The word "chiropractic" is a compilation of two Greek
words which are interpreted to mean "efficient hands".
In 1898 David Daniel Palmer, the originator of chiropractic, set
up the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Today,
there are fifteen accredited institutions and programs in the US
offering the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree.
Following is an explanation of the nature, practice, and basic theories
of chiropractic as defined by the Council of Chiropractic Education,
and the Massachusetts Chiropractic Society.
Nature and Practice
Chiropractic is a system of treatment based on the principle that
a person's health is determined largely by the nervous system and
that interference with this system impairs normal functions and
lowers resistance to disease. Chiropractors treat patients primarily
by manual manipulation (adjustments) of parts of the body, especially
the spinal column.
Because of the emphasis on the spine and its position, most chiropractors
use X-rays to aid in locating the source of patients' difficulties.
In addition, most chiropractors use supplementary measures such
as water, light, ultrasound, electric and heat therapy, and prescribe
diet, supports, exercise, and rest. State laws specify the types
of supplementary treatment permitted. Chiropractors do not use prescription
drugs, nor do they perform surgery.
Simply stated the science of chiropractic is based on the following
There are two hundred and nine bones and numerous adjacent structures,
such as muscle, tendon and ligamentous tissue, within the human
body, most of which are capable of movement, particularly where
two bones come together to form a joint, and each bone has a particular
position and its own predetermined range of motion.
Many of these moving parts, like the moving parts of a finely tuned
machine, may become subluxated or misaligned and deviate from their
Such misalignments are apt to occur as the result of external trauma,
a sudden and forceful movement of the body such as a quick turning
of the head, a whiplash injury, heavy sneezing, or the lifting,
pushing or pulling of a heavy object. These deviations, which are
usually referred to as a "subluxation complex", can cause
contact, irritation, pressure or tension on surrounding nerves.
Pressure or pinching on a nerve may cause abnormal function, such
as limitation of movement and pain, to the locally affected area;
however, the pain is also likely to radiate along the involved or
nerves and cause distress and functional instability to other parts
of the body.
A subluxation usually can be corrected by means of adjustment or
realignment whereby the disjointed member is restored to its proper
position, thereby alleviating or eliminating the pressure or irritation
to the nerve that is the source of discomfort. It is also a basic
tenet of chiropractic that the elimination of nerve interference
and the restoration of the body to its normal and natural function
in a significant number of cases enables the inherent recuperative
powers of the body to operate without interference or impediment
and restore the afflicted area to good health.
Of all the moving parts of the human body, among the most delicate
and the most likely to fall into displacement are the numerous joints
of the spinal column, and it is for this reason that the chiropractor
is usually thought of specifically in terms of conditions of the
spine and is not always considered when an abnormality is experienced
in other parts of the body. However, the spinal column with its
infinite network of branching nerves can serve as a vehicle by which
pain is radiated to various parts of the body. Consequently, there
are situations in which a pain in the arm, neck, hand, foot, leg
or elsewhere may be properly and successfully treated by a chiropractor.
It is the function of a chiropractor, after taking the patient's
case history, to diagnose by way of physical examination, X-ray
and palpation or probing by hand, a possible subluxation or a misalignment
as a cause of nerve interference, and to eliminate that condition
by corrective manipulative adjustment. Since the nerve system is
the very essence of chiropractic healing, a brief description of
its three major components is necessary.
First, the brain acts as the central computer where information
from all parts of the body is processed, stored and acted upon.
Second, the spinal cord, an extension of the brain, acts as a facilitator
in the transmission of information between the brain and various
parts of the body; Finally, the peripheral nerve system connects
the spinal cord directly or indirectly with virtually all the tissues
of the body. The spine is composed of twenty-four movable vertebrae,
which house and protect the spinal cord, but because they are movable,
they can interfere with the spinal cord and nerve roots they were
created to protect.
There are many things that can interfere with the nerve system,
such as drugs, physical trauma, poisons, or toxic environments.
However, the chiropractor is concerned with the misalignment of
the vertebrae known as the Vertebral Subluxation.
The Vertebral Subluxation is a condition where a vertebra has lost
its normal juxtaposition with the one above or the one below or
both, to the extent that it impinges nerves and interferes with
the normal flow of nerve impulses from brain to tissue cells. The
Vertebral Subluxation usually distorts the normal curves and motion
of the spine, and causes interference to the nerve system.
Vertebral Subluxations are usually corrected by means of a Spinal
Adjustment. The Spinal Adjustment is a specific concussion of forces
given by the chiropractor along the spinous or transverse processes
of the vertebra into that vertebra's normal facet angle. The restoration
of that vertebra to its proper position will alleviate or eliminate
the pressure or irritation to the nerve and restore normal function
to the spinal motor unit.
Chiropractic and Scoliosis
Charles A. Lantz, D.C., Ph.D. is Director of Research at the Life
Chiropractic College West in San Lorenzo, California. Dr. Lantz
and his colleagues are currently conducting a scoliosis research
project to explore the effectiveness of chiropractic in the management
of children ages 9-15 with mild to moderate scoliosis (less than
25" curve). This is the first clinical trial ever to look at
the effect of chiropractic on scoliosis.
NSF first met Dr. Lantz. and his associate Jasper Chen, D.C. in
conjunction with the 1994 Northern California Spine Conference.
This was the beginning of a series of dialogs regarding the need
for scientifically valid information about chiropractic treatment
of scoliosis and the value of working together with the Scoliosis
Research Society to enhance the credibility and acceptance of the
design and outcomes of such a study. We applaud Dr. Lantz in his
efforts to spear- head a major randomized controlled trial with
a collaborative team which includes S.R.S. members, Dr. William
Bunnell, Loma Linda University; Dr. Ronald Blackman, Kaiser Hospital,
Oakland; Dr. Peter Slabaugh, Children's Hospital, Oakland; and Dr.
Serena Hu, U.C. San Francisco.
"Virtually no formal research exists documenting chiropractic's
effectiveness in managing scoliosis. We are excited about the potential
benefits of this study and we believe the scoliosis community is
well served by a collaborative effort such as this. This is perhaps
best expressed in their project grant application, "Given that
chiropractic has long claimed success in treating patients with
mild scoliosis, it seems reasonable and timely to validate the extent
to which that claim is valid."
In his in-depth article titled Conservative Management of Scoliosis
which was published in the October 1994 issue of Chiropractic: The
Journal of Chiropractic: Research and Clinical Investigation, Volume
9, Number 4, Dr. Lantz underscores the need for large randomized
clinical trials for both adolescents and adults with scoliosis:
"Chiropractic management of scoliosis has classically consisted
of spinal adjustments or manipulation sometimes augmented with exercise
and postural counseling, as well as heel lifts. Electrical stimulation
has recently come into the chiropractic armamentarium as well. Virtually
no formal research exists documenting chiropractic's effectiveness
in managing scoliosis, although anecdotal reports abound. Several
well-conducted case studies suggest that chiropractic is, indeed,
effective in managing scoliotic curves, but the definitive studies
are lacking. It is widely stated that chiropractic care is effective
in alleviating the pain and discomfort associated with adult scoliosis,
however, no studies to date have adequately documented this effect."
Dr. Lantz concludes his article by pointing out the need for immediate
attention by the Chiropractic community to questions such as, "Should
adults with scoliosis be treated in the same way as adolescents
or juveniles with scoliosis? What are the indications for care,
and what types of care are most suited to which types of scoliosis
for which age groups?"
Scoliosis often seems to be a condition which has more questions
than answers. This appears to apply to the issue of chiropractic
management of scoliosis as well. We are grateful for Dr. Lantz and
others like him who are dedicated to asking the questions and committed
to finding the answers.
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