Chiropractors evaluate and treat the muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems. The word "Chiropractic" comes from the Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning "effective treatment by hand." Chiropractic stresses the idea that the cause of many disease processes begins with the body's inability to adapt to its environment. The examination of the spine to evaluate structure and function is what makes chiropractic different from other health care procedures. Your spinal column is a series of movable bones which begin at the base of your skull and end in the center of your hips. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves extend down the spine from the brain and exit through a series of openings. The nerves leave the spine and form a complicated network which influences every living tissue in your body.
According to The Association of Chiropractic Colleges, "chiropractic is a health care discipline which emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health."
Chiropractors have a term for misalignments: subluxations. A vertebral subluxation is a misalignment of the bones that protect the spinal cord. The severity of the subluxation can vary, and there are a number of potential contributing factors that can be physical, emotional, mental, or chemical. The subluxation can be caused by any number of incidents, from birth trauma to an auto accident, sports to simple repetition or over-use. When a subluxation occurs, a chiropractor can correct the misaligned bone and allow it to return to its proper position. This procedure is called an adjustment, and the adjustment enables the body to heal. Several adjustments over a course of time may be necessary, in addition to massage, Chiropractic therapies, stretching exercises, or strengthening exercises. Keeping the problem fixed and preventing its reoccurrence is just as important as the initial remedy.
Activator Adjusting Instrument - A hand held instrument used by some chiropractors. This instrument is used to tap the misaligned vertebrae back into place.
Arthritis - An inflammation of the joints. There are different types of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid.
Atlas- Topmost vertebra of the neck
Bone Spur- A calcium deposit on the bone, usually resulting from an injury.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome- Disorder characterized by tingling in the wrists, usually caused by repetitive flexing and extension of the wrists. Without treatment, it can lead to pain, decreased grip strength, and temperature insensitivity.
Cavitation - The "pop" that occurs during a chiropractic adjustment. This happens when the vertebral surface is separated creating a "vacuum " that pulls in nitrogen gas.
Cervical vertebrae- The seven vertebrae in the neck (cervical) area of the spine.
Chronic pain- Pain that lasts for 3 months or more.
Disc - A cartilage that separates the spinal vertebrae by acting like a cushion. The disc function is to protect and absorb any shocks.
Disc Degeneration- A thinning of the disc as a result of excessive use and age.
Facet - The casual joint surface of the spinal bone, facing the adjacent bone above or below.
Innate Intelligence- The body's inborn ability to heal itself, which chiropractors believe is enhanced by spinal adjustments.
Lumbar - The vertebrae of the lower back, usually 5 bones.
Manipulation - A chiropractic technique that results in the movement of a joint.
Modalities - Specific therapies used before or after a chiropractic adjustment. Some examples may include: physical therapy, hot or cold therapies, ultrasound, muscle stimulation, massage.
Nerve Root - One of the two nerve bundles emerging from the spinal cord that join to form segmental spinal nerve.
Sacrum - A triangular shaped bone at the base of the spinal column that connects the pelvic bones.
Sciatica - An inflammation of the sciatic nerve resulting in pain, numbness, tingling or weakness of the leg and lower back.
Scoliosis - Condition where the spine has lateral curvature (side-to-side) as seen from the back, where severe cases may require braces or surgery for treatment.
Spinal Adjustment - The process of correcting a subluxation.
Subluxation - Subluxation is when one or more of the bones of your spine (vertebrae) move out of position and create pressure on, or irritate spinal nerves. Spinal nerves are the nerves that come out from between each of the bones in your spine. This pressure or irritation on the nerves then causes those nerves to malfunction and interfere with the signals traveling over those nerves.
Thoracic Vertebrae - The twelve vertebrae in the upper back (thoracic) portion of the spine.
Ultrasound -High frequency sound waves with muscle stimulation used to treat areas of injury, pain or spasms.
Vertebra - The bony segment of the spine that surrounds and acts as protection of the spinal cord and nerves.
Whiplash - Pain or injury in the neck resulting from a sudden involuntary forced movement of the head in any direction.
X-Rays - A diagnostic test used by chiropractors to view the spinal column in the effort to locate and treat subluxations.