by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish
For many people, chiropractic medicine means seeing someone when we have back issues or when another doctor refers us to a chiropractor. However, the profession of chiropractic has been around for many years. Although it may be experiencing a surge in knowledge and popularity, the relationship between health and the condition of the spine can be traced back to ancient times. In fact, Hippocrates said, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”
According to the World Chiropractic Alliance, Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer was the person responsible for discovering the specific spinal adjustment. Palmer, born in Canada, moved to the United States when he was 20 years old. He repeatedly found that a variety of ailments, including deafness, headaches, flu, sciatica, and heart trouble could be traced to spinal adjustments. Palmer referred to the adjustments as “hand treatments.” Later, the term chiropractic was developed from the Greek words, chiro (meaning, hand) and practice (meaning, practice or operation).
One of the first reported patients for Palmer was a deaf janitor at his office, Harvey Lillard. According to the website, www.naturalhealers.com, Palmer related Lillard’s deafness to misaligned vertebra in his spine. Once Palmer was able to restore the vertebra to its original position, Lillard reported that his hearing had greatly improved. Palmer’s conclusion was that realigning vertebrae would restore patient health.
Although Palmer believed he was truly helping heal people, there were many others that did not feel the same way. Early chiropractic practitioners were criticized as people who were practicing medicine without a license. Palmer and many other early chiropractic practitioners were jailed and charged for not having a medical license.
Since the time of Palmer, chiropractic medicine has still been under scrutiny from various areas. However, as stated on www.naturalhealers.com, the chiropractic profession has gained legitimacy in research and acceptance among the medical community and among the general public. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 14 percent job growth rate for chiropractic careers through 2016. Today’s chiropractic medicine is used for treating illness, sports injuries, and maintaining a healthy balance.
Bloomer-area chiropractor, Dr. Molly Flynn, became interested in chiropractic while attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for her undergraduate degree. “I was always active in sports and had some chronic knee problems,” Flynn explained. “I had gone to general medical practitioners, but really hadn’t received any relief,” she continued. After seeing a chiropractor that specialized in ART (active release technique), her knee improved within the week. Flynn then realized she wanted to investigate chiropractic medicine further to discover if it was something she wanted to pursue. “I decided I wanted to be more specialized in the musculoskeletal system and work with athletes, adults, the elderly, and children alike,” Flynn said.
Flynn believes that many people have misconceptions about chiropractors and their techniques. Typically, people believe that chiropractic is about getting “your bones cracked.” According to Flynn, this is not what chiropractic does. “Chiropractic is an adjustment technique which helps restore joint motion. Your bone is never cracking; it’s your joint that is moving and releasing air, causing a cracking sound,” she explained.
Because nerves control everything in our bodies, chiropractors are able to help many different ailments of the body. Maintaining and keeping the body structurally sound is the goal of chiropractic; this type of healing can be either preventive medicine or a type of health maintenance. “Many patients come to chiropractors because they are hurting, so in that way, we are acute care practitioners. Some of these patients only come in when they are hurting and then they don’t come in until they are hurting again, so for these patients, we are more like triage, helping you when you are in pain and only ever seeing you when something is wrong,” Flynn explained. For those patients that choose to see a chiropractor on a regular basis, chiropractic acts as preventive medicine.
Becoming a chiropractor takes a great deal of time and education. According to Flynn, many people don’t realize the intensity involved with becoming a doctor of chiropractic. “In order to be a chiropractor, you must complete a science/kinesiology-based undergraduate degree (4-5 years), then you go to graduate school (3-4 years). During this time, you must do one-year’s worth of unpaid clinical internships,” Flynn said. Chiropractors take board exams in areas such as spinal anatomy, neuroscience, biochemistry, philosophy, pediatrics, mental health, radiology, and immunology.
While some people may not believe in the power of chiropractic, it is a medical field. Proven science and research methods have proven the effectiveness of chiropractic. However, chiropractors are not medical doctors, a common misconception. “We are doctors of chiropractic and share a similar, but not identical, scope of practice with medical doctors. Chiropractors are available to help with musculoskeletal problems,” Flynn said.
Today, many chiropractors specialize in a specific patient area, such as sports chiropractic, pregnancy chiropractic, or to help relieve other injuries and illnesses. Specifically, sports chiropractic cares for the aches and pains of joints and muscles caused by physical activities. Sports chiropractic has been well-known to speed the recovery after an injury. In addition, many pregnant women experience misalignment of the spine during pregnancy; chiropractors can help establish pelvic care and alignment during this time.
In today’s society, according to Web MD, about 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually. And, of these people, approximately 7.7 million are seeking relief from back pain due to accidents, sports injuries, and muscle strains. Obviously, the popularity of chiropractic is not slowing down and continues to grow each year. While this method of relieving back pain, joint issues, and muscle relief may not be for everyone, it is definitely a growing trend.
“Knowledge of the spine” is vitally important for physical well-being and for understanding one’s body. And chiropractors have the vast knowledge required to do this. “Keeping the body structurally sound helps keep the body functioning optimally. That is what chiropractors do,” Flynn concluded.