More than ten years ago by mother was fortunately able to overcome cancer, thanks, in part, to her adherence to significant lifestyle changes that included vegetable juicing, probiotic foods, immune-boosting supplements, stress reducing techniques, and prayer. But that was actually her second bout with the disease. My mother took a more traditional approach to her treatment after receiving her first diagnosis, and she also experienced a range of side effects, including severe constipation.
After witnessing her struggles my mother’s struggles, I decided to pursue a career that would enable me to help people live healthier, more fulfilling lives. It was for that reason that I decided to become a chiropractor, as well as a doctor of functional medicine and clinical nutritionist. And because of my education and everything I had learned about nutrition and using food as medicine, I was able to walk my mother through many of the changes that helped to restore her health.
What do chiropractors actually do?
While chiropractors are typically known as doctors who heal back pain, I can attest—from personal experience—that chiropractors do that and so much more, addressing not only physical symptoms, but also the underlying issues contributing to any pain, illness or disease.
Overall, doctors of chiropractic take a more holistic approach to healthcare than traditional medical doctors, and they utilize many different techniques to prevent disease and treat the “whole person”—rather than just addressing a client’s most obvious symptoms. This “integrative wellness” approach can include: manual chiropractic adjustments to the spine, use of heat and ice, administration of stress relieving techniques (including breath control/deep breathing), electrical stimulation, stretches and exercises, supplement recommendations, and nutritional counseling.
Though this may seem like a very “new age” way of healing and treatment, chiropractic care has actually been in existence for more than 100 years. Today, chiropractic is by far one of the most commonly used alternative/complimentary therapies in many industrialized nations, especially in the United States. And since the 1970’s the number of licensed chiropractors has steadily grown, with many insurance plans now reimbursing patients for chiropractic care. There are currently more than 77,000 licensed Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) practicing in the U.S. alone, and many thousands more treating patients all around the world.
So if you’re looking for another way to manage pain, think of chiropractic as an all-natural alternative to medications or surgery. But because of their years spent in formal study of anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and holistic health, you should also know that chiropractors offer many benefits beyond treating back pain acute injuries, or conditions such as scoliosis. Below are some of the lesser-known benefits of chiropractic care and my favorite reasons you should visit a chiropractor even if your back doesn’t hurt:
1. Decreased stress
A combination of factors seem to be responsible for chiropractic’s stress-relief benefits, which include increased relaxation, decreased muscle tension, improved circulation, and the realignment of the vertebrae and joints that help maintain good posture and alignment. In fact, chiropractic can be viewed as a “mind-body therapy” and has been shown to help treat symptoms tied to stress, such as sleep disorders (including insomnia), muscular aches, headaches and fatigue. Chiropractors believe that by adjusting the spine they help to reduce physical stress in the body and improve functions of the central nervous system.
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2. Improved digestion
One of the core objectives of chiropractic care is restoring the “gut brain connection”, or the nervous system’s communication with the organs, glands and tissues of the digestive system. Common digestive problems including IBS, constipation and food intolerances—are often tied to factors such as increased inflammation, high stress levels, a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture. In counteracting these conditions, certain studies support the use of chiropractic treatments to help manage disorders of the gastro-intestinal tract through use of spinal manipulation therapy, mobilizations, soft tissue therapy, relaxation exercises and stretches.
3. Fewer migraines and headaches
Studies suggest that chiropractic adjustments can be very helpful for managing migraines or headaches caused by cervicogenic (neck-related) injuries, neck pain, stress or poor sleep, as well as whiplash-associated disorders caused from trauma and injuries. Some of the ways that chiropractors help treat reoccurring headaches include spinal manipulation and massage for chronic migraines, low-load craniocervical mobilization for chronic tension-type headaches, and joint mobilization or deep neck flexor exercises for all types of headaches.
4. Reduced joint pain
Even though chiropractic care is most often associated with relieving back pain, and much of that relief is a result of spinal adjustments, those adjustments can also help with joint and muscular pain, including discomfort caused by a stiff neck, osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, running injuries, fibromyalgia, and sciatic nerve pain. Manipulation of extremity joints is a common approach to treating a variety of acute or short-term musculoskeletal conditions, and studies have also found that chiropractic care can be especially effective for relieving pain in the shoulders, hips, lower legs and knees due to conditions like overuse or osteoarthritis.
These benefits only begin to scratch the surface of chiropractic benefits, but please note that if you plan to make any significant lifestyle changes at the same time that you begin chiropractic treatments, then getting your primary care physician’s opinion beforehand is always a good idea.
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