What is Chiropractic?
I was discussing how the chiropractic profession has changed over the years with Nigel Gooding. Although long retired now, he had qualified as a Doctor of Chiropractic in the 1950’s in the United States. He contacted me about some chiropractic issue when he moved to Eastbourne and was kind enough to take the time to share some of his experiences as a chiropractor in America. He also shared the reasons why he decided to come back home to the UK, where he practised chiropractic and osteopathy for a number of years before retirement.
Californian Newspaper Advert, March 23rd 1959 with an advert for Dr Nigel Gooding Chiropractor
It was interesting to reflect with him how chiropractic and osteopathy had developed since he qualified over fifty years ago. He recalled that once qualified as a chiropractor he was allowed to take a simple multi-choice osteopathy questionnaire in order to be qualified as an osteopath. Both chiropractic and osteopathy were very small professions compared to what they’ve become today. Although similarities between chiropractic and osteopathy remain, they’ve both have developed of their own accord.
So when considering “what is chiropractic?”, a good place to start is to consider what the professional chiropractic associations say about it. Because chiropractic has become such a popular and large profession worldwide (tens of millions of people use chiropractic routinely throughout the world http://www.chiropractic.org/faq-chiro), I’ve restricted my comparison to the four British chiropractic associations.
Let’s start with the BCA, the oldest chiropractic association in the UK having been founded in 1925.
The British Chiropractic Association
The British Chiropractic Association defines chiropractic as:
Chiropractic is a regulated primary healthcare profession. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, and muscles), as well as the effects these disorders can have on the nervous system and general health. They have a specialist interest in neck and back pain, but when they assess patients, they take their entire physical, emotional and social wellbeing into account.
Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility, including hands-on manipulation of the spine. As well as manual treatment, chiropractors are able to offer a package of care which includes advice on self-help, therapeutic exercises and lifestyle changes.
Chiropractic treatment mainly involves safe, often gentle, specific spinal manipulation to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly. Apart from manipulation, chiropractors may use a variety of techniques including ice, heat, ultrasound, exercise and acupuncture as well as advice about posture and lifestyle.
Although chiropractors are best known for treating back and neck pain, which they do very well, patients also consult chiropractors regarding a range of other, related conditions.
You can read and hear more about Chiropractic from the British Chiropractic Association by clicking here
The McTimoney Chiropractic Association
The following is from the The McTimoney Association’s home page and their description of chiropractic:
Are you looking for a safe and natural solution to back pain, headaches or minor sports injuries? Or perhaps to improve your health and lifestyle? Would you prefer to avoid drugs and surgery? . . .
Chiropractors are committed, highly educated primary healthcare professionals focused on helping you to be as active and healthy as possible.
An underlying principle of chiropractic is that a healthy spine facilitates a healthy life. Chiropractors practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. By offering expert drug-free spinal health care, dietary and lifestyle advice, chiropractors help you to lead a healthy life and maintain wellbeing.
Chiropractic is a primary healthcare profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal and the nervous systems and the effects these disorders can have on health. Chiropractic care is used regularly to treat neuro-musculoskeletal complaints including, but not limited to: back, neck and joint pain, headaches, sports injuries therefore aiming to improve performance, mobility and relieving pain.
Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle advice
Chiropractic students in the UK study for four to five years to gain their chiropractic degree. http://www.mctimoney-chiropractic.org/
Scottish Chiropractic Association
The smallest chiropractic association in the UK is the SCA. They define chiropractic as:
Chiropractic concerns itself with the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (primarily coordinated by the nervous system) of the human body, and how that relationship affects the restoration and preservation of health.
Scottish Chiropractic Association members make use of a broad range of techniques to detect, analyse and gently correct any problem areas of the spine.
Chiropractic treatment may include specific adjustments or gentle forces to the spine, soft tissue techniques (stretching, traction and massage) along with exercise and advice. Your Chiropractor will advise you which protocols are most appropriate for your condition.
Chiropractic is a drug-free, surgery-free, non-invasive treatment of the spine and associated conditions. It is a very low risk therapy. A Doctor of Chiropractic is trained to recognise conditions that require referral elsewhere and will advise you if this is the case. Even after certain spinal surgeries, a chiropractic check-up may be advisable in order to aid recovery. Chiropractic care is safe for the whole family, from infants to the elderly, including pregnant women.
United Chiropractic Association
The newest chiropractic association in the UK is the UCA, they define chiropractic as:
Chiropractic is a major contributor to natural health in the UK. And for many good reasons:
Chiropractors avoid drugs and surgery. Our approach is to remove nervous system disruptions (usually along the spine) that can restore your ability to self-heal.
Title: The United Chiropractic Association
Picture Shows: The United Chiropractic Association’s logo
Chiropractors provide care that is safe. Because the techniques used by chiropractors are acquired over years of study and experience, chiropractors have an enviable safety record. In fact, in the words of a classic New Zealand study, chiropractic care is “remarkably safe.”
Chiropractors use the latest methods. After years of study, licensing examinations and continuing edUnited Chiropractic Association seminars, chiropractors in the United Kingdom are at the top of their game, using proven techniques and natural methods to help you get well and stay well.
Chiropractors honour your health goals. Whether you want short-term relief or lifetime wellness care, each member of the United Chiropractic Association are ready to listen, provide choices and support you and your family in achieving your individual health goals.
All four British chiropractic associations describe chiropractic as a healthcare, or they describe it being focused on the restoration and preservation of health. Most definitions of chiropractic start with this detail.
All four chiropractic associations go on to describe how chiropractors care for people’s health. The British Chiropractic Association, McTimoney Chiropractic Association and Scottish Chiropractic Association detail that chiropractors focus on the musculoskeletal structure of your body (the Scottish Chiropractic Association focuses specifically on the spine) and how problems with your muscles and joints can affect your nervous system and general health. The McTimoney Chiropractic Association summarises this chiropractic health philosophy by explaining that “An underlying principle of chiropractic is that a healthy spine facilitates a healthy life.”
Although I’ve heard this healthy-spine = healthy-body explanation many times in my career I think that the United Chiropractic Association offers the most direct explanation of the chiropractic healthcare paradigm, describing that the chiropractic “approach is to remove nervous system disruptions” that can affect your ability to self-heal. The United Chiropractic Association are drawing specific attention to the effect of our nervous system (not just the joints and muscles) on our healthy, which I believe is really what chiropractors have traditionally meant by the healthy-spine mantra.
The British Chiropractic Association describes how chiropractors take a holistic approach considering your “entire physical, emotional and social wellbeing into account”. The United Chiropractic Association explains that “chiropractors honour your health goals” whether their simply to get out of pain or for more comprehensive wellness care. The holistic nature of chiropractic is something I particularly relate to. I help people on a one to one basis, tailoring their chiropractic treatment and care to suit them. People are not simply a collection of symptoms and I relate to both the British Chiropractic Association and United Chiropractic Association descriptions which relate to the holistic chiropractic approach.
Chiropractors are well known for “clicking” joints i.e. adjustments (a highly specialised type of manipulation, which has the intention of improving health as well as function). The word “chiropractic” is a name of a profession, not the name of a treatment type. Chiropractic is what chiropractors do, and in my experience chiropractors do far more than the manual therapy element. All four associations also try to explain that chiropractors do more than just manual treatments.
The British Chiropractic Association detail that chiropractors use a range of techniques and offer a “package of care” including exercise advice, lifestyle changes and a range of treatment techniques, including modalities like ultra-sound and acupuncture as well as hands on manual treatments. Similarly the McTimoney Chiropractic Association explains that chiropractors have a broad skill base, using therapeutic exercises, nutritional and lifestyle advice.
The McTimoney, Scottish and United Chiropractic Associations make the point that chiropractors use avoid drugs and surgery and instead relying on natural methods. The Scottish Chiropractic Association is the only one to specifically detail that chiropractors use “adjustments” which is a phrase I much prefer to “manipulation” – but that comparison will have to wait for another blog.
All the descriptions of chiropractic, reflect the inherent safety of chiropractic treatment. The Scottish Chiropractic Association and United Chiropractic Association go on to detail the safe application of chiropractic for the whole family: “chiropractic care is safe for the whole family, from infants to the elderly, including pregnant women” and that chiropractors “are ready to listen, provide choices and support you and your family in achieving your individual health goals”.
Having been just a young teenager when I first discovered chiropractic, I’ve always believed it’s important to remind people that chiropractic is safe and effective for all the family. Fortunately my mother knew of a chiropractor in Brighton, where I grew up, otherwise I’d have continued to suffer with the backaches and headaches that were coming from my neck. I was so impressed with the results that I went on to qualified as a Doctor of Chiropractic myself.
Having qualified over a decade ago I’ve been a member of both the United Chiropractic Association and the British Chiropractic Association for a long time, so it’s been a while since I reflected on how they describe what I do to the public at large. Having reviewed their descriptions of chiropractic and those of the McTimoney Chiropractic Association and Scottish Chiropractic Association too I was surprised by some of the similarities and subtle differences between them.
I’d love to know how these four chiropractic associations have changed their description of what chiropractic is over the decades. A lot has changed and much has improved about the chiropractic profession since it’s discovery in 1895. Talking with Nigel Gooding made me reflect on how much the chiropractic profession has changed and grown since I began my training in 1998.
Whilst writing this blog I recalled a chiropractic quote I wrote down as a student back in 1998 or thereabouts. It was from a book called the “Chiropractor’s Adjuster” written by DD Palmer, who Founded Chiropractic in 1895. He states that:
“There is a vast difference between treating effects and adjusting the causes.“
Just like the professional associations descriptions of chiropractic, although the semantics and phrases differ there remains a common thread. On a personal note, 120 years after DD Palmer wrote the above quote, my personal chiropractic mantra is “to get to the root of the problem, to help the body work at it’s best”, which I believe has grown but shares commonalities with DD Palmer’s explanation.
Title: Daniel David Palmer Carried out the First Chiropractic Adjustment on 18th September 1895
Picture shows: photograph of DD Palmer, taken from http://www.ignitelifechiro.com/chiropractic-history.html
Personally I think that while continuous development and growth of the profession will continue, we should not forget our roots. I remember a quote I copied from “Chiropractors Adjuster” published in 1910. It was one of two books written by DD Palmer, who Founded Chiropractic in 1895: “There is a vast difference between treating effects and adjusting the causes.”
Over the years I’ve developed my own chiropractic mantra “to get to the root of the problem and help the body work at it’s best”.
When I was a student along with all the required text books I brought an old book called the “Chiropractors Adjuster” published in 1910. It was one of two books written by DD Palmer, who Founded Chiropractic in 1895. Between reading my formal text books I’d occasionally read this old book and one of a few quotes which stood out for me over the years is:
“There is a vast difference between treating effects and adjusting the causes.“
My personal chiropractic mantra is to “get to the root of the problem and help the body work at it’s best”.
Given that this discussion was inspired by my reflections with Nigel Gooding, and as a nod to the many descriptions of chiropractic that I’ve not been able to include I thought I’d end with the Palmer College of Chiropractic’s explanation of chiropractic. Palmer College is the oldest chiropractic college in the world and I believe this definition would be the closest to what Nigel Gooding would have been taught when he studied chiropractic in the 1950’s:
Title: The Palmer College of Chiropractic – started in 1897 at the Palmer
Picture Shows: The McTimoney Chiropractic Association’s logo
Misalignments of Your Spine and Poor Health
No part of your body escapes the dominance of your nervous system. Improper function of the spine due to slight misalignments (called subluxations) can cause poor health or function, even in areas far removed from the spine and spinal cord itself. Misalignments can also reduce the ability of your body to adapt to its ever-changing environment. Even the slightest malfunction of your spine may alter the regular transmission of nerve impulses, preventing that portion of your body from responding optimally.
Natural Health Care Without Drugs or Surgery
Chiropractic is a natural form of health care that uses spinal adjustments to correct these misalignments and restore proper function to the nervous system, helping your body to heal naturally. Chiropractic doesn’t use drugs or surgery. Rather, a chiropractic spinal adjustment – the application of a precise force to a specific part of the spinal segment – corrects the misalignment, permitting normal nerve transmission and assisting your body to recuperate on its own.
Chiropractor – James Revell
If you want to book to see one of our chiropractors at the multi-award-winning Lushington Chiropractic Clinic in Eastbourne then call 01323 722499.
(The post-nominal letters “DC” indicates that someone is a Doctor of Chiropractic, which is a courtesy title and as such they are registered with the General Chiropractic Council and are not a medical doctor).