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Wilmington Chiropractor | Wilmington chiropractic care | NC | Questions


(910) 256 2655

1904 Eastwood Rd. Suite 103
NC 28403


Questions about Chiropractic

If you're considering chiropractic care, we know you'll have lots of questions. For your convenience, we'd like to take the time to answer the most commonly asked questions below. Just click on the question you'd like to read.

woman_spine_model.jpgWhat is Chiropractic?


What is subluxation?

What is the "leg check?"

What is the definition of health?

What can I expect?

Chiropractic and children?

Is minor nerve pressure a problem?


What is Chiropractic?

woman_adjust.jpgChiropractic is a health care discipline which emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body without the use of drugs or surgery.

Chiropractic is the art, science and philosophy that deals with the vital relationship between the nervous system and the human body.

The chiropractic foundation includes philosophy, science, art, knowledge, and clinical experience. Chiropractic is not a treatment for any particular health condition.

Chiropractic is way of living, understanding that true health comes from within when the body can properly comprehend, interpret and respond to its surroundings, and those are the jobs of the nervous system. True health occurs only when there is no interference within the course of the body’s “master communications system,” the human nervous system.

Is Chiropractic Safe?

kid_adjust.jpgThere has been much controversy lately regarding the safety of chiropractic care. Let us assure you that it absolutely is.
Here is the accepted published data on the safety of medicine vs. chiropractic. We'll let you decide.

  • The risk of a stroke from a chiropractic adjustment is 1 in 1 MILLION (Haldeman DC, MD, PHD, Top Clin Chiro. 1995; 2(3))
  • You are more likely to be struck by lightning!! Don't be fooled by the media.
  • "The Risk of a neurological complication from a chiropractic adjustment for children is 1 in 25O MILLION" ( J of Vert. Subluxation Research, Jun 1998). It is barely even conscionable!

This is the accepted data. Lets compare to medicine and you decide what is safe:

  • "40,000 deaths per year in Canada from medical mistakes." (Macleans, Aug. 13, 2001)
  • "The Risk of death from Anesthesia is 1 in 1000." (Chapman-Smith, The Chiro Report, May 1994)
  • Tylenol kills more people than COCAINE! (Jan.12, 1998 Forbes Magazine, "J&J's Dirty Little Secret")
  • "180,000 deaths per year occur from medical mistakes, the equivalent of 3 jumbo jet crashes every 2 days!" (Dr. Lucien Leape, Harvard school of Public health -- JAMA, Dec. 21 1994).

It is more than clear what the safest health care on earth really is. You are more likely to be struck by lightning than suffer permanent injury from a chiropractic adjustment.

What is a Subluxation?

Subluxations are problem areas of your spine that affect your entire nervous system. In these problem areas, the spinal bones are misaligned or have lost their normal range of movement. This irritates or puts pressure on local nerves, which interferes with the communication between your brain and body. It may involve your muscles, discs, ligaments, tendons and other body parts as well.

How Do Subluxations Happen?

The stresses and strains of everyday living such as housework, gardening, desk work, lifting, or even sleeping on the couch, can cause spinal problems. So can falls, accidents (especially car accidents), sports activities and injuries. In children, subluxations can initially occur during the birth process, learning to walk, in play and from everyday childhood activities.

What Are Some Warning Signs Of Subluxations?

Symptoms such as headaches, back pain, neck stiffness, pain in your shoulders, arms or legs, numbness in your hands or feet, fatigue, or nervousness are the most common signs of subluxations. But, like a tooth cavity, most people will have a subluxation long before they notice any symptoms.

What Is An Adjustment?

After a Chiropractor has determined that there is a subluxation in your spine, he will carry out an adjustment to correct it. An adjustment is a specifically directed force, normally by hand designed to 'unlock' the subluxated vertebrae returning normal motion and alignment to the spine.

There are a variety of different methods used in Chiropractic to analyze and adjust the spine. A Chiropractor will choose the most effective technique for a person as well taking into consideration the physical build of the patient, the age or any other health matters. Additionally the chiropractor will make sure the adjustment is as comfortable as possible.

What is the "leg check?"

Chiropractors adjust subluxations to remove nervous system interference, therefore allowing your body to function at its optimal level. The exact location of a vertebral subluxation can be determined using spinal x-ray analysis, motion and static palpation, muscle testing, and leg length analysis.

X-ray analysis gives us a “picture” of your spine, and allows us to determine the exact location and extent of misalignment. Motion and static palpation allows us to “feel” the area of misalignment for muscle spasms, heat, and tenderness, as well as bony displacement. Muscle testing can give the doctor of chiropractic an indicator as to which level of the spine is subluxated, as neurologically weakened muscles can be traced back to the level of innervation from the spine. Finally, leg length analysis can be used as a reliable indicator of nervous system involvement. When we speak of leg length discrepancy, we are considering changes in the apparent leg length caused by neurological involvement, and we have already ruled out actual physical leg length deficiency. Subluxation of the spinal bones causes a compensatory “functional” change in the length of a person’s legs, and a chiropractor can use this as a guide to the effected spinal levels.

The following excerpt explains the compensatory muscular compensation that must occur when subluxations arise:

“Whenever the pelvic joints lose their neuro-mechanical integrity (i.e. subluxate), the neuro-muscular system will innately compensate. In addition, spinal levels above the sacro-iliac joints (i.e. thoraco-lumbar spine) will dysfunction in compensation, often becoming areas of chronic irritation. These areas are determined as to location and nature by evaluating the muscular compensation they have caused, and when all indications of compensatory muscular compensation are gone, the patient is considered to be “unsubluxated”.

The leg check utilizes this neuro-muscular relationship to determine specific positioning of the legs that cause a neurological response. In other words, moving certain joints into specific positions or contacting and stressing areas of involvement temporarily decreases nervous irritation, which results in a temporary “balancing” of the legs. Leg length inequality, after ruling out anatomical discrepancy, is a reliable indicator of nervous system involvement.

As you can see, the chiropractor has a number of tools for determining “where” and “to what extent” the bones of your spine have become misaligned. There are actually many other ways to detect subluxation that have not been discussed here. It’s important to realize that your body can “tell” the chiropractor exactly where the problem areas are (just another example of the amazing power of the human nervous system).

What is health anyway?

couple_gray_happy.jpgDefinitions of Health:

Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines health as…

“All of the parts of the body functioning at 100%.”

World Health Organization defines health as…

“The state of optimal physical, mental, and social well-being, and NOT merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines health as…

“The condition of being sound in mind, body and spirit.”

So you see, health is not defined by the absence of something, but by the presence of something. True health comes from consistent healthy habits over time. The more healthy habits you have, the healthier you will be. Regular chiropractic care ensures good communication between the brain and the body, and good communication leads to proper function and optimal wellness.

What should I expect on my first visit?

man_back_pain.jpgYour first visit in our office is sure to be an exciting one. Many of our patients feel that they have learned some amazing things about themselves following a chiropractic spinal evaluation. The prospect of finding the answers to present and past health problems as they relate to the spine is always quite fascinating.

The only way to determine if a vertebral misalignment (subluxation) is present, is to be evaluated by a doctor specifically licensed in chiropractic analysis. Doctors of Chiropractic are the only licensed professionals trained to detect and correct vertebral subluxations. No other profession on earth duplicates the service rendered by a qualified doctor of chiropractic.

On your first visit, you will be asked to fill out a patient history form to help determine the exact cause of your condition. A thorough chiropractic spinal examination will reveal any problems in spinal range of motion, palpatory muscle spasms or tenderness, or bony misalignment.

A radiographic evaluation (x-ray) can reveal the level of involvement, amount of degeneration, and extent of structural damage present within the spine.

On your return, the doctor will sit down with you in a one-on-one report of the findings of your case. The exact levels of subluxation will be presented to you in great detail so that you can have a genuine understanding about your overall spinal health. The doctor will make recommendations to you based on your specific needs and goals.

woman_spine.jpgHow should I feel after an adjustment?

After an adjustment you may experience a feeling of deepening peace and relaxation. This relaxed feeling may last for the rest of the day or the week and may lead to deep refreshing sleep. Others have at times felt a warm feeling flowing to various parts of their bodies that's very soothing. Some feel very energetic and do all their chores or business that day with a light, happy feeling.

Others may find that the problems that they came to the chiropractor for have begun to lessen and there are some people who feel no difference after an adjustment. That does not necessarily mean that they are not benefiting from their adjustments, it just means that they're not feeling any external reaction.

A small minority may feel discomfort or muscle soreness, or some other uncomfortable feeling; this is sometimes called an "adjustment reaction".

What happens as I continue?

couple_gray_happy.jpgAfter you get well, you can choose to stay well. Like brushing your teeth, exercise and eating foods that are good for you, have your nervous system checked regularly so you can maintain neural integrity and function at your best.

A program of regular chiropractic checkups can help you maintain the spinal correction we’ve worked so hard to create. You can prevent the small problems in life from becoming the big ones by simply staying well after you get well.

As your spine begins to regain its full range of motion, your nervous system will be able to work with minimal interference, enhancing your body's ability to heal. You may begin to notice:

  • Better balance, smoother movement, and as a result, more energy.
  • Increased awareness of your spine, its movements, areas of tightness and/or restrictions.
  • Increased ability to breathe more deeply and more awareness of your breathing.
  • Increased awareness of your body stress.
  • More emotional relaxation
  • You may spontaneously change your eating habits, feel an increased desire to exercise, go for walks or become more sensitive to your work and leisure.

Your doctor of chiropractic welcomes you to discuss your experiences as you begin to live a subluxation-free life. More benefits of chiropractic are being discovered all the time. Perhaps you'll discover some for yourself.

Do I have to come to the chiropractor forever?

couple_dark.jpgA common misconception about chiropractic care is that once you begin your care, you have to keep going for the rest of your life. This varies for each individual patient, because it depends on a whole host of factors.

Your spine is composed of 24 spinal bones (vertebrae) that are each separated by a disc. Between each two consecutive vertebrae, a pair of spinal nerves exit. These large nerves branch into millions of tiny nerves that travel throughout the body. They allow for communication between the nervous system and every single organ, tissue, and cell of the body. Good health occurs when proper communication between the brain and body exists.

Any number of traumas, accidents, falls and slips, or even normal day-to-day stresses like sitting for long periods at a desk, standing all day at work, or holding a child on your hip can severely affect the alignment of these vertebrae. The result…irritation and dysfunction in the body’s most important communication system. This condition is known as a vertebral subluxation.

couple_outdoors.jpgChiropractic care is like “orthodontics” for the spine. 
Clinically, repeated chiropractic adjustments re-train the vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments to their proper spinal alignment and range of mobility.

Just as the time required for braces to achieve correction depends on the condition of an individual’s teeth and mouth structure, the time required for proper spinal alignment to occur depends on the condition of the individual patient’s spine, their job duties, their hobbies, and many other lifestyle factors.

The fact is that most patients actually do require regular lifetime chiropractic care. Each patient’s treatment plan is a partnership between the doctor and themselves. Whether to come often or just once in awhile depends on each patient, their spinal condition, and their individual goals.

So, what are your goals? What do you want to achieve? 
Are you looking for better health, or merely symptomatic relief? We'll help educate you about your spinal health so that you can make an informed decision regarding your health care.


Is Chiropractic safe for my child?

kid_adjust.jpgRecently I was asked "What are the risks of chiropractic care for my child". I conducted an extensive Medline search covering the years 1966-1997, using the terms "chiropractic" and "children", so that I may find reports of adverse events which may have occurred in children as a result of chiropractic care. In more than 31 years of medical literature, I have only found one reported case of damage to a child as a result of chiropractic care and even this case is speculative at best.

According to this report a child with a rare spinal tumor presented to a chiropractor with reports of torticollis (Wry Neck). It is alleged by the author that tissue damage (necrosis) found in the area of the tumor, discovered during autopsy, was caused by 'chiropractic manipulation'. However, there exist no scientific proof that this damage was the result of a chiropractic adjustment. Speculation by this author is irresponsible. This particular tumor (an astrocytoma) has been commonly reported to be a congenital condition in numerous medical publications. Additionally the credentials of the person performing the manipulation are not discussed. While it may seem common sense that only chiropractors would be credited with making chiropractic adjustments, such is not the case.

Terrett has done an extensive review of literature, going back to 1934, and found that of 78 cases of vertebrobasilar stroke (none of which occurred in children) following ‘chiropractic manipulation’ 36% were not performed by chiropractors. You might then ask who is performing such manipulations, which are incorrectly being attributed to chiropractors? The answer is an Indian barber, a kung-fu practitioner, a blind masseur, medical doctors, nurses, osteopaths, physiotherapists, victim’s wives’, and persons doing self neck wrenching manipulation. I find that it is sad that such irresponsible reporting by so-called responsible medical researchers is printed and is misleading the public.

Estimates of risk of chiropractic adjustment are extremely low. I will use some figures to illustrate this point:

  • 30% Incidence of adverse drug event in hospitalized patients. Anderson, 1992
  • 10% Incidence of psychosis due to corticosteroid therapy. Havey, 1984
  • 7-10% Incidence of hepatitis due to blood transfusion. Stehling, 1986
  • 6.1% Incidence of infection in postoperative orthopedic patients.
    Fernandez et al., 1992
  • 3.76% Incidence of nosocomial infection in hospitalized patients in the U.S.A C.D.C., 1991
  • 1-2% Incidence of paralysis due to neurosurgery of the cervical spine. Rocha vs. Harris, 1987
  • 0.7% Incidence of esophageal perforation during anterior approach cervical spine surgery. Van Berge Henegouwan et al., 1991
  • 0.3-0.9% Incidence of death due to cervical spine surgery. Graham, 1989
  • 0.057% Incidence of seizure due to D.P.T. Vaccine. C. D. C., 1994
  • 0.012% Incidence of breast cancer due to mammography. 
    Bushong, 1984
  • 0.005-0.015%Incidence of death from radiation-induced malignancy due to X-ray exposure of 1-RAD. Bushong, 1984
  • 0.0025-0.01%Incidence of death due to radiocontrast media. 
    Atkinson & Kaliner, 1992
  • 0.0008-0.001%Incidence of death due to allergic reaction to anesthetic agents. Anderson, 1992
  • 0.00002-0.00008%Incidence of death due to lightning in the U.S.A. Eriksson & Ornehult 1988
  • 0.00001-0.00003%Incidence of serious neural complications due to cervical manipulation. Cyriax, 1978, Gutman, 1983

As you can see, the risk of injury as a result of chiropractic adjustments is extremely low for adults and even smaller for the pediatric patient. With only one questionable report of injury to a child following chiropractic care in 31 years of medical literature, potential risk is so low it can not be accurately estimated.

Originally Printed in: I.C.P.A. Newsletter September/October 1997

World Chiropractic Alliance Position Paper On Chiropractic for Children

kid_adjust.jpgThe health and welfare of children around the world is, and should be, a major concern for health care practitioners and advocates. Children in all nations are at risk from a staggering number of dangers from infectious diseases and conditions. The precarious nature of their health has been further threatened by a frightening increase in iatrogenic incidents.

Parents are alarmed by news of possible links between vaccines and autism, the overuse and abuse of antibiotics for otitis media, the shameful misuse of Ritalin and growth hormones, and the lack of proper testing of drugs given to children. They are aware that medical errors needlessly kill as many as 98,000 Americans annually -- more than from highway accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. They are looking for something better and many of them are finding chiropractic to be a safe and effective alternative. The World Chiropractic Alliance strongly supports the right of parents to seek and obtain chiropractic care for all their children, regardless of age or presence or absence of symptoms.

The care of children is consistent with recommended chiropractic guidelines, as set forth in the Council on Chiropractic Practice "Clinical Practice Guideline Number 1, Vertebral Subluxation in Chiropractic Practice," included in the National Guideline Clearinghouse.

This document, which has been widely embraced by the chiropractic profession, states:

"Since vertebral subluxation may affect individuals at any age, chiropractic care may be indicated at any time after birth. As with any age group, however, care must be taken to select adjustment methods most appropriate to the patient’s stage of development and overall spinal integrity. Parental education by the subluxation-centered chiropractor concerning the importance of evaluating children for the presence of vertebral subluxation is encouraged."

spine_illustration.jpgIt provides ample documented evidence that chiropractic care is safe for children and can have beneficial effects on health and fitness from newborn to adult stages.

In addition to the CCP Guideline, two peer-reviewed journals, Chiropractic Pediatrics and the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics disseminate critically reviewed papers in this field. Courses in pediatrics are offered at the professional and postgraduate levels at accredited chiropractic colleges and by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

Unlike medical treatment and surgical procedures, chiropractic care presents an extremely low risk for chiropractic pediatric patients, as reported by Dr. R.A. Pistolese in "Risk assessment of neurological and/or vertebrobasilar complications in the pediatric chiropractic patient" REF-<http://www.jvsr.com/> Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research 1998; 2(2).

The World Chiropractic Alliance also condemns the efforts by the medical pediatric establishment to malign chiropractic and prevent parents from obtaining chiropractic care for their children. These blatant attempts to spread misinformation and fear is reminiscent of the campaign by the American Medical Association and other medical organizations against the profession in the 1960s-90s, which was deemed by the courts to have been an illegal conspiracy to destroy competition in the health care field.

Are there general subluxation patterns during early child development?

Many parents turn to chiropractic first in an attempt to have a child’s particular ailment “fixed”, because they know it is the safest and most effective natural approach. However, there is a small group among them who know of the true value of chiropractic care. These parents seek to maintain the overall wellness of their family, rather than trying to restore health after sickness arrives. These parents utilize chiropractic for their entire family on a regular basis as a preventive measure, but more importantly as a means to maximize their children’s future potential.

Chiropractors detect and correct vertebral subluxations. Subluxations interfere with the proper functioning of the nervous system. Subluxations can exist for years with little to no symptomatology, all the while causing dysfunction throughout the entire body. The level of impact on a child’s health depends on the degree of interference present, but we all know that any interference is way too much.

When determining areas of subluxation in children, the chiropractor will check the entire spine to ascertain levels of involvement. Objective findings of subluxation will be monitored on each successive visit to determine improvement and course of care.

What are the guidelines?

The following generalities will help act as a guideline as to where a problem may be originating.

The Newborn

Check primarily the upper cervical spine. Occiput(C0) involvement usually occurs with a history of some type of in-utero constraint. Atlas(C1) involvement occurs quite frequently from the trauma of birth. Axis(C2) subluxation has been associated with separation anxiety from the mother.
Children who were born caesarean have a tendency to subluxate in the upper to mid-thoracic areas. Many associate later with chronic respiratory involvements.

One To Six Weeks Of Age

Check upper cervical spine. Occiput, C1, and C2. Common problems relating to the upper cervical subluxation include: otitis media (middle ear infections), infantile colic, and asthma.

Eight To Ten Weeks Of Age

Check the lower cervical area. According to Mosby, this is the time that a child starts to hold their head upright in a sustained position. As this occurs, and the cervical curve develops, the lower cervical vertebrae can become subluxated.

Five Months Of Age

At this age, the child is able to push up from a prone position with their forearms and maintain that position. They can usually roll from prone to supine to prone again. They can straighten their back when sitting. This is a common time for lower thoracic subluxations to develop. You may see children with colic at this age. The lower thoracic subluxation may be a part of the problem.

Eight Months Of Age

The child now usually can sit upright without support. Check the lumbar spine. The lumbar curve is in full development at this time.

Ten Months Of Age

This is the time that the child can pull itself to a standing position, but is unable to let itself down. They tend to “plop” down onto their sacral area. Make sure the sacral segments are checked at this stage.

Twelve To Eighteen Months

This is the ambulatory time for the child, either by vigorous crawling or walking. Make sure the sacroiliac area is checked.
Once again, it is important to have the child’s entire spine checked at all times in development. Maintain your family’s good health through regular chiropractic care.

Research Shows Even Minor Pressure on Nerves Causes Problems

woman_adjust.jpgChiropractors have historically maintained that even small amounts of pressure on the nerves that exit the spine can cause health problems. They have even stated that such pressure can go undetected for years and lead to long-term difficulties. A review of literature published in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research (JVSR) adds further evidence to this contention.

The study, "The Effects of Mild Compression on Spinal Nerve Roots With Implications for Models of Vertebral Subluxation and the Clinical Effects of Chiropractic Adjustment: A Review of the Literature," was authored by Scott Alderson D.C., a private practitioner and George Muhs, D.C., Assistant Professor of Clinical Services at the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic.

Chiropractic theory maintains that the bones that make up the spinal column -- known as vertebrae -- can become misaligned and/or not move properly, which could place abnormal pressure on nerves and cause interference with how those nerves work. Chiropractors call these misalignments and neurological alterations vertebral subluxations.

According to the authors, research shows that "these alterations would therefore alter the quality and/or quantity of the message sent. At the tissue and cellular level, the message received would not be adequate for the function the body demands. The entire body could then theoretically be affected."

The authors also discussed the possibility that subluxations can go unnoticed for long periods of time since they may not be severe enough in the beginning stages to create outward signs and symptoms. In their view, this makes both age and degree of subluxation factors in the healing process. "One must consider the age of the person with a vertebral subluxation," the researchers explained. "The younger they are, the better the chance for a complete correction."

Matthew McCoy, D.C., editor of the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research noted:

"This review of literature is extremely comprehensive in nature and adds significant evidence to some of the fundamental positions chiropractors have long maintained -- namely, that subluxations don't always cause symptoms and that the longer a patient goes without correcting them, the worse they become and the more difficult they are to correct. This is another strong argument for having children checked by chiropractors at a young age for vertebral subluxation."

An abstract of the paper is available on the JVSR website.
JVSR is a peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to subluxation based chiropractic research, affiliated with the World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA), an international organization representing doctors of chiropractic and promoting the traditional, drug-free and non-invasive form of chiropractic as a means of correcting vertebral subluxations that cause nerve interference. For more information, contact the WCA at 800-347-1011 or their website.

Wilmington Chiropractor | Questions. Dr. Ashly Smith is a Wilmington Chiropractor.