Chiropractic and Pain Relief

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What is Chiropractic?

Depending who you ask, you will get a different answer, but in a nutshell, Chiropractic is a system of healthcare that places major emphasis on the (structural and functional) relationship between your spinal column and your spinal cord and brain. Simpler still, chiropractors believe the primary system that effects your health is your nervous system as it connects your brain to every muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, joint and organ in the body.

How and Why it Works

Originally chiropractors had the simplistic notion that a bone out of place in the spine will trap spinal nerves, therefore if you take pressure off the nerve by moving the bone health is restored. Chiropractors call these ‘bones out of place’ subluxations.

Looking at the anatomy of the spine, this seems a reasonable assumption, but more modern research into neuroanatomy and neurology suggest it may be more complicated than that. For instance one of the most puzzling episodes in chiropractic history where the apparent effectiveness of the Chiropractic Asylums in treating psychological disorders. One psychologist who examined records of the Palmer Chiropractic College Asylum discovered that people who would today be labelled as schizophrenic where being completely cured without drugs in as little as two weeks!

Now, thanks to some pretty invasive brain research we can understand why. Electronic stimulators were placed in a part of the brain normally stimulated by movement (especially spinal movement) – the vermis – in 11 psychiatric patients who had illnesses of 6 to 23 years duration. After initial treatment 10 were functioning without medication or any other treatment, except the vermis stimulation. [Experiment quoted by James Chestnut in The 14 Foundational Premises, more info available at]

The chiropractic asylums used regimes of daily physical exercise, social interaction and multiple spinal adjustments – way ahead of their time!

This also explains why often people feel so good after chiropractic treatment, even if they came in feeling fine!

Why is Chiropractic Effective in Treating Pain

It seems to be this double whammy of directly moving joints, improving the mechanics of the area and the effects in the brain that make chiropractic so effective.

Any particular types of pain it is effective in helping with

The most typical types of pain are low back pain, neck pain, headaches and nerve entrapment’s. Due to its prevalence in society the most research has been done on low back pain, though a large study on headaches was conducted in the states.

Any good anecdotes of it’s effectiveness.

Any chiropractor will be able to supply you with miracle stories, here are three of mine

Mr X came to me having suffered severe whiplash injuries to his low back and neck from a car accident he had several weeks earlier and was not improving. The first treatment Mr X came in on two crutches, the second treatment 1 crutch, the third a walking stick, and by the fourth was walking normally. This impressed the elderly neighbours who had been watching his daily struggle from his car to our office ease with remarkable speed.
Ms Y came into see me a few days before her birthday having suffered with severe headaches and migraines for a number of years. Ms Y suffered some kind of pain daily, and would often have to resort to morphine based drugs. 3 treatments and 5 days later years of pain and drug use ended. Ms Y has needed a few ‘top-up’ treatments over the past 4 years, but has never had a return of such crippling or long lasting pain.

Mrs Z is less of a sudden success, but is a great example of persistence. Mrs Z, in her 50’s was on morphine patches for neck, shoulder and back pain, of 2 years duration. X-rays revealed arthritis in the neck, but not severe enough to offer an operation. The doctors and specialists were doing all they could, but the pain was worsening and ever more drugs were needed. Apart from continuously wearing morphine patches, Mrs Z was also on gabapentin, and paracetamol. Repeated chiropractic adjustments over the course of 3 months saw an end to the morphine use. Another 3 months and goodbye to gabapentin. Another 3 months and off the paracetamol and discharged by her pain specialist. Mrs Z is now more active, has more energy and is looking forward to getting older instead of dreading it!

Written by Dr Chris Pickard

Published on 14 Oct 2009


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