Chiropractic alternative medicine

Teddy needs a rib adjustment.

Chiropractic alternative medicine is the leading member of the CAM stable; complementary and alternative care.

The adjustment is a very specific, high-velocity manipulation of a joint, primarily of the spine but, increasingly, of all moving parts of the body; ankles, hips, shoulders and the jaw, for example.

Lack of normal movement within a joint is now well attested in the literature to cause immobilisation arthritis as the articular hyaline cartilage is deprived of nutrients and oxygen, and exposed for a prolonged time to the waste products of its own metabolism.

In addition there is a knock-on effect on the soft tissues around the joint causing pain, inflammation and dysfunction.

There is a huge amount in the scientific literature that confirms what chiropractors in the field have been saying for over a century; that the re-establishing of normal movement within joints leads directly to less pain and disability.

Chiropractic alternative medicine

Chiropractic alternative medicine was founded 125 years ago by Daniel Palmer.

The term chiropractic is derived from two Greek words, cheir and praktikis, meaning done by hand.

Chiropractic is about hands; used through direct contact with the skin to bring about changes primarily affecting the soft tissues and the human frame.

Chiropractic finds its origins in the mists of time; Hippocrates and Galen, both famous doctors, avidly used and advocated manipulation of the spine, thousands of years ago.

The bone-setters of Europe carried on the tradition through the Middle Ages but it was in 1895 that an American, Daniel Palmer, founded modern chiropractic.

There are now over 90 000 chiropractors in more than 70 countries. There is a minimum of five to six years of tertiary level education, starting with the same basic sciences as in medicine.

Chiropractic schools, controlled and accredited, are now found on every continent, except Antarctica, of course.

Most practitioners use the title doctor of chiropractic, or D.C, approved by law in the countries where this branch of alternative medicine is recognized and regulated. Many hospitals now have chiropractors on their staff and integrated practices are not uncommon.

"Here's to the men and women of my own breed

Good or bitter bad as they might be

At least they hear the things I hear

And see the things I see."

- Rudyard Kipling.


You will hear chiropractors using the word subluxation. It is an important word in our philosophy but means diverse things to different people. In medicine it means actual derangement of a joint, seen usually on an x-ray.

Simply put, to a chiropractor, a subluxation means a process of abnormal movement within a joint; initially too little, called a fixation, and later, as it begins to degenerate, excessive play as aging of the disc and facet capsules allows increased divergence.

Finally, with progressive degenerative changes in the hyaline cartilage, the joints become stabilized, often resulting in less pain and disability in older age.

Subluxations will frequently affect the spinal nerves resulting in various disorders depending on the root affected. Adjusting these fixations aims to restore the neuro-biomechanical harmony of the body.

New research proves that the hyaline cartilage lining the joints is utterly dependent on movement for adequate nutrition and oxygen, and the removal of toxic waste products.

Fixated joints become arthritic and stiff long before their time.

Research Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1997

"Labeled an unscientific cult by organized medicine as little as 20 years ago, Chiropractic is now recognized as the principal source of one of the few treatments recommended by national evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of low-back pain, namely spinal manipulation.

In the areas of training, practice and research, chiropractic alternative medicine has emerged from the periphery of the health care system and is playing an increasingly important role in discussions of well-being care policy."

Rehabilitation and Ergonomics

Chiropractors emphasize the importance of good muscle tone to maintain that harmony and use a wide variety of techniques to rehabilitate the muscles of the body, along with the joints they serve.

For pain emanating from subluxations of the upper lumbar spine and radiating to the low back, the buttock and even the lateral and anterior thigh responds well to Maignes syndrome exercises. There is a growing recognition in Chiropractic Alternative Medicine of the importance of ergonomics in maintaining excellent spinal health, and preventing injuries.

A formal definition:

Chiropractic Alternative Medicine is a health care discipline that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery.

The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.

In addition, doctors of chiropractic recognize the value and responsibility of working in cooperation with other health care practitioners in the best interests of the patient.

World Health Organisation (WHO) congress

In her opening address to the Congress, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan pointed out that the striking increase in the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in affluent societies reflected certain weaknesses in modern medical care, including its depersonalized and “assembly line” nature, and a number of strengths in CAM. These strengths included a more compassionate and holistic approach to healthcare and a focus on prevention as well as cure, strengths that meant that CAM should have a bigger role in primary health care and in national healthcare systems.

She went on to say: "The two systems of traditional and western medicine need not clash…they can blend together in a beneficial harmony, using the best features of each system.”

World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) president Dr. Papadopoulos said: “This Congress represented a major milestone for chiropractic. Chiropractic is seen by WHO and government officials from many countries, and delegates from other professions, as the most developed profession internationally in the field of manual healthcare, and the Beijing Declaration called upon all countries to recognise and regulate CAM professionals such as doctors of chiropractic.”

Useful links


Most chiropractors today will address all the joints in the body, and not only those that directly affect the nervous system. TMJ ear pain, Tietzes syndrome casefile and this Ankle Joint pain Case File all point to the contribution that Chiropractic makes to the whole musculo skeletal system.

The training at chiropractic alternative medicine universities caters well for the management of extra-spinal joint injuries.


General well-being is a subject all doctors of every ilk should be passionate about; alas it's not always so.

A long and vibrant life, using a minimum of drugs with all their serious side effects, is obviously dependent on more factors than being free of subluxations, bacteria and virus and tumours.

Chiropractors promote a healthy lifestyle, plenty of exercises, and a diet rich in phytochemical foods, anti-oxidants and the correct fatty acids.

Chiropractic alternative medicine was born in the naturopathic stable; this page was written on the day before Christmas, so you get the drift.

Factors like a correct omega-6/ omega-3 ratio have a vital anti-inflammatory effect on joints and other organs.

Raising the anti-inflammatory omega 3 to lower that ratio is vital for optimal well-being.

Google appears to frown on too many links, so phrases in bold, like those above, need to be put into the Site Search function in the navigation bar on your left if you want more information.

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

Do you have a problem that is not getting better?

Are you looking for a different slant on your pain?

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Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what a DC does.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my eBooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful from the life and work of a chiropractor, you will love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the amount without telling me.