Recently I had a couple friends ask my feelings on Chiropractic, as well as some specific questions. This topic is one too big for me to adequately address on facebook so I thought I could ramble about it here and anyone interested would get my perspective and those not interested won't be irritated about my novel-comment.
Allow me to start with a little story. Last summer we got to have our first (of probably 6) round of orthodontics. The visit included an exam with x-rays, photographs and molds. Then we sat down with the Dr. and he explained his proposed care plan, what it would cost and how long he estimated it would take. I already knew the end result - straight teeth. It wasn't a hard decision to make: I wanted my baby girl to have straight teeth, I knew this man had been educated and trained to know how to make that happen, I knew that if we took care of it now, and did it right, she could have straight teeth for life with only minimal maintenance (retainers, etc).
She got braces.
Fast forward a year and my baby's smile is transformed from the awkward and rather dysfunctional cross-bite nightmare it was, to perfectly straight, beautiful and highly functional eating and smiling apparatus.
Now, no-one questions whether or not orthodontics works - it's pretty darn obvious. They take a before picture and an after picture and there it is, from crooked to straight. Forget that many (maybe most) insurance companies consider orthodontics as strictly cosmetic and don't pay a penny for it. Western culture as a whole has come around to the idea of prevention when it comes to teeth (we brush 2-3 times a day) and structural care (orthodontics).
Change channels to chiropractic. In a perfect world your Chiropractic Physician should follow roughly the same model as your orthodontist. There should be an exam with certain tests performed to measure performance of the spine (range of motion, nervous system function, muscular condition, inflammation, possibly x-rays, etc). These tests are the "before picture" and allow your Dr. to develop a proposed care plan. Just like your orthodontist doesn't suggest a plan to get your child's teeth 'almost' straight, your Chiropractic Physician shouldn't recommend a care plan to get your spine 'almost' aligned or to 'almost' correct the problems. A plan to straighten teeth is almost never shorter than a year - this is for teeth people, using metal wire and brackets. When you consider that we should not be offended when our Chiropractor suggests it will take more than 1-3 visits to correct our spine.
Now, I have had extensive Chiropractic experience. My first visit was when I was a little girl and for the last 14 years I've seen many many Chiropractic Physicians. To say there are some "good ones" and some "less than good ones" is an understatement and obviously each of us will have our own personal preference. I used to think it reflected poorly upon the Dr.'s ability to treat me when he suggested more than 3 visits. Now I know it is all a matter of understanding the concept.
I came to Chiropractic care as a child of traditional medicine. We kept a year supply of Ibuprofen in the house and had a frequent flyer card to our family MD. I approached Chiropractic with the expectations I had from an ER or family physician. Come into the office. Wait for at least 30 minutes. See the Dr. for 5 minutes. Pay your co-pay. Leave with prescription or surgery date. Here's a secret.
I'm still a huge fan of medicine. There are times when all I want is to treat my symptoms, alleviate pain quickly, and obviously treat emergency situations. Traditional Medicine is king in an emergency and I'm SOOO thankful for it!
Having said that, a Chiropractic Physician is NOT an MD, and thankfully so. They do not dispense "quick" healing, although results from Chiropractic adjustment can be immediate (I've both witnessed and experienced amazing immediate results), more often the benefits are seen over time, like the gradual shifting of straightening teeth. Those results should be measurable (that 'before picture' taken in the exam should be revisited to demonstrate progress), but take time.
So next time you sit down with your Chiropractic Physician and he/she suggests a care plan for your specific spine, consider it like you would an orthodontist. Do you want straight teeth? Do you want a healthy straight spine? Remember he/she has been educated and trained for 8+ years. If you want straight teeth you see an orthodontist. I know of no-one else who can do that for you. The same holds true for Chiropractic. If you want a healthy spine, you see a Chiropractor and you listen when they propose a care plan. There are surgeons and pain specialists out there that can treat symptoms, but no-one else straightens spines.
I've also heard a concern about plaque being released during repeat adjustments. The science behind this evades me, but after discussing it with our family Dr (Daddy) I understand it like this: if there is plaque in your arteries, it got there as a result of bad food choices, not as a result of chiropractic care. To say that repeat adjustments can release it into the bloodstream is like blaming a speed bump for the dirt you put in your gas tank.
As I have seen dozens of Chiropractors in my lifetime I've really learned what I love -
I love a specific adjustment. I like knowing that a specific segment or vertebra is being adjusted, not my entire spine whether each space needs it or not.
I love a comprehensive adjustment. My favorite appointments include checking the skull joints of my head and my feet (ah the foot adjustment is bliss).
I love a good massage with my adjustment. Whether it's with a great massage therapist or whether it's just the Dr. working muscles by hand or with one of many tools, muscle work and Chiropractic work are a great team.
I love muscle testing (also known as AK or Applied Kinesiology). I guess it's why I trust Chiropractic care, because I can feel the truth being told by my body. That sounds so very corny, but it's nice to feel like you're not getting the exact same assembly-line adjustment that every other patient gets.
Those are just a few of my many thoughts on the wonderful world of Chiropractic. Done right it really is amazing.
Disclaimer: I, the wife and mother wrote this post. The Dr. will read it on my blog and laugh at the simplicity of my descriptions. For a much more scientific perspective, feel free to ask him but watch out, he is even more passionate about it than I am :)