Chiropractic for Physical Injury
Chiropractic is one of the more widely used and accepted practices within alternative medicine. Its level of acceptance in the United States has increased in recent years, as partially evidenced by widespread health insurance coverage for chiropractic care. Chiropractic can be the answer for patients seeking relief after enduring injuries, and it has been successfully employed as a treatment for a variety physical injuries. In fact, physical injury is one of the most common reasons people consult chiropractors.
How Does a Chiropractor Treat an Injury?
Chiropractors have many “tools” at their disposal in the form of treatments that can be used to help heal various injuries. They often take x-rays to gather further information regarding the state of the spine. The protocol and treatment plan can be customized to the patient’s needs. Typically, the treatment includes spinal manipulations, which the chiropractor performs either with his or her hands or with an assisting, noninvasive device. Different chiropractors use different techniques, based on their training and expertise and based on the nature of the physical injury being treated. In general, though, a spinal manipulation involves applying controlled pressure to a joint. By performing manipulation, the chiropractor aims to increase range and quality of motion and to decrease pain and discomfort.
For injuries, chiropractors might also advise rest, exercise, hot/cold therapy, massage, or other alternative medicine treatments. The chiropractor can advise the patient on what therapies are best for his or her circumstances and injury.
What Different Therapies Do Chiropracters Use for Injuries?
Chiropractic uses a variety of therapies to correct physical imbalances, most often occurring in the spine and affecting the nervous system.
Some of these therapies are:
- Adjustments: When a chiropractor performs an adjustment, he or she applies pressure with the hands or a chiropractic tool to vertebrae that are misaligned. Also called spinal manipulation, this therapy can help people with injuries that cause misalignment of the spine.
- TENS: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS, uses electrical stimulation of certain nerves to relieve pain and increase mobility. The treatment may also increase endorphin production. TENS can be especially beneficial for those who suffer from acute or chronic pain.
- Trigger Point Therapy: Points on the body that can cause pain in other areas on the body when touched are called trigger points. When manipulated in a certain way, a trigger point can also relieve pain. During this therapy, a chiropractor applies pressure to a trigger point to release the tension in the point. Patients who do not respond to a manual pressure on trigger points, may respond to injections in the trigger point. Trigger point therapy can help those who have chronically tense muscles or spasmodic muscles.
- Hot/Cold Therapy: Heat increases blood circulation in body tissues, which brings oxygen to the tissue and takes away cell waste. Applying heat can provide relief from tense muscles, muscle spasms, and decrease pain. When cold is applied, it slows circulation and relieves inflammation. Hot/Cold therapy is frequently used for injuries, especially sports injuries, such as sprains and strains. Cold is used as an initial treatment for many injuries that cause inflammation or swelling, and combination Hot/Cold therapy can also be used for injuries that cause persistent or recurring pain.
Sometimes, chiropractic is used in conjunction with traditional medicine and in partnership with allopathic practitioners.
What Injuries Can Chiropractic Help?
In general, chiropractic can be beneficial in treating various injuries, including sprains, pulled muscles, and problems with joints in just about any area of the body. Chiropractic can help with recovery from a broad range of injuries, including the following:
- Auto Accidents: Auto accident injuries include problems such as whiplash to disruptions in spinal alignment in the lower back. The aftermath of an auto accident is a common time for patients to consult chiropractic clinics for the first time, and many people seek chiropractic care as a way to help with treatment of auto accident-related injuries.
- Sports injuries: In recent years, chiropractic has become increasingly common as a treatment for sports injuries. The profession is now involved with many professional and collegiate sports, such as golf, hockey, and football. A person doesn’t have to be a professional athlete to suffer a sports injury. Any individual can be injured during exercise, such as while running, playing tennis, or lifting weights. A significant number of sports injuries involve the neck and back, and can benefit from chiropractic care.
- Injuries at work: Work related injuries include injuries while lifting heavy items, as well as problems that result from office work, such as sitting at a computer for long periods of time.
- Everyday Injuries: Injuries during the course of everyday living can also be helped by chiropractic care. Examples include lifting items that are too heavy, improper lifting, or even strain from shoveling snow.
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is based in the theory that health and body function depend on the alignment of the spine. It focuses on establishing and maintaining the correct structure of the spine using several therapies, some of which are described above. A common chiropractic therapy, called spinal adjustment or spinal manipulation, is used to correct misalignments in the spine. According to chiropractic theory, these misalignments affect the body’s ability to function and can lead to health problems. Chiropractors also believe that the nerves affect the flow of energy throughout the entire body, and an unobstructed flow of energy in the body is an important aspect of health.
Chiropractors may also treat other areas of the body that might affect or be affected by the body’s alignment, such as the legs or hips. Chiropractic can be used to treat many health conditions, including many types of physical injury. Patients who seek chiropractic care in the aftermath of injuries do so because it is not nearly as invasive as some allopathic treatments, which often rely on prescription medication (including those for pain). While chiropractic may not be a substitute for surgery in serious medical cases, chiropractic therapies may be able to prevent an injury from progressing so far as to require surgery.
Spinal misalignments are often caused by accidents that result in symptoms such as pain and immobility. Correcting misalignments can help the patient return to a normally functioning state of health.
What Is the Nature of the Healing Process?
Some patients report experiencing pain in the area that was treated after seeing a chiropractor, but that pain generally recedes and the patient feels better than before the treatment over a short period of time. Patients experience a better range of motion, more flexibility, and less pain after treating an injury with chiropractic. While there are some risks involved with chiropractic adjustments, the therapy has been shown to be generally safe for most people. Patients should check with their physician and chiropractor if they are concerned about medical conditions that may increase risk in a chiropractic session.
Chiropractic is generally noninvasive, and thus has fewer unpleasant side effects than prescription drugs or surgery. Chiropractic therapies can be used in conjunction with allopathic treatments. It is important to notify both physician and chiropractor about all treatments the patient undertakes. The frequency of chiropractic treatment needed, amount of time needed for healing, and prognosis after injuries can vary, based on such factors as the nature and severity of the injury, the age and overall health of the patient, and simultaneous use of other therapies. To lessen risk and ensure safety, it is crucial that the patient only be seen by a reputable chiropractor who has all of the necessary credentials and training.
An article discussing “Chiropractic for whiplash” at spine-health.com.
Additional information on Sports injuries and back injuries.
ACA Sports Council is a Chiropractor Professional Association focusing on the treatment of athletes.
American Chiropractic Association is a professional organization for all Chiropractors.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (in conjunction with National Institutes of Health) provides some additional information on Chiropractic.