discovered that chiropractic adjustments help them "shape up" and perform better. This applies to all types of sports, including basketball, football, soccer, tennis, biking, and golfing.

Sports injuries can produce a misaligned spine, which needs to be corrected for a full and speedy recovery. Most medical physicians are not trained to find and correct a spinal subluxation--that's the specialized field of the doctor of chiropractic.


The first thing to do after an accident that causes injury is to obtain emergency medical care for bleeding, fracture, concussion, and shock. After that, a spinal check-up is recommended, even if there are no obvious symptoms.

The shock of a sudden physical force radiates through the skeletal system and can cause spinal subluxation. Many accident victims leave the hospital with lingering pain and discomfort, others do not start to display symptoms of distress until months or even years later. Thus even if an accident victim has no obvious symptoms of spinal stress, a check up by a chiropractor can make the difference between full recovery and lingering disability.

Whiplash and Neck Problems

When the head and neck are snapped back suddenly, the injury is referred to as whiplash. Car accidents and contact sports are the leading causes of whiplash.

Whiplash results in misalignment of the vertebrae and can cause damage to spinal discs and nerves. Gentle chiropractic treatment can help relieve whiplash pain and restore normal functioning.

Neck problems can not only result in stiffness or pain in the neck, but also create a feeling of numbness or coldness (or pins-and-needles) in the face, arms, or chest, dizziness, hearing loss, and blurred vision.

Neck problems that can be treated by chiropractic include poor posture, stiffness, congential disorders, and birth trauma. Studies have shown that wry neck, or spasmodic torticollis -- a congenital disorder in infants caused by muscle spasms -- can be helped by chiropractic care.

Low Back Pain

A majority of Americans will experience low back pain during their lives. In many cases, people suffering from low back pain are bedridden and unable to work.

In Canada, a report commissioned by the government of Ontario found that chiropractic management of low back pain was more effective, less costly, and more satisfactory to patients than treatments such as drugs, braces, and surgery by physicians.

Chiropractic is effective for low back pain because it corrects a major cause of the pain -- vertebral subluxations. Chiropractic care can make the difference between chronic back pain and a life of comfort and ease.

Spinal Disc Problems

In the spinal column, discs or pads separate the vertebrae. The discs hold the vertebrae together and also act as shock absorbers. Each disc has a tough outer ring and a soft inner nucleus. There are 23 discs in your spine, and they make up about one-third of its length.

Many people talk about a "slipped disc," but that term is incorrect. It is impossible for the disc to slip out from between the vertebrae. If anything slips, it is the vertebrae, not the disc.

A disc can develop two types of herniation. The first type is called a protrusion because the disc actually bulges out. The second type is called a prolapse, and it occurs when the inner nucleus separates from the outer ring of the disc.

A prolapsed disc can put pressure on nerves in the spine and cause severe pain. In severe cases, numbness or loss of muscle control in the foot or leg may occur.

Although surgery is sometimes necessary, several studies have shown that a large number of these were not effective in lessening the pain. Anyone diagnosed with a disc herniation should obtain at least one opinion from a doctor of chiropractic before agreeing to surgical intervention.

In many cases, chiropractic care can help to restore the health of spine and relieve disc pain.


Leg pain can be from many causes, but the most common is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The condition is called sciatica, and it usually produces severe pain along the back of the legs and thighs, and occasionally in the ankle and foot.

The pain of sciatica can be accompanied by tingling, prickling, tenderness, or even numbness. The pain persists when sitting, walking, and lying down.

Chiropractic care can provide excellent results for people suffering from sciatica and leg pain.

Shoulder, Arm and Hand Problems

Near the shoulder, nerves leaving the neck and upper back form a network called the brachial plexus. This network controls the shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists and fingers.

If the brachial plexus nerves are compressed at the point where they exit the spinal column, a variety of problems may be experienced, ranging from neck stiffness, pain radiating down the arm, numbness, or muscle weakness. Causes of the compression may be whiplash, sports injury, arthritis, or sleeping in a twisted position.

The specific symptoms help the doctor of chiropratic identify the spinal location of the compression and then to relieve the nerve stress.

TMJ Syndrome or Dysfunction

The temporamandibular joint is where the jaw (mandible) attaches to the skull near the ear. People with temporamandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome may suffer from hearing loss, ringing in the ears, pain, and dizziness.

Some causes of TMJ syndrome include poorly fitting braces, stress, and spinal trauma. Correction of vertebral subluxations has been shown to be effective in relieving the symptoms of TMJ. Chiropractors and dentists are beginning to work together to ensure health.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal bones in the wrist form a tunnel through which tendons and the median nerve pass. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a result of repetitive stress to the wrist, which can cause compression of the median nerve. Symptoms include tingling, pain, numbnesss, and weakness in the wrist and hand.

Years of repeating the same motions, such as typing, playing a musical instrument, or using tools, can lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Studies have shown that people with carpal tunnel syndrome may also have subluxations in the neck that contribute to the problem.

It is recommended that in addition to medical treatment by a physician, people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome should also consult with a doctor of chiropractic to ensure that their neck is free of vertebral subluxations.


  1. To increase flexibility and joint functioning
  2. To increase resistance to disease
  3. To reduce stress
  4. To improve posture
  5. To prevent spinal disc degeneration
  6. To improve organic functions--heart, digestive organs, etc.
  7. To relieve pressure on nerves -- pain may or may not be present
  8. To improve balance and coordination
  9. To reduce chronic pain
  10. To improve overall health.