Okay... here's a thread that I can jump in on.
I am a chiropractor. And I'm delighted to clear up any misunderstandings of the subject. (I don't know of any other subject on which there is more misunderstanding than chiropractic.)
I'll start off by saying this: some of the concepts and methodologies that some chiropractors use are
quackery, pseudoscience, and hence potentially very dangerous. (as dp suggested) It's usually based on faulty reasoning, and crude understanding of human physiology.
In a nutshell... the basic idea of chiropractic is this: the nervous system is the "master control system" of the human body. This delicate, highly conductive network of tissue controls and coordinates all other body structures and systems. It's located within the spinal column... a flexible, articulated tube of bones. The major coaxial cable (spinal cord) that relays all information between the brain and the body's tissue cells is housed within the bones of the back and neck.
This particular anatomical location sets up a relationship between the structural and biomechanical integrity of the spinal column, and the ability of the nervous system to "transmit the proper information" (in crude terms) to coordinate and harmonize the body's functions.
Subtle "misalignments" (another crude term) or movement imbalances... commonly called "subluxations"... can often occur in the spinal articulations. When they do, they have adverse effects on the neurology, the vascular system, many of the soft tissues, etc. Chiropractors find and "adjust" these imbalances.
Here are some problems with the chiropractic profession:
Some chiropractors believe that their adjustments can cure or fix any and all health problems and diseases. Consequently, they tend to be anti-medical ("Don't go to a medical doctor, come to me instead!"), anti-vaccination, and rather evangelistic in their views on health. This tends to stem from the mistaken idea of all
health, wellness, and sickness being governed solely by the nervous system. Ergo,
"Adjust the hard bone off the soft nerve, and your body will heal itself! Chiropractic gets sick people well!
The missing word above is "sometimes."
Some chiropractors don't necessarily believe in the "cure-all" idea, but as dp pointed out, they will always recommend adjustments as the treatment you need. ("I have found the cause of your problem! Can you see on the X-ray where this bone is pinching this nerve?")
Two problems with this approach: 1. You can't see "bones pinching nerves" on an X-ray. 2. In most cases, a health problem or musculoskeletal problem does not have one single cause like "subluxation" or "tendonitis" or "slipped disk." Many, if not all health problems are multi-factorial. Unfortunately, this single-cause approach is rampant in the medical/orthopedic/surgical/PT field as well as the chiropractic field. Again, due to remedial views of the human body.
Some chiropractors are very aggressive with their treatments. The aggressiveness tends to come from the goal of "treating/fixing the pain," as if pain itself was the problem. Pain is simply your body's way of informing itself of tissue damage. If you simply mask or numb the pain (with drugs, shots, modalities, etc.), you don't necessarily fix the problem. If your pain happens to be a healthy, appropriate response by the body to best serve its own needs, then that pain needs to be the best and clearest expression of pain it can be. (as sadistic as it sounds)
Chiropractic adjustments used as a treatment for back and neck pain, and other musculoskeletal ailments, is a rather lousy, ineffective treatment. In many cases it works no better, and sometimes worse, than massage, exercise, acupuncture, even meditation... simply because most back pain is multifactorial. Adjusting the spine may help partially or temporarily, but may not be able to address other underlying contributory factors.
Unfortunately, insurance companies will only pay chiropractors to diagnose the cause of the back pain, and "treat" it with adjustments. And there is lots of money to be made by ripping off insurance companies. That's why crank's chiropractor asked about insurance, to determine how much money can be made off of crank's case. (Sad.)
CTKook also makes a great point:
|As regards your hip, a chiropractor would be likely to note that one leg is longer than the other and one side of your hip higher than the other. They'll be right. Same is true for me and billions of other people. One arm is also longer, it doesn't hurt your spine.
I love it when some chiropractors tell people, "Well... I've got bad news. You have a slight scoliosis in your spine."
Of course you do! Everybody has a slight scoliosis. Nobody's spine is geometrically straight! It's not supposed to be.
A few more points:
In many cases, PT procedures are completely different than proper chiropractic procedures. They may appear the same, and may even get similar results in "pain alleviation," but the actual physiological results can be quite different. Most PT spinal procedures are "gross" or "long lever" procedures to mobilize regions of the spine, whereas most chiropractic procedures are more specific to segmental imbalances. This is especially true in the upper cervical/neck area.
Chiropractic should be a gentle procedure. When done properly, it takes very little force to achieve a correction. There shouldn't be lots of cracking or popping. Although the excessive cracking isn't necessarily dangerous (and makes many patients feel good), it indicates random, sloppy adjusting techniques and sets the stage for future instability and biomechanical weakness. The adjustments should be specific and effective at correcting the imbalances, while not disturbing the healthy joints.
And finally... although I'll probably turn up some noses at this... everybody benefits from good chiropractic care, whether you have back pain or not. Many spinal imbalances are asymptomatic for several months or years, (just like many health problems and disease processes) and by the time they start causing pain or discomfort (if they ever do at all), significant damage and weakness can accumulate.
Correcting spinal imbalances when they happen, as opposed to 20 years later when chronic symptoms show up... goes a long way in allowing your body to work the way it was designed to work.
Getting your spine checked once in a while (and I mean "checked," to see if anything actually needs to be adjusted... not just going three times a week to get the same cracking procedure over and over) by a competent chiropractor helps your spine stay strong and flexible, and helps your body work better.
PT is not a substitue for chiropractic. Neither is massage, or exercise, or acupuncture, nutritional therapy, or medical care. And chiropractic is not a substitute for any of the above. Chiropractic is just one part
of a healthy lifestyle, not a panacea or cure-all.
But spine and nervous system health is certainly an important
Hope this helps. (sorry so long.)