Before getting started, I want to present a question to you:
From what I’ve seen on social media these days, I think that most people associate Chiropractic with “back cracking”, Physical Therapy with exercise, and Myofascial Therapy with some type of massage. There is some truth to all of this but it isn’t the whole truth. A more accurate way to look at this is by understanding not all Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, or Myofascial Therapists decide to practice the same way. These are just titles that appear on the surface. To understand the whole picture, you have to dig deeper(ask questions) where you will find more substance and the individual’s true focus. Then you can consider what the values and possible benefits are.
In most practices today, the doctors or therapists are focused on decreasing muscle spasms, decreasing symptoms/pain, and increasing range of motion. The benefits of these outcomes are countless. Some benefits include better quality of life, drug/surgery free treatment, and education on how to further prevent the issue from occurring again.
How do you know if you’ve walked into a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist’s office?
When you walk into a Chiropractors office you will see at the very least 1 adjusting table. There are many different types of adjusting tables. Some chiropractors may even offer soft tissue/myofascial treatment or the same modalities(electric stim, ultrasound, combo, heat packs, cold packs, etc) and exercise equipment that Physical Therapists use in their offices. Other Chiropractors may decide to only give patients adjustments while others may decide to educate their patients on nutrition and exercise. The scope of practice is large and growing for chiropractic. Some chiropractors are even pushing for the rights to prescribe medication. It really depends on what the Individual Decides to Focus On.
Physical Therapy is a very established profession with many specialties. Some of these areas include geriatric, postoperative for people who elect for surgery, and pediatrics. Some Physical Therapists may have an interest in working with patients with neurological issues (i.e., Parkinson’s). Others may decide to work with amputee patients. And, of course there is the general practice who deal with less complicated cases. The Profession of Physical Therapy is also growing rapidly. Physical Therapist education now offer a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree.
Most members of the Chiropractic profession and the Physical Therapy profession seem to be merging in terms of their treatment styles and their focus to treat pain/symptoms and increase range of motion. Both Chiropractors and Physical Therapists have the option to utilize joint manipulation, soft tissue therapy, electronic modalities, and exercise with the main focus of getting the patient out of pain. If these methods are unable to satisfy the doctor and patients expectations in outcomes they are likely to be referred out for pain medication, steroid shots, surgery, or for further testing/imaging. All with the main focus of getting rid of the pain/symptom.
There are many professions who offer myofacial therapy. Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners, etc. The level of expertise and skill is dependent on the individual practitioner. We can’t say we will benefit more from one than the other. Every patient will have a different experience with each practitioner.
At this time, I would like to briefly talk about the benefits of care with Structural Chiropractic.
“Structural Chiropractic” is a way for us to differentiate our practice. There are so many types of chiropractic practices that it can get confusing to the general public. For example, the patient may be looking for a practice that offers “quick cracks” or free massages. On the contrary, the patient may have had a bad experience with one Chiropractor and dismiss all other Chiropractors afterwards. This is why we have decided to use the name “Structural Chiropractic”. We want to make it clear to the public that we are focused on the structural correction of the spine.
Structural Chiropractic is continually being built with the focus of correcting the spine. Since the inception of the idea that the health and structure of the spine has global influences on the overall health of the individual, the focus has always been, and will not stray from, the structural correction of the spine. We have devoted our time and energies to find more depth and substance in this idea. We have travel near and far to study the most up-to-date scientific cutting edge methods to correcting the structure of the spine.
In a previous article (How Can Your Structure Cause Headaches?), we discussed how shifting your head forward causes the muscles in the back of your neck to get tight. The muscles then compress and irritate the nervous system which causes tension headaches and other possible secondary conditions. You can choose focus on loosening up the muscles in the back of your neck with some soft tissue/myofascial therapy or take some type of medication to mask the pain or relax the muscles. Or, you can understand the biomechanics of your foundation and focus on that.
Most certainly, you should have felt the most superficial muscles in the back of your neck tense up. You can rub the muscles in an attempt to make them loose, or you can simply bring your head back. Some people might decide to have their necks “cracked”.
If we take a deeper look at the structure of your neck on an xray things may make more sense. The following is a view of the neck looking from the side. The patient is looking to the left in this case.
Everybody who has studied the human body or studied radiology knows that there is a normal lordosis or curve of the cervical spine. The curve of the neck acts as a shock absorber, without it mechanical forces will play its part and have its consequences on the structure and function of the neck and the rest of the body.
Accidents and injuries such as ones which involves the whiplash mechanism can cause a reversal in the cervical due to damaged ligaments.
The neck on the right has a reversed cervical curve. You can see the change in the shape of the individual bones and the decrease in the spaces between the bones. This indicated degeneration of the cervical spine at those levels.
What happens if left unchecked and uncorrected?
It can be argued by many doctors that if the patient doesn’t have any symptoms then it is a normal finding on an xray. From a purely structural and biomechanical view, this reasoning doesn’t make sense. If you are driving your car and the alignment is out, would it make sense that over time your car would fall apart? or, does that become the new “normal alignment” of your car? Just because you don’t see anything wrong with your car today, everything is fine? Doesn’t make sense. Our bodies should be no different in that our physical bodies also adhere to the laws of physics and biomechanical principles.
Some doctors may find it important enough to let you know that you have a reversed cervical curve, but many do not focus on correcting this. Rather, they are focused on getting you out of pain, increasing range of motion and getting you back to your activities. These things are great but actually bring up another question.
It is known that Asymmetry –> Impaired movement–> faulty motor learning–> Altered joint proprioception–> Joint Degeneration –> Inflammation –>more asymmetry.
If the structure of your neck has been altered, and you are doing non-specific range of motion exercises, what is really happening? Structure determines function, but function can also influence the structure. Can you picture the 4 wheels of a car? If one wheel has considerably less air in it, that tire may likely wear out sooner. Please take a look at the degenerated cervical necks. The area where the degeneration(change in squarish shape, loss of disc space) shows up is where the structure was altered. It can be argued that degeneration is due to aging. If this were true all the vertebrae would show signs of degeneration. Not just the ones with altered alignment.
The benefits of care at Structural Chiropractic is that you will receive a complete Structural Chiropractic Examination and a course of action for a long term solution. You will be educated and learn more about your body and how to take care of it on your own. After the Structural Chiropractic Examination, if we don’t think we can help you, we will let you know and help point you in the right direction. There are many cases where patients should not be treated in our office and need to be referred out. All of your health concerns and options can be discussed at our complimentary consultation.
Thank you for contributing your question and I hope that this article has been helpful. Please stay tuned for more articles to come. The focus will determine the benefits.