When I tell someone I am a chiropractor, it’s often interesting to see the person’s reaction to the news. Sometimes it’s elation (“Great! I need a chiropractor!”), sometimes it’s wide-eyed apprehension (“Chiropractors scare me”) and sometimes it’s just plain confusion (“So, that’s like a physiotherapist, right?”).
While chiropractic care has existed since 1895, many people are unaware of the training required and the scope of care.
In Canada, the chiropractic degree is a rigorous four-year postgraduate or five-year post-CEGEP program.
Chiropractors play a unique role in health care. We are primary care providers who assess and diagnose malfunction in the neuromusculoskeletal system, and treat these conditions using manual techniques. In simpler terms, we assess how the nerves (neuro), muscles (musculo), bones (skeletal) and joints are functioning in the body. We then address any problems using manual therapies, hence the name “chiropractic” from the Greek words cheir meaning ‘hand’ and praktos meaning ‘done,’ that is, done by hand.
Most people associate chiropractors with treatment for back pain, and in fact spinal complaints do account for a significant portion of the care we provide. But chiropractors can address many other conditions, from pregnancy mechanics to mobility issues and sports injuries. Here are few cases I have seen that demonstrate how we can diagnose and treat conditions that people might not realize can be addressed by chiropractic care.
Case 1: A few months ago, I treated a young woman who could not open her jaw more than half of the normal range. Chewing was difficult and opening wide was painful, so her dentist recommended she see a chiropractor. Assessment of the jaw joint, known as the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, found the joint to be mechanically restricted. With a manual jaw adjustment and intraoral muscle release (yes, we do this and yes, we have gloves on), her jaw released and she regained the entire range of motion, pain free. She was very excited to be able to eat normally again!
Case 2: A few years ago a friend of mine, a medical doctor, asked me to look at his three-month-old daughter who was presenting with torticollis, abnormal contractions of the neck muscles that cause restricted range of motion. In her case, the inability to turn her head to the right side was also affecting her nursing. I treated her using gentle infant adjustments and light, targeted mobilizations. The next day I received a message from the father saying, “Wow! My daughter’s neck mobility is so much better and her nursing has improved!” Pediatric care is an important aspect of chiropractic care and an area that I personally find very satisfying.
Case 3: Sometimes it’s important to think outside the chiropractic box. Years ago, an 11-year-old girl presented with headaches occurring several times a week. I conducted a full orthopedic exam, which yielded no mechanical or neurological issues. After reflecting that the headaches presented predominantly at the end of the school day and were located at the back of the head, in the occipital lobe, I asked the child’s mother, “When was the last time your daughter had her eyes checked?” It had been a while, so I asked that the child have an eye exam before proceeding with any care. A few weeks later, I heard back that she was now wearing glasses and that the headaches had, indeed, disappeared. It was a case of undiagnosed myopia (nearsightedness) and it needed a solution that was outside of my scope to treat, but certainly within my scope to recognize and refer.
Chiropractic care can be beneficial for everyone, from babies to older adults (my oldest patient is 93 years old), from weekend warriors to elite athletes, and from individuals with chronic pain to those just striving to maintain optimum health. Today, chiropractic care is part of many interdisciplinary clinics, where medical doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and other health care providers all work together in collaborative patient care. This is the model of the future and I am so excited for chiropractic care to be a part of it.
Dr. Stacy Goldstein is a chiropractor at the Hampton Wellness Centre located at 1419 Carling Avenue (www.hamptonwellnesscentre.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions you have about chiropractic care.