Chiropractic, Past and Present
What Is Chiropractic?
That is a question that many people ask, especially as they consider alternatives to the medical practices of drugs and surgery. Yet, depending upon whom they ask, they will get many different answers. In the past if you asked a medical doctor about chiropractic, the response may not have been quite positive. Today, however, many medical doctors not only refer their patients for chiropractic, they also choose this safe and natural care for themselves and their families as well. This is true because chiropractic education and research has come a long way. We spend as much time as a medical doctor getting our degree. We also are well versed in the sciences including anatomy, physiology, nutrition and other studies that are relevant to the advancement of a proactive wellness model of healthcare.
Studies have shown that in many cases chiropractic is beneficial and typically more effective than drugs or surgery. Studies have also shown that chiropractic is one of the safest healthcare treatments available. If you ask a chiropractor how to define it, we might get pretty technical and say something like, "The discipline of detecting and reducing vertebral subluxation" or "A science, art and philosophy which utilizes the inherent recuperative abilities of the body and deals with the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system and the role of the relationship in the restoration and maintenance of health.
Yes, these are true statements, but what do they mean to the average patient? What does this mean to you? Later in this chapter, you will learn about subluxations and the musculoskeletal system, but suffice it to say, at this point, that chiropractic is helping your brain and spine talk to one another without any interruptions. If you were to ask a patient of chiropractic the questions, you might hear something like, "Chiropractic has brought me back to a life without pain and with freedom of movement that I haven’t experienced in a number of years" or "I have noticed incredible changes in my body, mind and spirit since starting chiropractic." What wonderful testimonials! And these are but a few of the things you might hear from someone that has tried chiropractic care. However, despite the glowing recommendations, it still leaves you wondering, "What exactly is chiropractic?"
Here is chiropractic in a nutshell.
- Your body is a self-regulating, self-maintaining and self-restoring organism.
Your brain and spinal cord, "the central nervous system," controls, communicates to and coordinates every organ, tissue and cell of your body.
Anything that interferes with this communication such as vertebral subluxation causes dysfunction leading to disease and then symptoms.
Anything that removes this interference, such as a chiropractic adjustment, restores proper communication and allows the body to function efficiently and heal itself.
So, a chiropractor is a doctor that can locate the vertebral subluxations and remove them through the use of specific adjustment techniques.
Words Defined: Vertebral Subluxation
An interference of the nervous system due to a misalignment and/or abnormal motion of spinal vertebra which causes improper communication with associated organs, muscles and tissues of the body.
Chiropractic is a science, art and philosophy. A diagnosis is made through testing and observation and then treatment is performed based on experience and training. This is the same process that a medical doctor uses. The difference is that a medical doctor treats with drugs and surgery in order to deal with the symptoms of pain and illness. Chiropractic, on the other hand, works on the root cause by making adjustments to correct the subluxations.
And what about the art and philosophy? Chiropractic is the art of restoring the body to its natural state utilizing many different techniques and styles. Healing injury or pain is simply a wonderful side effect. The chiropractic philosophy is the understanding that the body wants to function correctly and be as healthy as possible and that our bodies know how to do this and will do this as long as there is no interference. Subluxations, pressure or irritation of the nerves, is interference. Research shows that pressure on the spinal nerves causes the body to break down. Removing that pressure causes the body to begin to heal. Chiropractic’s goal is to remove that pressure.
Through the Years
Chiropractic as a profession started in Davenport, Iowa in September of 1895 by a man named DD Palmer. DD Palmer had been taught a new way of healing called magnetic healing and opened an office. Shortly after opening his practice, he met the janitor that worked in his building and found out that he was nearly deaf. The janitor, Harvey Lillard, explained that he had lost his hearing one day when he had bent over for a long period of time and then straightened up. When he straightened, he heard a pop in his upper back and hadn’t been able to hear since. Dr. Palmer examined his back and noticed that there was a bump on the spine that appeared to be an out of placevertebrae. Harvey explained that he began to notice that bump about the time he lost his hearing. DD Palmer put two and two together and believed that the two incidences were related. He convinced Harvey to allow him to push the bone back in place. Once in place, Harvey could hear again.
From then on, DD Palmer no longer practiced magnetic healing, but began to help replace bones in the spine that were out of alignment. This was the birth of chiropractic. He was also the one to develop the philosophy of chiropractic that the body is meant to heal itself. Within two years Dr. Palmer opened the first school of chiropractic. DD Palmer once said, "I am not the first person to replace subluxated vertebrae, but I do claim to be the first person to replace displaced vertebrae by using the spinous and transverse processes as levers...and to develop the philosophy and science of chiropractic adjustments."
What Dr. Palmer meant was that he was not the first one to understand the relationship between health and the spine. Hippocrates, the man known for the oath that medical doctors take, advised, "Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases."
I came to see Dr. Rardin after serving in the Desert Storm War. As a US Marine I was a radar tech. It involved being next to a lot of equipment that was extremely loud. The job was constant – 24 hours a day involving sleeping next to the intensely loud noise. When I returned home I hadgreatly diminished hearing in my left ear. After a series of adjustments my hearing was fully restored and at an equal level with my right side. The time in the Gulf dealing with the noise was seven total months. Dr. Rardin was able to reverse this problem within my first month of treatment. I continue to see him to keep my body functioning at 100%. Thanks, Doc!
- Steve S.
Herodotus, who lived during the same period of time as Hippocrates, became famous for curing diseases by correcting spinal abnormalities. He did so through exercises and manipulation. Aristotle was not impressed. In fact, he would fit right in with many medical doctors of today. "He [Herodotus] made old men young and thus prolonged their lives too greatly." But until Dr. Palmer, the treatment of the spine was not well understood. As word spread about the healing of Harvey’s deafness, patients began to come to Dr. Palmer for a variety of illnesses. DD Palmer found that spinal adjustments helped such things as:
- Migraine headaches
- Stomach complaints
- Heart trouble
He began to understand that fixing the spinal misalignments, subluxations, got rid of nerve interference. Once the interference was gone, the patients’ complaints were resolved. Although the success was phenomenal, chiropractic was not accepted. The news media called Dr. Palmer a charlatan. The medical community criticized his methods and accused him of practicing without a license. He was even put into jail once for practicing chiropractic.
Dr. Palmer was not alone, however, in his enthusiasm about chiropractic. His son, Bartlett Joshua (BJ), continued his father’s work. He took what his father had done and helped to define it and explain it as a health care system. He also was influential in getting chiropractic recognized as a licensed profession. Today there are over 60,000 licensed Doctors of Chiropractic in the United States and thousands more throughout the rest of the world. Millions of people each year seek chiropractic care and benefit from the treatments. In fact, chiropractic is one of the largest non- medical forms of health care today. Even though chiropractic has advanced tremendously in the last century, the philosophy is still the same. The body can heal itself without drugs and surgery if the subluxations are removed.
The Brain–Spine–Nerve Connection
In order to truly understand what chiropractic does, it will help if you understand how the nervous system works.
It all starts with the brain. It will help if you think of the brain as a computer that controls the body. The nervous system is the network that sends the messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Now, here is where the spine fits in. The nervous system sends these messages via the spinal cord. The spinal cord is not your actual backbone (vertebra), but the cord that runs within the bones in your back. It contains threadlike nerves that branch out to every organ and body part. When a message comes in to the brain, the brain then tells the body how to react. For instance, if you touch a hot stove with your hand, the pain message is sent to your brain, where the signal to quickly pull away is sent through the spine and out to the hand. All of this is done very quickly.
Although you can take several courses to understand the nervous system completely, all you really need to know is that every cell, tissue and organ of your body is controlled by your nervous system through communication. When this communication is working correctly, you are healthy. When it is interfered with, this causes dysfunction leading to disease. Since these nerves are so close to many structures and can be easily irritated by light pressure, they are extremely vulnerable. That is why you need a chiropractor!
We’ve talked some about subluxations. And from the information about the nervous system, you have seen that a subluxation causes a breakdown in the body. To enjoy wellness, your nervous system must be functioning at its optimal level. To do so, it must be free of subluxations. Therefore, the goal of chiropractic is to remove subluxations so that the body can return to its highest level of health. Only chiropractic care can achieve this level of wellness, because only chiropractors are trained to detect, locate and correct subluxations. So, how and why do subluxations occur? There are many different reasons, but they all fall into three main categories.
Physical: These subluxations are due to trauma or repetitive movements. For instance, a fall, bad posture, typing or lifting something incorrectly can cause a physical subluxation.
Emotional: These subluxations are due to emotional stress. When you are feeling grief, anger or fear, your muscles contract in ways that are not normal. If you are under repeated stress, these muscle contractions can cause unusual posture and lead to subluxations.
Chemical: Chemicals that are harmful to the body cause the nervous system to become overwhelmed. This causes nerve function to be imbalanced. When the nerve is a motor nerve, a nerve controlling a muscle, the muscles will contract harder on one side than on the other. This will cause a subluxation. Chemical causes include certain foods, alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, and pollution.
Most people have subluxations and don’t know it because they occur before the pain or any warning signs. In many ways, subluxations are a silent killer – they begin to deteriorate your body without giving you any symptoms. Therefore, how you feel is a poor indicator of how healthy you actually are. For example, do we know what undetected cancer or heart disease feel like? Of course not, they are undetected, but the body is in a state of disease where outward symptoms have just not developed yet.
The only way to identify subluxations is through a chiropractic exam. Such an exam will show the locations of any subluxations as well as let you know how severe the subluxations are. So, even if you aren’t experiencing pain, having a check-up on a regular basis will help you remove subluxations. Although you may not have any symptoms at first, eventually subluxations will cause problems that you can see and feel. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain, tenderness, soreness or stiffness of the neck
- Pain, tenderness, soreness or stiffness of the back
- Feeling dizzy
- Muscle spasms in the spine
- Tightness or weakness of spinal muscles
- Loss of range of motion in the neck and back
- Pain, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Pain or stiffness in the joints
- Lack of energy
- Inability to heal quickly
- Poor overall health
How Does Chiropractic Work?
Chiropractic is more than just a ?structural? approach to health. Yes, it is true that a chiropractor will remove subluxations caused by structural issues, and yes, it is true that this helps to restore health and wellness. But, in addition to structural components, chiropractic focuses on the whole picture. It does not just focus on the bones and nerves, but on your life. While speaking with your chiropractor, you will be asked about your spine, but also about how well you eat, if you exercise, your stress level and ways you reduce stress, your family life and so on. Then, using all this information, your chiropractor will create a treatment plan based on correcting the cause of your subluxations and possible associated symptoms.
This makes perfect sense. For instance, if you have a leaky tire on your car, do you go to the gas station and fill it up day after day, or do you go to the tire store and have it repaired or replaced? The same is true for pains you may suffer. Why would you take pain meds daily when you can remove the subluxation and get to the root of the problem?
When you have a subluxation, your chiropractor will correct it through an adjustment to the spine. This adjustment puts your body back into alignment, allowing communication between the brain and body to flow freely. Subluxations often do not go away and stay away with just one adjustment. Several adjustments over the course of a few weeks to several months may be necessary. Remember, chiropractic isn’t about simply relieving pain on a temporary basis. The goal is to fix the problem, keep it fixed, and keep it from happening again.
There are many different types of chiropractic procedures and techniques. Some techniques work better for some people and others for other people. It is important to find the one that works for you and use it as part of your overall health care strategy. So, there you have it – you now know what chiropractic is and what it does. As you learn more and more, you will understand its effectiveness and its growing popularity. As the American Chiropractic Association website states:
As evidence supporting the effectiveness of chiropractic continues to emerge, health care consumers are turning in large numbers to chiropractic care; a form of health care aimed primarily at enhancing a patient's overall health and well-being without the use of drugs or surgery. More care aimed primarily at enhancing a patient's overall health and well-being without the use of drugs or surgery. More than 22 million people visited doctors of chiropractic last year for a variety of conditions, and more and more medical doctors are referring their patients to doctors of chiropractic.