Updated: Jun 17
by DPT Huang Guan-Wei
Chiropractic is a common treatment in Taiwan, where it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Tuina, physical therapy, folk remedies, and even Western medicine. Chiropractic medicine was first developed in 1895 by US doctor Daniel David Palmer, and the United States offers formal chiropractic degrees and licenses, as well as a dedicated craft union. In Taiwan, the influence of Traditional Chinese Medicine theories and Tuina have led chiropractic medicine to develop differently compared to the US. Many people confuse folk medicine "adjustment" with chiropractic medicine, but they are actually quite different. Most importantly, chiropractic medicine is classified as a medical behavior and must be performed by a Western medicine doctor, TCM practitioner, or physical therapist.
This introduction to chiropractic medicine will cover questions such as:
1. What are the principles of chiropractic medicine?
2. Is "the louder the adjustment, the better the chiropractor" really true?
3. What are the risks of chiropractic treatment? What are some safety guidelines?
4. What is the difference between chiropractic and manual physical therapy?
Principles of Chiropractic Treatment
Chiropractic theory is based on neuroanatomy and biomechanics and applies manual or mechanical methods to adjust the spine, release pressure on spinal nerves, and promote normal nerve conduction. Less compression on the nervous system releases pain and relaxes muscles, as well as returning joints to their normal range of motion.
Does louder popping and cracking mean treatment is more effective?
Many people mistakenly believe that the cracking heard during a chiropractic session is the sound of joints returning to their correct position. This is not true. The cracking sounds are actually caused by synovial fluid in the joints; when the joints are pulled on, the pressure between them drops, causing the air dissolved in the fluid to turn into bubbles which then pop. Even MRI scans show this phenomenon. Thus, there is no correlation between these sounds and effective treatment. The most important factor is whether chiropractic treatment returns the spine to its ideal position and relieves discomfort.
Chiropractic Treatment Risks
Performing chiropractic treatment on the spine before fully understanding the underlying problem is dangerous and can cause injury to spinal bones and nerves. Before undergoing treatment, you should confirm whether you have any contraindications and take X-rays to better understand your spine's condition and decide whether chiropractic treatment is suitable.
You might be wondering, "How should I avoid this risk?"
It's not proper for a therapist to evaluate your spine's condition simply via touching to determine if chiropractic treatment is suitable. Allowing a non-professional to perform chiropractic medicine on you is not only risky but also illegal.
What is the Difference Between Chiropractic and Manual Physical Therapy? There are many forms of manual therapy, but in general, they have the following effects: relaxing tight tissue, softening hard tissue, and returning joints to their correct positions.
When treating joints, common manual therapy goals include fixing problems caused by improper joint position, muscle, fascia, or tendon adhesion, and tightness. Using joint mobilization techniques on the spine to slowly loosen and realign spinal joints can have long-lasting effects and is quite safe. In addition, problems in surrounding areas can be examined during the treatment process to prevent joints from coming out of alignment as quickly. However, the effects of manual therapy or chiropractic adjustments alone are not permanent; complementing treatment with exercise is recommended for further improvement.
"So what's the best treatment option?!" Many physical therapists are asked this question. In reality, there are pros and cons to each of the many manual therapy methods out there. There is no "best method", only the method most suitable for you, and the therapist's skill level will also influence treatment effectiveness. An accurate diagnosis and evaluation is still the key to choosing the most suitable treatment method. If you are having pain problems, see a doctor first and undergo testing, and don't get your medical advice from unlicensed "therapists".
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