Chiropractic aims to diagnose, treat and prevent disorders of the spine, joints and muscles with techniques of manipulation. The word ‘chiropractic’ comes from the Greek cheir, meaning ‘hands’, and praktikos, meaning ‘done by’.
What can Chiropractic treat?
Chiropractic can treat most conditions where symptoms may include the following:
- shoulder, arm, wrist and hand pain
- leg, knee, ankle and foot pain
- neck pain
- back pain
- chest or abdominal pain
- migraine and headaches
It can also treat the following conditions:
- sports injuries
- babies with colic and other children’s problems
- ‘slipped disc’ and sciatica
- whiplash injuries
Chiropractic was developed in 1895 by Canadian D. D. Palmer who restored a patient’s hearing by chance whilst manipulating his spine. As a result, Palmer believed that proper alignment of the spine, the most important support in the body’s structure and the prime channel of the nervous system, is fundamental to good health.
Poor, inadequate or incorrect function in the spine can cause irritation of the nerves that control our posture and movement. This spinal nerve stress – which may be caused by factors such as accident, poor diet, anxiety and trauma – can affect the functioning of the whole body and cause symptoms of discomfort, pain and even disease.
Chiropractors use their hands to adjust the joints of the spine and extremities where signs of restriction in movement are found, improving mobility and relieving pain. Once this is done, the patient’s body can then get on with the task of healing itself.
In the seventies, John McTimoney and Hugh Corley developed two further schools of thought based on chiropractic.
The Chiropractors Act received Royal Assent in July 1994. As a result, the General Chiropractic Council was announced in January 1997 and received its commencement order in 1998. It will be responsible for setting standards of both education and conduct within the profession and will require all chiropractors to be registered to practise legally in the UK.
Consultation & treatment
Your chiropractor will begin the initial consultation by taking a full case history. You will then be given standard neurological and orthopaedic tests – raising the legs, moving the body from side to side, for example – and the movement of your spine and joints will be checked. X-rays may also be taken to assist diagnosis. All British Chiropractic Association and Scottish Chiropractic Association chiropractors are trained and qualified to take and interpret X-rays. McTimoney and McTimoney-Corley chiropractors are not and will therefore not use X-ray as a diagnostic tool.
If your chiropractor identifies an underlying condition for which other treatment is appropriate, you will be referred to your GP or another specialist without delay.
Treatment usually begins at the second session. You will be asked to sit or lie on an adjustable chiropractic couch. Chiropractors use a variety of precise and well-controlled techniques including high velocity thrusts known as adjustments and gentle work on soft tissue. Your chiropractor may also use ice or heat treatment and give advice on lifestyle, posture and exercise programmes.
You may have two or three sessions in the first week and weekly sessions later but this depends on the condition and on how quickly you respond to treatment. Many chiropractors advise maintenance visits to keep potential problems at bay.
The first consultation will last between 30 and 60 minutes and cost between £30 and £55. Subsequent treatments tend to be shorter, taking on average between 10 to 30 minutes. They cost between £20 and £35.
All chiropractors give advice on lifestyle and posture and may teach you a set of simple exercises to help strengthen the body and prevent further recurrence of problems.
How to find a practitioner
Some GPs are able to purchase chiropractic treatment for their patients on the NHS and most health insurance companies will pay for chiropractic treatment. However, you do not need a GP’s referral to visit a chiropractor.
There are four main chiropractic associations in the UK. The largest is the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) which now represents over 800 UK chiropractors. The others are the Scottish Chiropractic Association, the McTimoney Chiropractic Association and the British Association for Applied Chiropractic.
It takes at least four-years’ full-time study at the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (leading to an MSc degree) or the University of Glamorgan (aBSc (Hons) degree) to become a chiropractor. The University of Surrey runs a two year MSc course. Only chiropractors trained at an accredited college can become members of the BCA.
Before a student is awarded the Diploma in Chiropractic, he or she must complete a postgraduate year on the BCA’s Vocational Training Scheme.
For McTimoney and McTimoney-Corley chiropractors, the McTimoney Chiropractic College offers a four-year, part-time course with extensive clinical commitments in the third and fourth years. A fifth associate year must be completed before the therapist is admitted as a full member of the McTimoney Chiropractic Association.
Each association accepts slightly different criteria for admission and each holds its own register of practitioners. However, the General Chiropractic Council and its elected members are now working to formulate the rules and regulations under which chiropractors will operate in this country. In future, the Council will publish its own comprehensive register of chiropractors – the Register is scheduled to open in May 1999 – and it will become illegal for a practitioner not on this register to practice.
Chiropractic is remarkably safe when treatment is carried out by a properly qualified practitioner. Your chiropractor is trained to recognise conditions which require referral elsewhere and can treat you even after surgery. He or she will also ask if you have suffered recently from broken bones or arthritis, if you have osteoporosis or inflammation, signs of infection, tumours, circulatory problems. While chiropractors may decide not to treat some of these conditions, they are skilled in pain relief methods that can ease discomfort.