The facts

The word chiropractic derives from the Greek words for "hand" and "action." And chiropractic care is a hands-on approach to treating disorders of the spine and joints. Chiropractic care focuses on maintaining and restoring health through the relationship between the structure of the spine and its function.

The goal of chiropractic care is to reduce pain, enhance joint function, and restore or improve range of motion. People seeking chiropractic care often complain of pain - lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches are among some of the most commonly noted aches.

An appointment with a chiropractor would begin with a thorough medical history and a physical exam focused on the spine. If necessary, X-rays will be ordered and a treatment plan will be developed. In follow-up visits, the chiropractor uses his or her hands to perform highly refined techniques called adjustments or manipulations to the spine and joints. The goal of adjustments is to correct problems with spine alignment and to support the body in healing itself.

A word of caution

Patients receiving treatment may be alarmed by a popping noise reminiscent of the sound of knuckles cracking. This sound is not of bones or joints cracking, breaking, or being damaged in any way. It is the noise made by gas bubbles being released when pressure within a joint changes.

Chiropractic treatment is manual and can result in some soreness, a temporary headache, and a feeling of tiredness. It may also leave you feeling invigorated. Complications are rare.

Chiropractors are highly trained health care providers who undergo a minimum of 7 years of postsecondary training in classroom and clinical settings. You do not need a referral to visit a chiropractor. In Canada, all practicing chiropractors are regulated. Check a practitioner's references and credentials or ask a trusted friend for a recommendation.

Be sure to fully communicate your medical and health profile to a chiropractor, including any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take.