I am constantly amazed by the body’s natural, inborn healing ability. It’s incredible to think about all the functions our bodies perform without us even realizing it.
I grew up with a deep respect for the human body. My dad is a chiropractor, and from him I received regular chiropractic treatment (adjustments) and learned about the philosophy of chiropractic. I am constantly surprised by how many of my friends, particularly those I’ve made since coming to college, have heard little or nothing about chiropractic.
Chiropractic deals with the central nervous system (CNS), the body’s center of communication and control. The CNS is centered in and protected by the spine, and it sends messages throughout the body. When a spinal vertebrae loses its optimal alignment and/or motion, it may cause what chiropractors refer to as a subluxation, and signals and messages can be blocked or reduced. This may lead to a variety of health issues and, if left uncorrected, can disrupt bodily functioning. This phenomenon can occur due to different stressors on our bodies, ranging from the physical to the chemical. Chiropractic removes interference to communication pathways, allowing our bodies to function as intended.
Chiropractic care has undoubtedly influenced my life in a positive way, strengthening my immune system and keeping me healthy thus far. However, many harmful misconceptions surround this practice. In this article, I attempt to clarify chiropractic. Increasing awareness about its benefits will hopefully prompt more people to access it.
My dad attended Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, the birthplace of chiropractic. Palmer ironically offered a scholarship for rugby players, and he met many of his lifelong friends on the rugby team. I can imagine a bunch of battered rugby players adjusting each other after games, helping teammates recover from the bodily trauma they inflicted and received during play.
The philosophy of chiropractic unifies the mind and body in maintaining and preserving one’s health. According to my dad, “The alignment of our skull, spine, and pelvis is paramount to the normal, healthful function of our nerve system, which helps our body do what it was designed to do—communicate within itself.” Chiropractors want to help people stay well rather than treat disease. Spinal health helps preserve general health. Chiropractic is maintenance, not simply pain relief.
Chiropractic has been around for over 120 years, but its history is fraught with conflict.
From the early to mid 20th century, chiropractic was not accepted by the established medical community. Dr. Eric Seiler, who practices in Palm Harbor, FL, described it as lacking “cultural authority” when he first entered the profession. Chiropractors were fined for treating patients, and some were even jailed for practicing medicine without a license. My dad told me about Dr. Herbert “Chap” Reaver, the “most jailed chiropractor.” Guards, wardens, and others would form a line outside his jail cell, waiting to be adjusted.
Chiropractors fought to establish laws affording them the right to practice freely and necessarily differentiating them from the medical world, winning Wilk v American Medical Association, an antitrust lawsuit filed in 1976. After the lawsuit, medical doctors could now refer patients to Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs). Over time, chiropractic has become more accepted within the mainstream.
The 1970s marked a push for greater insurance coverage for chiropractic adjustments. This expanded coverage created a misconception of chiropractic care as solely for pain relief. On the contrary, having a chronically bad back or any bodily pain isn’t necessary to begin chiropractic treatment.
Kealy Cassidy, a freshman at Gettysburg College and lifetime chiropractic patient, described an argument with an anatomy professor in which the professor said that chiropractic adjustments are just temporary fixes, not solutions. She responded by telling him that it makes perfect sense that patients need to be readjusted. Active humans move around constantly, and our bodies can become out of whack.
Dr. Jody Serra, who specializes in treating professional athletes, compares chiropractic to working out at the gym. “Whatever your goals were (lose weight, gain muscle, improve circulation, balance hormones, etc), once you achieve those goals, would you just stop going to the gym? … How long would you like to maintain your ideal connection between your brain and the rest of your body?”
Many patients are wary of having their backs cracked, thinking it could cause harm or damage. The vertebra is, of course, not actually cracking (this would mean that it is broken). Sounds elicited by certain techniques are actually caused by small air pockets in the fluids surrounding joints. Chiropractic adjustments stretch joint tissues, popping the air pockets and creating the cracking sound.
Many fear that seeing a chiropractor is risky. In response, Dr. Seiler asks, “Compared to what?” According to Dr. Seiler, medical doctors pay 10-200 times more than chiropractors for malpractice insurance. Though rates for chiropractors vary, my dad pays under $2,000 annually, while the average rates for medical doctors fall between $20,000 and $200,000. Additionally, chiropractor-patient relationships are built on solid foundations of trust, with chiropractors adapting adjustments to suit patients’ comfort levels.
Every chiropractor I interviewed had a miracle story of the effects that a few adjustments had on their patients. Stories included patients regaining their sight, ceasing to take pain medications as symptoms subside, gaining freedom from braces or crutches, being cured of recurring ear infections, managing anxiety, and even being healed of mistakenly diagnosed asthma as a result of thoracic spinal subluxations and becoming champion swimmers.
I was never the “sick kid” at home, rarely, if ever, taking sick days from school. However, since coming to college, I have noticed that I get sick much more often. This could be due to other factors including the easy transmission of disease as a result of living in such close quarters. Still, I truly believe that my lack of access to chiropractic care has negatively impacted my health. I get headaches much more frequently and find myself having to take pain relief medication more often than I ever would at home just to concentrate on my work without the interference of pervasive neck pain.
My dad has deeply instilled in me the importance of living a balanced lifestyle centered around wellness, particularly now that I am a college student who deals with stress regularly. The chiropractic care that I have undergone throughout my life thus far symbolizes the concrete bond my dad and I share, and being separated from that relationship while at school has been difficult. However, I recently discovered a chiropractor’s office close to campus. I have yet to schedule an appointment, but this discovery makes me feel much better about my future at a school so far away from my dad.