While the modern chiropractic profession is just a little over 100 years old, healers have been treating back and joint pain for millennia. Hippocrates, the Greek physician considered the father of modern Western medicine, encouraged other healers to learn about the spine because he believed it was integral to a person’s overall health and well being. From the time of the ancient Greeks to the era of Daniel David Palmer, who coined the term chiropractic and developed modern spinal adjustment in 1895, and on into the 20th century, treatments were performed manually. In fact, the word chiropractic comes from Greek words literally meaning hands-on.
As Palmer noted, “I am not the first person to replace subluxated vertebrae, but I do claim to be the first person to replace displaced vertebrae by using the spinous and transverse processes as levers … and to develop the philosophy and science of chiropractic adjustments.”
But just as technology has impacted nearly every aspect of today’s society, chiropractic care has adopted hi-tech tools and equipment designed to promote healing, reduce downtime, and improve the patient’s overall wellness.
What is the Basis of Traditional Chiropractic Care?
So the basis of chiropractic care is the manipulations your practitioner performs with their hands, which can include twisting or rotating a limb or other body part, resulting in the joint cracking. Over time, other treatments and therapies have been integrated into chiropractic care — some quickly dismissed as fads while others became accepted methods.
Almost every chiropractic office still has a traction table, which now may be multi-purpose and also accommodate manipulation and massage. Chiropractic traction is pulling on some part of the body to correct subluxations both from dislocations and misalignments, as well as to relieve associated pain, pressure, tension, and spasms. Using traction to free a herniated disk and move it back into its correct position can significantly improve the patient’s quality of life.
The Evolution of Chiropractic Care in Recent Decades
Chiropractors also use ultrasound therapy to increase the elasticity of connective tissue, which in turn increases range of motion. Ultrasounds can also increase circulation to help heal and regenerate damaged tissue. Another benefit is that muscles are able to relax through ultrasound stimulation.
Cold lasers produce light without heat, and research shows that stimulating injured tissue with light has significant therapeutic value, such as reducing inflammation and swelling, boosting the immune system, and promoting tissue healing. Another technology used to reduce swelling and speed healing is the electric stimulation machine. The goal of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is to relax muscles and associated connective tissues while reducing inflammation.
Applications of Cold Laser Therapy
There is often confusion about when to use heat and when to use cold to treat a condition or injury. In general, cold therapy is used for acute injuries, such as spraining an ankle while playing a weekend game of baseball. Heat is used to alleviate more chronic conditions, such as back pain and general body stiffness. Most chiropractic offices are equipped with infrared heat lamps that are used as direct treatment or to loosen muscles prior to manipulation or massage therapy.
These tried and true instruments and devices are being joined by a new generation of technologies. For example, the Proadjuster uses advanced computer and engineering technology to treat musculoskeletal pain by gathering data on joint fluidity, motion, or rigidity via special sensors. The Proadjuster analyzes the data and gives the chiropractor a precise diagnosis. The device also helps the practitioner devise a treatment tailored to specific symptoms.
In 1967, Dr. Arlan Fuhr developed the Activator method using a handheld instrument designed to mimic a form of manual manipulation where he generated a thumb thrust by quickly bringing the elbows together. Making adjustments all day left Fuhr with aching elbows. So he created an adjusting instrument that was initially based on a dental tool used to split molars. According to Fuhr, the Activator method “has become the second most widely used chiropractic technique endorsed throughout the chiropractic field and is in use every day by 70 percent of all chiropractors.”
Even so, others have worked to improve on ways to perform adjustments. One of the latest is the Impulse Adjusting Instrument that was also developed to make precise chiropractic adjustments to the spine as well as to other joints in order to relieve pain. This device, which is registered with the Federal Drug Administration, is controlled by built-in micro-computer circuitry that produces gentle chiropractic adjustments that are safe and effective for both adults and children. Proponents of the impulse device cite its speed — it is a hundred times faster than manual chiropractic adjustments. While it’s common for patients to become tense during treatments, an impulse device is so fast that the thrust happens before the patient has a chance to tighten. Impulse adjustments also do not produce the iconic cracking associated with traditional adjustments because they are so targeted. While useful for patients who do not like manual treatments, results from impulse devices vary, so they are often used in conjunction with other treatments as opposed to being the sole treatment provided.
One of the more interesting devices are weight-bearing digital foot scanners. Even though we spend a good amount of our life standing on them, the feet are often overlooked when thinking about wellness and skeletal health. The devices work by displaying the pressure placed onto the foot when standing. The scanners provide information such as evidence of arch flattening or over-pronation, which in turn can identify foot stability, quality of balance, and how all this affects the body as a whole. Another advantage of foot scanners is that the displays are often presented in color so patients can easily see their foot issues.
As with any profession, even the highest-tech equipment is only as useful as the humans working them. While tools and gadgets can help practitioners diagnose and treat a variety of joint and muscle conditions, they will ever take the place of a well-trained chiropractor.