What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a registered primary health care profession. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints and muscles).
Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility, including hands-on-manipulation of the spine.
What happens when I see a Chiropractor?
When you see a Chiropractor for the first time, they will do a detailed assessment of your health. You will be asked for information about your current condition, and also about your medical history and overall health.
Some of the questions you may be asked may not seem important, but they will help your Chiropractor to establish an overall picture of your health, and determine whether chiropractic care is appropriate for your condition.
If your Chiropractor is unable to help, or decides that some other treatment would be more beneficial for your condition, you will be referred to your GP, or to another appropriate health care professional.
After assessing your condition and overall health, your Chiropractor will carry out a physical examination (unless there is a specific reason for them not to). Your Chiropractor will perform a range of tests that may include assessment of your posture and range of movement. Once the initial assessment and physical examination has been completed, occasionally you may require further investigations such as X-ray, CT, MRI or blood tests. If these are necessary , it will be explained why they are necessary, and how they might be arranged.
After these assessments and tests, you will receive a presentation of findings, and whether your condition can be helped by chiropractic treatment. If chiropractic is appropriate, you will be given a treatment plan, which will set out what you can expect when receiving treatment. You will also be made aware of the costs involved. In due course you will receive information about exercise lifestyle and nutrition. You will be able to ask questions so that you fully understand what treatment is being proposed. If you are happy to proceed you will be asked to give your written consent to treatment. All data obtained from the initial consultation and subsequent treatment will be kept strictly confidential.
Chiropractors are trained in using manipulation to free stiff or restricted joints. This can also be called an 'adjustment' or 'manual therapy'. Manipulation involves the Chiropractor using their hands to apply quick, precise thrusts to the restricted joints. During manipulation there may be popping sounds (similar to the 'crack' heard when people flex their knuckles). This is quite harmless and is just the sound of gas bubbles being released from the joint fluid as pressure is released.
Self help advice and rehabilitative care form an important part of chiropractic treatment. You will be given advice on how to manage your condition and prevent it from recurring. This may involve the application of heat or ice to reduce pain and inflammation, advice on activity, posture and exercise.
Chiropractic treatment often takes place over a number of weeks, particularly if you have had the problem for a long time. The programme of care will usually involve a series of treatments being given at defined intervals.
Chiropractic is safe and effective:
As with any form of treatment or exercise that is applied to muscles and joints, there can sometimes be minor short-term pain or discomfort. In nearly all cases, this is due to temporary irritation and re-adjustment, and quickly goes away. Some people may experience symptoms such as mild headache, stiffness or soreness, tiredness or a temporary increase in their pain levels after treatment.
The likelihood of you having serious side effects following chiropractic treatment is extremely rare. There are a small number of reports that have linked manipulation of the neck with stroke, but there is no clear evidence of this. Research has shown that the risk of serious complications following spinal manipulation is extremely low.
Availability of Chiropractic:
There are Chiropractors practicing in private clinics in most areas of the UK.
A regulated profession:
In common with a range of other healthcare professionals, chiropractors are registered by law under the Chiropractors Act 1994. The profession is regulated in the UK by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). It is illegal to practice in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland without being registered with the GCC.
Any chiropractor wishing to practice in the UK must satisfy the GCC's requirements before being added to the register. Chiropractors must renew their registration every year. When they renew they must demonstrate that they have done a minimum number of learning and development hours, to ensure that they maintain and increase their knowledge of the subject.
Chiropractic care is included as a treatment option in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's (NICE) guidelines in managing low back pain.
(Data obtained from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). 2018).