What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is an area of care that focuses on the relationship between the body structure and how the body functions. Although their approach to patient care is holistic and their treatment modalities may vary from person to person, most chiropractors focus particularly on the spine and spinal manipulation to benefit their patients. Chiropractors perform adjustments to the spine or other parts of the body in hopes of correcting alignment problems, alleviating pain and improving function or range of motion.

Origins in History

The origins of spinal manipulation can be traced back to 2700 B.C. Hippocrates, the Greek physician, even said of chiropractic care, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.” The U.S. didn’t pick up on spinal manipulation until the end of the 19th century when Daniel David Palmer founded the first chiropractic profession in Davenport, Iowa. Throughout the 20th century, chiropractors have become legally recognized in all 50 states and have become one of the pioneers in the field of non-invasive health care.

What Is Care Like?

Health Benefits

Chiropractors treat patients for a variety of reasons, from chronic pain and acute pain to preventative care and treatments to resolve a temporary issue. Some examples of conditions patients see chiropractors for are:

  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • neck pain
  • low back pain
  • sciatica
  • osteoarthritis
  • spinal disk conditions
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • tendonitis
  • sprains or strains
  • whiplash
  • migraine headaches

Actions & Experiences During a Session

Your first visit will most likely last up to an hour so that the doctor can get to know your medical history and determine your goals for treatment. You will most likely be asked about any past injuries, current health problems, lifestyle and behaviors. It is important to communicate the nature of your physical problems to your chiropractor. Make sure to mention if you have any numbness, tingling, or weakness. The chiropractor will do a physical exam and test how well your spine moves.

During the treatment and for a portion of your appointment, you may be asked to lay on a table so that the chiropractor can perform the spinal manipulation. Patients typically remain fully dressed except for shoes, belts or heavy sweaters. The doctor does the manipulation by hand which realigns the bones of your spine to make them straighter. Some chiropractic sessions may involve warming pads to relax the patient’s muscles prior to adjustment. Some chiropractors also use a device called an activator, a spring-loaded mechanism that applies a controlled force to the desired part of the spine. The chiropractor may do other treatments such as soft tissue manipulation, stretching, and massage.

You should not feel any pain from manipulation, be sure to tell your chiropractor if you feel pain. It is normal to feel slightly achy or stiff for few hours after the first few manipulations because your body is adjusting to the alignment.

Duration of Care

The extent of your treatments is determined by what your chiropractor feels is necessary. Treatment usually lasts several weeks. Depending on the severity of your injury or pain, you may be asked to come in more than once a week. Adjustment appointments usually don’t last more than 10 or 20 minutes. Some patients choose to see a chiropractor regularly for years in order to maintain proper spinal alignment.

Resources & References

NCCAM - Chiropractic

American Chiropractic Association


The Mayo Clinic

What next?

Search Find Wellness to find a chiropractor in your area. Make sure you see a chiropractor who is licensed. Chiropractors are certified through the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Chiropractors can hold licenses in all 50 states.