There’s a big misconception that chiropractors want to do away with: “Most patients arrive at their first appointment with the assumption that as a chiropractor I only specialize in injuries of the spine and they’ll be getting their backs ‘cracked,’” says Ian Nurse, D.C., a Boston-based chiropractor and owner of Wellness in Motion Boston.
Frustrating to doctors with chiropractic degrees? Sure. But the stereotype doesn’t do you any good either. After all, chiropractors—health care professionals who specialize in musculoskeletal system and nervous system disorders—heal everything from soft tissue running injuries and joint pain to headaches. Their work is non-invasive, far cheaper than surgery, and comes with little to no downtime.
So should you see one? If any of the below scenarios look familiar, it’s worth considering. Find a chiropractor near you here.
1. If You Overdid it With Yard Work, Shoveling Snow, or the Gym
Muscle strains, ligament injuries, tennis elbow, and/or tendon issues are all commonplace in sports- and fitness-oriented people. Chiropractors will utilize soft-tissue techniques, such as Active Release Technique (ART) and Graston (which involves “scraping” the skin with a stainless steel tool to break down scar tissue), to heal athletic or movement-related injuries.
Nurse, for one, sees many runners and notes that Achilles tendonitis is something that often calls for a full-body assessment.
“While most would assume the calf and tendon are the roots of the problem, a chiropractor is trained to look at the entire picture in order to figure out why the injured Achilles is having more pressure placed on it than it can handle,” he says. “In the case of Achilles tendonitis, the sciatic nerve is often entrapped within the affected leg’s glutes, thus, shortening the stride of that leg and placing more pressure on the Achilles.”
Your chiropractor might do a gait analysis to check for biomechanical faults that can stem from soft tissue and structural issues higher up in the body. Pelvis and low back adjustments, as well as soft tissue muscular work, can release the nerve, restoring proper biomechanics and placing less pressure on the Achilles.
2. If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Spend hours on end at the computer?
“Traditional thinking is that the nerves of the hand are being pinched as they pass through the carpal tunnel of the wrist,” says Nurse.
And, usually, docs call for physical therapy, cortisone injections, or surgery to treat the issue. Chiropractic treatments? They focus on the biomechanics of the entire upper body, Nurse says, including the neck, shoulders, arms, forearms, elbows, and wrists.
“Often, the nerves are being compromised further up the arm as opposed to the actual carpal tunnel of the wrist,” he says. ART and Graston can release them further up the chain, curing the hand symptoms, he explains.
3. If You Have Neck Pain or Headaches (and Don’t Want Meds)
“Chiropractors are usually thought of as being back specialists, but the second and third most common reasons people see a chiropractor is for neck pain and headaches,” says Bill Lauretti, D.C., a professor at New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, NY, and a spokesman for the American Chiropractic Association.
Often, headaches stem from neck stiffness, he says, and specific exercises, massage, joint mobilizations, and gentle manipulations can help relieve it.
Furthermore: “Chiropractors can offer ergonomic advice about how to set up your computer workstation or safely perform other activities to keep your neck in good shape,” he adds.
4. If You’ve Got Joint Pain
The spine often plays a role in injury or discomfort, but chiropractors are trained in the dysfunction of all joints: knees, shoulders, wrists, elbows, and ankles, says Nurse. Issues such as a “stuck” ankle or a foot injury can be treated with gentle adjustments, helping people move properly again, Lauretti says.
An added benefit: Since joint issues can be painful, chiropractic work offers pill-free relief.
“One recent study found that patients who received services from a doctor of chiropractic for back pain were significantly less likely to fill a prescription for an opioid medication than other patients,” says Lauretti.
5. If You’re Debating Spine Surgery
“In some cases, spine surgery is necessary and effective, but it can often be overused and the outcome of many surgeries is often far worse than patients expected,” says Lauretti. “Doctors of chiropractic are healthcare professionals who have extensive training in a wide variety of safe and effective treatments that can fix back pain and get you active again.”
Spinal manipulation, massage, and exercise can effectively manage issues, such as disc injuries, he says, and are worth trying before going under the knife. Not to mention, chiropractic work tends to be far cheaper than surgery, saving you money in the long run.