Chiropractic is a form of diagnosing and treating illnesses that affect the nerves, muscles, bones, and joints of the body. Daniel David Palmer founded chiropractic in 1895. Palmer was a self-taught healer who was studying spinal structure and manipulative techniques when he cured a man of deafness and acute back pain by realigning a displaced vertebra in his back. This and other successes led Palmer to believe that most diseases were a result of abnormal nerve transmission caused by "vertebral subluxation" (that is, misalignment of the spine). Although most contemporary chiropractic practices have introduced other therapies, spinal manipulation remains the essence of chiropractic.
The chiropractor takes a complete health history, including information on past injuries and illnesses; current conditions and medications; lifestyle; diet; sleep habits; exercise; mental stresses; and use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. During a physical exam, the chiropractor also tests the extent of spinal mobility and may perform various diagnostic tests, such as blood pressure and x-rays, to rule out other conditions. Treatment generally begins at either the first or second visit. Patients are typically asked to lie on a specially designed table, where the chiropractor performs the spinal manipulations.
The most common maneuver is manual manipulation, which involves movement of the selected joint to the end of its range, followed by a low-force thrust. The chiropractor may, however, use other treatments including massage and soft-tissue therapies. Some people experience minor aches, stiffness, and tiredness for a few days after the manipulation while their body adjusts to the new alignment.
More than one session is usually needed to correct a problem; a typical course of treatment lasts several weeks. The chiropractor may suggest two or three sessions a week (lasting only about 10 to 20 minutes), then reduce the frequency to weekly sessions once the condition being treated improves.Individuals with bone fractures or tumors, acute arthritis, bone or joint infections, or advanced osteoporosis should avoid chiropractic therapy in areas affected by any of these conditions. Patients should also tell their chiropractor about any physical disabilities they have, or if they are experiencing symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, or other neurological problems. In extremely rare cases, manipulation of the neck has damaged blood vessels or caused strokes.