When you hear the word, ‘chiropractor,’ what’s the first thing you think of? Neck adjustments? Cracking backs? Traction? 

After spending two weeks in the Chiropractic Department at SCU Health Science, I learned it’s so much more than that! Like other alternative medicine modalities, chiropractic care is not just about the neck and spine. It’s a holistic approach to healing and wellness. 

When a new patient comes in, they’re given a long list of questions about everything from their diet and exercise routine, to smoking and alcohol consumption, and many other very personal questions. This is done not only to understand the treatment needed, but to understand what may have led up to the patient needing this care in the first place. Or as one chiropractor said to our class, “Chiropractic is a profession, not a procedure.” In other words, they don’t just crack backs. They work to heal the whole person.

Tool of the trade, a chiropractic adjustable table.

When a patient has their first visit, they’re asked all of the typical medical background questions that any other physician would ask. Then the doctor gets into the specifics of why the patient is there. The most common reason is they are experiencing pain in their back, neck, arms and/or legs. The doctor, or in this case the chiropractic student, will go through a physical assessment of the patients flexibility, strength and pain tolerance. Then there’s a variety of treatments to choose from:

Adjustments: This is what people typically think of when they hear ‘chiropractor’. That ‘cracking’ of the neck or back to provide relief. I only say this done in maybe 50% of the patients.

Soft Tissue Massage: This is the one patients seem to enjoy the most, even if it hurts. Digging into the muscles with their hands allows the chiropractor to palpate where the patient needs healing. I saw this technique used the most on patients. A couple times, I saw a student use an electronic, pulsating tool to massage a little deeper. The patients found a little more discomfort with that, but felt better than when they came in.

Gua Sha: This is next level tissue massage using a blunt, metal scraping tool to break up scar tissue and stimulate blood flow. The patients didn’t enjoy this one quite as much. Often times it leaves red marks on the patient that takes a few days to heal. Once I saw the doctor using it on the back of a patients calf near the ankle for her back pain. The doctor said he was targeting the root of the nerve. I believe this techniques originated in Traditional Chinese medicine.

Traction: This is a technique to pull and realign the spine. The patient lies on a table that’s hooked up to a machine. Literally, hooked to a machine. The patient is strapped to the table, and a cable attaches to the machine and then the doctor inputs the data needed to calculate how much tension there should be. The patient I saw using this had it done on his lower back. The machine would pull for a few seconds, then release. Over and over again for, I  think it was 15 or 20 minutes. Each time the machine would pull a little further, and you see two pieces of the table start to separate. Meanwhile, the patient dozed off! 😀

Those are all of the techniques I witnessed, but there’s many others. In fact, seeing these patients get the relief they wanted inspired me to make my own Chiropractic appointment. So off I go! 

Take care