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Chiropractic treatments can help relieve pain

Anyone who has ever suffered back pain, whether that pain is mild, moderate or severe, understands just how unpleasant it can be. Back pain can make life extremely difficult, affecting everything a person does, including performance at work, time spent with the kids or even sleeping at night.

For those with back pain, chiropractic care might be the best way to relieve that pain. A nonsurgical treatment of the disorders of the nervous system and/or musculoskeletal system, chiropractic medicine focuses on spinal manipulation and the treatment of the structures surrounding the spine. Understanding chiropractic care can help men and women dealing with pain better determine if it's for them.

What conditions do chiropractors treat?

A chiropractor can treat a number of conditions, but most treatments focus on a handful of common and often painful conditions. Those conditions include:

- joint pain in the arms and legs

- mid- and lower back pain

- neck pain

- headaches

What do chiropractic treatments entail?

Many people with lower back pain find such pain so unbearable that they seek the help of a chiropractor. Despite that, many more people remain wary of visiting a chiropractor for myriad reasons. But chiropractors can effectively treat pain in a number of ways.

A chiropractic treatment is commonly referred to as a spinal manipulation. During a treatment, the chiropractor will move a joint beyond its usual range of motion. The joint might be moved through twisting, pulling or pushing, but it won't be moved beyond the range of motion it's designed to move. Those being treated for the first time should expect to hear some popping or cracking during the treatment. The goal of a spinal manipulation is to improve functionality while reducing nerve irritability and restoring range of motion in the back.

In addition to spinal manipulation, a chiropractor might try other types of treatments, including:

- ultrasound

- the application of heat or ice

- certain strength and conditioning exercises

- relaxation therapy

Are there side effects to chiropractic treatments?

Perhaps the reason some people are hesitant to visit a chiropractor is the fear that, should something go awry, the back could be irreparably damaged. Those fears were common during the early years of chiropractic treatments, but now many medical doctors will work in tandem with a chiropractor to ensure patients are getting the correct and most effective treatments.

That said, there are some potential side effects to chiropractic treatments. Once the spine has been adjusted, some people might feel minor pain or discomfort, and headaches and fatigue are possible as well. However, such side effects typically subside within a day of receiving treatment.

In some instances, a herniated disc might result after an adjustment is used to treat neck or back pain. Should that occur, a patient will likely experience pain, weakness and numbness in the buttocks and down the legs. Bladder and bowel control might be affected as well. However, such instances are rare.

Will an adjustment be painful?

Despite the cracking and popping sounds it causes, a spinal adjustment is typically not painful. Of course, men and women who visit a chiropractor are often experiencing significant pain already, and the movement necessary during the treatment might prove painful. However, chiropractors can take steps to make the treatment easier on the patient if he or she is struggling with severe back pain. For instance, a chiropractor might use a drop table during treatment. Parts of the drop table will drop slightly when the chiropractor presses down on the patient's back. This makes the adjustments more gentle. Another tool used to make adjustments more comfortable is a hand-held tool called an activator. Many patients, however, do not need either option.