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Chiropractic is a system of therapy focused on the structure of the body, particularly the spine. Chiropractors manipulate the body’s alignment to relieve pain and improve function and to help the body heal itself.
While the mainstay of chiropractic is spinal manipulation, chiropractic care may also include other treatments, including manual or manipulative therapies, postural and exercise education, and ergonomic training (how to walk, sit, and stand to limit back strain). Chiropractors today often work in conjunction with primary care doctors, pain experts, and surgeons to treat patients with pain.
The most positive research on chiropractic therapy has focused on spinal manipulation for low back pain. As one of the alternatives to pain-relieving drugs, the American College of Physicians low back pain guideline recommends spinal manipulation along with heat, massage, and acupuncture.
Chiropractic treatment may also help people with other musculoskeletal-related pains.
There have been reports of serious complications, including stroke, following spinal manipulation of the neck, although this is very rare.
“Spinal manipulation” is a generic term used for any kind of therapeutic movement of the spine. Most often it involves the application of quick but strong pressure on a joint between two vertebrae of the spine.
In addition to spinal manipulation, a chiropractor may advise you about changing your biomechanics and posture and suggest other treatments and techniques. The ultimate goal of chiropractic is to help relieve pain and help patients better manage their condition at home.
Image: RainerPlendl/Getty Images
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