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What is Chiropractic and what does a Chiropractor do?

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Chiropractic is a great health care profession with lots of stigma, misinformation, and controversy surrounding it! I hope to explain and present a clearer picture for you about what Chiropractic is and what a Chiropractor, a practitioner of Chiropractic does.


Chiropractic got its roots in Davenport, Iowa 1895, when a healer named Daniel David Palmer stumbled onto an amazing discovery. D.D. Palmer, as he is commonly referred to, was working with a patient named Harvey Lillard who had been deaf for 17 years. D.D Palmer had Harvey Lillard lay on a table with his back facing up so that he could examine him. D.D. Palmer made an observation that one of the bones, a thoracic vertebrae, was much more prominent relative to the other vertebra, so much so that it was “out of place.” D.D Palmer instinctively pushed on that vertebrae and in his words “wracked it back into position” and made what we call today an Adjustment. What happen next gave birth to a new health care profession, Chiropractic, as Harvey Lillard came up from the table, he commented on hearing a horse drawn cart down the street! This was the first time Harvey Lillard had heard anything clearly in 17 years, pretty amazing stuff!


D.D. Palmer recognizing what had just happened, the connection between one’s spine and health, began to dig deeper and founded the profession of Chiropractic (Latin for “done by hand.”) D.D Palmer and later his son B.J. Palmer continued to evolve and develop the understanding of this connection between one’s spine and their health. They recognized very early that the misalignments in the spinal column, commonly referred to as vertebral subluxation by Chiropractors, can influence the nerves located at the vertebral level and adversely affect your health. At that time, Chiropractic was an emerging health field, unfortunately, the American Medical Association (AMA) did not approve. They systematically and deliberately tried to destroy and discredit Chiropractic and Chiropractors by locking up Chiropractors in jail in the early 1900’s to 1950’s, and instructing Medical Doctors not to refer or associate with them. This was a massive smear campaign that can unfortunately still be felt today by the attitudes of people who have never been to a Chiropractor, yet refer to them as a quacks. Fortunately, the practice of the AMA came to a halt in a historic verdict against the American Medical Association by 10 Chiropractors when On September 25, 1987, Judge Getzendanner issued her opinion that the AMA had violated Section 1, of the Sherman Act, and that it had engaged in an unlawful conspiracy “to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.” (Wilk v. American Medical Ass’n, 671 F. Supp. 1465, N.D. Ill. 1987). She further stated that the “AMA had entered into a long history of illegal behavior.” She then issued a permanent injunction against the AMA under Section 16 of the Clayton Act to prevent such future behavior. You can read more about it here.

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Today, Chiropractic has grown to be the largest healthcare profession outside traditional medicine! It is becoming more mainstream everyday with athletes wanting a more hands on approach, people looking for medical options outside medication or invasive procedures, and  health conscious people dissatisfied with today’s current health care system.  Chiropractors attend a 3-4 year postgraduate program, rigorous in the health sciences such as anatomy, biology, physiology, biochemistry, and many more just to name a few and then spend the last year or two learning patient care, management, and the art and science of Chiropractic. They must then pass a series of national boards examinations to earn a Doctorate of Chiropractic degree.


Chiropractic is widely accepted in today’s current health care system as a leader in treating musculoskeletal disorders of the body with a focus on the spine. Chiropractors treat issues arising from nerve entrapments, sprain/strained muscles, joint stiffness and pain, headaches, faulty biomechanics, and much more. Chiropractors, are being utilized more and more as the first line of defense for issues surrounding the musculoskeletal system. Some Chiropractors have a more focused practice around Nutrition, Pediatrics, Neurology, and other specialties to better serve their patients needs. In fact, Sidney Crosby, regarded as one of the best players in the NHL and Captain of the 2014 Canadian Olympic Ice Hockey Team at the Sochi Olympics, sustained a concussion as a result of hits to the head in back-to-back games. The injury left him sidelined for ten and a half months. However, after playing eight games in the 2011–12 season, Crosby’s concussion-like symptoms returned in December 2011, and he did not return until mid-March 2012 after extended treatment by neurologists at UPMC and Chiropractic Neurologist Ted Carrick, whom Crosby credits with helping him return to hockey. You can watch a press conference about it here. 

What to expect when being seen and treated by a Chiropractic Physician? If you have never been to a Chiropractor, this may not be what you have been used to in the past when visiting your primary doctor. A Doctor of Chiropractic will usually first engage with you about your primary concerns, typically many people see a chiropractor for back and neck pain, but Chiropractors can treat the entire body. After conversing with you, an examination usually follows that involves range of motion observations, gently palpating the affected and surrounding areas, and a few specialized orthopedic test to elicit signs and symptoms that revolve around your condition. In this exam, it is common to raise one’s legs when evaluating back pain for signs of nerve tension, disc pathology, joint pain, and or muscle aches. There are countless other orthopedic test that may be used to better help understand your condition and determine what the primary issue is. At times, x-rays may be needed to evaluate the spine or joints in further detail. Usually after an examination the Chiropractor will discuss with you the nature of your condition and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.


Treatments can vary from office to office and the type of condition you may be experiencing. There’s a host of therapies that can be used, to name a few: spinal adjustments, decompression therapy, cold/hot packs, cold laser therapy, diathermy, therapeutic ultrasound, electric muscle stimulation, intersegmental traction, massage therapy, myofascial work, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, and stretching and strengthening exercises. Your Chiropractor will recommend a treatment that is  appropriate for you and your condition. Typically a visit after the initial exam will be 20-40 minutes depending on the severity of your condition, and may include an adjustment and 1 or 2 additional therapies.  Many people find these visits very beneficial, enjoyable, and like the way they feel after being adjusted, usually reporting that they “feel lighter!” With a series of treatments, usually lasting 2-3 weeks, most conditions can be resolved. Chiropractic has been a great success story for many individuals when they had no where else to turn to and will continue to be so in the future!


I hope you found this article informative, entertaining, and that I was able to clear up any of the confusion surrounding Chiropractic. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask, you can leave comments down below or contact our office.  Also if you or anyone you know is experiencing musculoskeletal complaints, injuries, accidents, or are just looking for a new Chiropractor, please call our office for complimentary consultation!

 -Dr. Colt Andrea D.C.

National Board Certified Chiropractor located in Jacksonville Fl.