What is chiropractic?
The term “Chiropractic” has Greek origins which mean “done by hand.” It is a drug free, surgery free, natural and alternative approach to health, helping a range of spinal and joint related problems.
Basically, Chiropractic treatment is like getting your muscles and joints “sprayed” with Q20 (mechanical lubricant) in order for them to function optimally.
Chiropractic dates back to 1895, when the first official adjustment (joint manipulation) was given. Since then, it has become the third most used health care profession in the world after medicine and dentistry.
How does chiropractic work?
A Chiropractors main concern is your spine and nervous system and how well both are functioning. However a Chiropractor is more than capable to treat any joint in the body, from the shoulder joints down to the wrists, and from the hip joints down to the ankles and feet. Even the jaw joints!
The joints in your body have the potential to function optimally, or to cause much pain and discomfort. For many reasons (including bad posture, chronic stress, intense athletic performance, pregnancy, injury etc.) your joints, and especially your spinal joints, can become fixated (jammed or locked up). This causes pain and discomfort, as well as tight muscles. It is the chiropractors concern to locate these fixations and restore their proper functioning. This is done through adjustment, or joint manipulation, which decreases pain and discomfort.
The spine is made of 24 individual movable vertebrae, starting just below the base of your skull and ending in the centre between the hips (pelvis). They are all connected by ligaments and muscles which allow the spine to function as one dynamic unit. There is a cartilage disc between each vertebra, which helps to cushion and absorb weight bearing shock, to reduce friction between the vertebrae and to allow increased movement to occur within the spine. A pair of spinal nerves exits the spine between each vertebra. Each one of the 31 pairs of nerves comes from the spinal cord and extends outward to form a complex network which ultimately supplies and influences every organ, tissue and cell in the human body.
Displaced or jammed vertebrae can cause the spinal nerve which exits from the intervertebral opening to become irritated, either through direct pressure or indirect irritation. Therefore any problem in any one of the vertebral joints can affect the related part of the nervous system, which can lead to pain in the back or neck, headaches, sciatica and other similar biomechanical problems such as slipped discs. It is the chiropractors task to evaluate the biomechanical structure of the spine to ensure that each one of the individual vertebrae are moving freely and are not displaced or fixated in any way.
What is chiro good for? Which conditions does it treat well?
Chiropractic has been shown through scientific research to treat almost any condition that is nerve, muscle or joint related, such as the following conditions:
• Neck pain
• Headaches, migraines
• Shoulder pain
• Upper and lower back pain, sciatica
• Arm, elbow and wrist pain
• Tingling in arms and hands
• Hip, knee and ankle/foot pain
• Certain forms of arthritis
Although Chiropractors predominantly focus on the spine and it’s functioning, the biomechanics of the upper and lower limbs is also of great importance.
Who can benefit from chiro care?
Due to the fact that chiropractic is a non-invasive treatment option, virtually anyone can benefit from it.
• Babies and children who suffer from spinal problems, as they grow older and their nervous system adapts.
• Pregnant women – there is a hormone in pregnancy called relaxin, which helps the pelvis to be abnormally mobile in order for the birth canal to be as malleable as possible for the baby to exit. However, this can cause any joint in the body (especially the spine and pelvis) to partially dislocate, or get jammed up, as they are affected by the hormone. Chiropractic helps to bring relief by relocating these joints through adjustment.
• Office workers who often sit in front of the computer for extended periods of time. Computer work often results in back and neck problems because of poor posture and very little physical activity.
• Factory workers who spend much of their time performing repetitive activities.
• The elderly, who have years of wear and tear on the body which can leave them more susceptible to spinal problems.
• Athletes who are constantly striving to improve their performance and often push their bodies to the limit in order to achieve their goals. Such constant stress on the body can, in time, cause much strain and in later years many neuromusculoskeletal conditions can develop. Regular chiropractic care can help prevent the body from experiencing as many problems during training, and later in life.
Are there any risks associated with Chiropractic care?
As with everything in life and every medical intervention, chiropractic care does have its own set of risks.
However, if you read the slip of paper on the inside of most medicine boxes, especially anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, you will likely not want to continue taking those medications due to the risks involved. The risks with chiropractic care include an aggravation of any inflammatory condition, neuromusculoskeletal sprain/strain, osseous dislocation or fracture and very rarely a vertebral artery syndrome (stroke).
These potential risks should be considered when making your decision to receive chiropractic care, HOWEVER – it is important to know that, statistically, you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning (1 in 100 000 chance) than suffering from a complication of a spinal manipulation (1 in 1 000 000 chance).
Over and above, I look for any potential risks in the history taking and physical examination, and if I find something I’m uncomfortable with treating, then I will refrain from doing so and refer for further testing or perhaps to another healthcare professional.
What to expect at 1st consult
The first consultation with any doctor can be daunting. What are they like? Will they be interested in my health, or will they handle me as part of their conveyer belt full of patients for that day. Will they make my appointment the most important thing to them at that moment?
At Back-2-Life, careful attention is given to each patient, and Dr de Beer believes in giving the best value to you, the patient. They say time is money, but time is also value. Therefore the first consultation is 60 minutes long. All the elements that make up the appointment can therefore be realised to their full potential, and it give you the best value for your money.
How many treatments will I need?
This is case dependant. Every individual responds differently to chiropractic treatment, depending on the condition that they present with, and their level of activity. Some patients are miracle cases, where years of pain is relieved in one treatment. However most take longer.
An average amount of treatment in general is between 2-4 consultations before bearable, permanent, or near 100% improvement is noted. Certain conditions such as slipped disc or chronic sports injuries will take longer on average, perhaps 4-8 treatments. These are general anecdotal guidelines. I never prescribe an exact amount of treatments for a patient, but I do get a feel for how many treatments they may need, depending on their diagnosis and overall health.
We stay in contact and work together to time the treatments. After the patient is completely better, it is generally advisable for patients to then continue receiving treatment every few months, much in the same way you would need to see the dentist every few months for a check-up. This helps your body to stay in check, and for your joints to stay aligned and not become fixated (think of it as a service to make sure your wheel alignment is good, which will cause the minimal amount of wear and tear).
In the case of the elderly where there is arthritis and years and years of tension, and after the pain has been brought under control, most need continuous treatment every 4-8 weeks. In the case of babies, 1-2 treatments is usually sufficient, and young children need less treatment, perhaps every 4-6 months. Adolescents start to get quite active in terms of sport, therefore they will need treatment every 3-4 months.
What do the needles do?
The needles are the same ones developed for acupuncture, however I don’t use them to administer acupuncture, but rather I use them for dry needling (see the difference below). When a needle is inserted into the skin and muscle, the body recognises it as a foreign object and attacks it with a circulatory response (localised flushing of oxygenated blood) and also an acute inflammatory response (this is the bodies’ natural defence mechanism).
This allows for any local metabolic waste or stress hormones, which are causing the muscles to be irritated (and therefore tight), to be flushed out of the area. This gets taken up by the circulatory and lymphatic system and is filtered and disposed of in your urine. Ultimately your muscles are cleaned up and can then relax and ease off.
What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?
Acupuncture is a Chinese art which focuses on treatment of specific ailments through needling the skin on certain points found on meridian lines particular to organ systems. Dry needling is more mechanical, where your muscles are targeted by the insertion of the needles in order for them to benefit from the flushing out effect as explained above.
Why does it sometimes hurt after treatment before I feel better?
There are various reasons for this as every individual is unique, and as with anything in life one person may respond differently to similar conditions.
Firstly, it could be because you’ve never received chiropractic care, and your body is not used to it. This is quite normal, and although some respond with immediate relief at their first ever chiropractic consultation, it is likely due to the change that the body is experiencing after adjustment. It’s like a workout for your body, without you having done gym work.
Secondly, the soft tissue work that I do (your choice of deep tissue massage, dry needling or both) works in such a way that it causes the body to respond and start the healing process. This usually is mildly uncomfortable, but settles in a matter of a few hours to 1-2 days (especially if using ice and heat after treatment over the area).
Thirdly, it is possible for your nervous system to undergo “neural detox” after treatment. After your body is adjusted your joints and muscles are working in a way it may not have worked in a long time, and this applies to the nervous system too.
What does the ice and heat do?
When you apply ice over the painful area, it causes your blood vessels to constrict and pump blood away from the cold. When you take the cold stimulus away, the area heats up and the blood vessels return to normal and then new blood returns to the area. It is this circulatory response which flushes the area. In addition, the cold has an anaesthetic effect too.
Heat has the opposite effect on the blood vessels: when you apply heat over an area, it causes your blood vessels to relax (dilate) and allows for an increase in circulation locally. When you take the hot stimulus away, the vessels return to normal. In addition, the heat has a relaxing effect on the muscles.
In fact, ice and heat can be used together as contrast therapy as it has a maximum pumping effect and stimulates a great amount of circulation locally. This is great to help fight inflammation and pain, especially for chronic conditions. Acute conditions should only be addressed with cold therapy.
How does stretching help?
Stretching helps to keep muscles flexible. Tight muscles can pull on the skeletal framework and pull joints out of line. If the muscles are relaxed, it takes stress of the joints.
What causes neuromusculoskeletal conditions (fixated joints)?
An everyday action, such as a fall or an accident, lifting heavy objects, poor posture, high athletic performance, repetitive strain or even chronic high stress levels can cause any of the movable vertebrae to lose it’s normal motion. This causes the joint/s to become fixed or jammed, which can lead to further irritation of the joint/s and the nerve/s close by.
Irritation of the joint may result in spasm of the surrounding muscle, which can lead to a trigger point developing within the muscle. Irritation of the nerve can lead to pain in the vicinity of the joint or it may cause referral of pain elsewhere in the body, or even an increase or decrease in the nerve sensitivity.
What does the research say?
Over the past few years, much research has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of chiropractic manipulative treatment.
Research has shown that 80-90% of people will suffer from lower back pain at least once in their lifetime and that it is the second leading reason why people will visit a healthcare professional. In fact, lower back pain is second only to the common cold.
Furthermore, lower back pain is the most common reason for visits to orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and occupational medical practitioners and the third most common reason for surgery. It’s no wonder that the chiropractic profession is the third most used healthcare profession.
Are chiropractors opposed to medical treatment?
Certainly not. I for one, do not feel I am going to be able to help every single person with medical problems. I will be able to refer if I feel I cannot help you, but if I feel I can help then I will give it my all to get you back to living.
Over and above that, chiropractors recognise that there are many things that can go wrong with the body and frequently medication or surgery are the only appropriate option.
What causes the sound of an adjustment?
When some adjusting techniques are applied, a popping/cracking sound may be heard. This is not the bones that are breaking, it is due to the gas and fluid inside the joint shifting around. It’s much like opening a can of Coke.
However, the sound has nothing to do with the quality of the adjustment/manipulation. I test for lack of movement before an adjustment, and I test for improved movement after, regardless of whether or not there has been a popping sound.