Chiropractic Medicine: Spinal Manipulations for Health

by Christine Hall

It would be difficult for me to write about chiropractic techniques without offering a personal testimony. About a year ago I received a series of chiropractic treatments that made a believer out of me. Since then, I believe in chiropractic techniques at least as much as I believe in any healing system.

It all started several years back when I developed an excruciating pain that ran down my right arm. At the time I was employed as a pizza delivery driver, and the pain seemed to be particularly acute whenever I was behind the wheel of a car. Eventually I was forced to cut my work schedule back to only two days a week. Even then, I would give many deliveries to the other drivers because the pain was so great.

I sought the help of a massage therapist and after a few months of working with her the pain went away, enabling me to return to a full time schedule at work. Things were fine for a while, then the pain returned with a vengeance. The symptoms were exactly the same as before, except that now the pain was down my left arm instead of my right. This time massage didn't work and I figured that this constant agony would be a chronic condition that I would have to live with for the rest of my life.

About six months later, at a "health expo," I met a chiropractor who was offering free posture exams. I told him about the problems I was having with my arm and he suggested that I see him at his office for a free spinal x-ray and consultation. At his office, before taking the x-rays, he told me that until he looked at the pictures he wouldn't know if he could help me or not. If he couldn't, he said, he would refer me to a medical doctor.

It was my lucky day. After looking at my x-rays he determined that I had a misalignment in the upper portion of my spine that was probably the cause my pain. He suggested a series of spinal adjustments to rectify the problem, performing one that same afternoon. By the time I'd driven home, the pain had disappeared - and it hasn't returned to this day.

Chiropractic medicine is based on the premise that a normally functioning spine and a healthy lifestyle are necessary ingredients for helping the body to heal itself. That's because the spinal cord, which is protected by the spine, is the main pathway of the nervous system, controlling feeling, movement and function throughout the body.

Scott Hall, a chiropractor who also uses acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and other healing systems, puts it this way: "The chiropractic point of view is that as long as the spinal cord, and all the nerves that are coming from it, can feed into the body in a complete and unhindered fashion, then you have the true possibility of complete health."

Modern chiropractic care was discovered on the afternoon of September 18, 1895 in Davenport, Iowa. While relaxing after seeing patients, Dr. Daniel David Palmer asked his deaf janitor, Harvey Lillard, how he had lost his hearing. Lillard told him that 17 years earlier he had been working in a stooping position when something "gave" in his back, and he immediately became deaf.

When Dr. Palmer examined the man's spine he found what appeared to be a misaligned vertebra and wondered is this could be the cause of the hearing loss. After obtaining Lillard's permission, Dr. Palmer placed him face down on a bench in his study, laid his hands over the misaligned vertebra and cautiously pushed along the spine. After Lillard got up, he walked to an open window before turning to Palmer with a smile on his face. After 17 years of silence, he could hear again.

At first Palmer thought that he had merely discovered a cure for deafness, but soon afterwards, while treating a patient with heart trouble that was not improving, he examined the spine and found a displaced vertebra pressing against the nerves which innervate the heart. "I adjusted the vertebra and gave immediate relief," he wrote. "Then I began to reason if two diseases, so dissimilar as deafness and heart trouble, came from impingement, a pressure on nerves, were not other diseases due to a similar cause?"

Soon he found that patients with all kinds of health problems were responding to his new "hand treatments." Spinal adjustments were helping people who suffered from asthma, skin conditions, digestive problems, headaches, epilepsy, sciatica and a host of other conditions.

According to Scott Hall, the reason why the manipulation of the spine can be used to bring healing to areas seemingly unconnected with the back lies in the fact that the spinal cord is, in fact, an extension of the brain. "The involuntary nervous system, as it branches out from those spinal nerve roots, gathers into centers that other parts of our culture would call chakras, or energy centers. These involuntary nervous system parts are regulating glands, organs, blood flow, hormone levels, digestion and breathing."

Today, a chiropractor's education includes a minimum of six years of training in the sciences and health care, leading to a doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree. Typically, a chiropractor will look at the patient's overall health, focusing not only on the spine but on lifestyle issues like diet and exercise. This integrated, or holistic, approach helps to determine the most effective treatment.

Central to any chiropractic treatment is the "spinal adjustment." After locating any misaligned vertebrae in the spine, the chiropractor manually applies gentle pressure to reposition the vertebrae. These adjustments reduce pressure on nerves and can improve mobility, and relieve pain and stiffness - the main reasons why people seek the help of a chiropractor.

"Chiropractic helps to keep your body working in a physical manner, so that your nervous system has the thriving capacity available and you can actually depend on your framework to support you in working, playing and anything else that you do that might take movement," says Hall.

All I know is that it worked for me.

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