How do chiropractors view their patients differently? When a patient walks in our door, we evaluate that patient as a whole person. Contrary to other specialties, we will ask you about your entire body, including what you eat, if you exercise, any medications you may take, your daily habits, work environment, and all of your symptoms. Why do we do this if we just treat backs?
Chiropractors Do More Than Treat Your Back
Chiropractors are musculoskeletal specialists! That means that we are able to evaluate and treat more than just the muscles and bones in your back. Further, chiropractors view a person as a whole person and not just a persons symptoms. For example, if a patient comes in with low back pain, I am not just going to ask history questions about their back, and I am not going to perform an exam on only their back. I will take a complete history and perform a complete exam. Why?
Because although many complaints of low back pain are caused by tight muscles and bad posture, low back pain may also be caused by many other things including disease in an internal organ or an infection within the body. This has to be determined based on the history of the complaint and the physical examination performed. But this article is not about low back pain.
Upon questioning a patient prior to an examination, we will often find other symptoms they are suffering from that may relate to their back pain. For example, they may have complaints of indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, etc.. You get the idea. When that patient walks in our door, they might not think to tell us about these other symptoms. But your body is one whole body. Everything happening within your body is connected in one way or another. We want the whole picture so that we may better understand why you are suffering from these symptoms, and we may just be able to help out a patient that has more than just low back pain.
Let me better describe my point by telling the story of a patient who came into our office. Sarah (name changed for privacy) had been into our office several times off and on over the years for her chiropractic adjustments. This time she was here because she was having digestion issues and had been written off by all her other doctors. We were a last ditch effort to solve her pain. She described the inability to eat very much due to severe pain in her stomach after eating. After asking her some questions, she also informed me that she had been to numerous doctors and had every test possible with no definitive diagnosis. She was told she would just have to live with it. Have you heard this before? Once all the tests have been run and medications tried, and a patient still has the complaint, they are often sent home with a “sorry, but you will just have to learn to live with it.” What kind of life is that? A poor quality one if you ask me. Upon further questioning, we talked about her diet and lifestyle habits and nothing really stuck out as unusual. I did make a few dietary modifications and suggestions. I also explained to Sarah that many times these symptoms she was describing were a result of spinal misalignments in the back.
The nerves that run down and exit out of the spine travel to all of our major organs in our body among other things. If a vertebra in the spine is slightly out of place, this can put pressure on the nerve exiting at that level, and can cause a change in the function of that nerve. An example of this would be a garden hose. Imagine a garden hose with water running freely through the hose. Now if you step on the hose anywhere along the hose, the water may still run through but the flow will be affected. This is the same with the nerves in the spine. If pressure, swelling, and muscle tension caused by a misalignment in a vertebra places pressure on an exiting nerve, the signals being sent through that nerve are affected. The message to the body is hindered. What if the message being sent is headed to your stomach and how it should digest your lunch?
After an evaluation, we decided that with the dietary changes we would try a trial of chiropractic adjustments. We specifically treated the vertebra in her mid-back where the nerves exiting to her stomach and intestines were located. By locating the misaligned vertebra and providing a specific adjustment to those vertebra, over time we were able to eliminate her digestion complaints and she was able to once again enjoy eating a normal meal.
Side Effects from Drugs
Another aspect of a patients life that may be affecting their symptoms are any medications they are taking. Medications are chemicals. They are not natural to your body. Medications have side effects. So a patient complaining of low back pain who also has stomach pain or nausea at night may be experiencing side effects from the drugs they are taking for pain. This includes over-the-counter medication. In fact the most commonly used over-the-counter medications for pain in the back are NSAIDs like ibuprofen. When you go to drugs.com and look up ibuprofen, you will see the many side effects this drug may cause. Again, the reason we ask is that we want to have the most complete history we can in order to treat the whole person.
Why is this important? Well for one I get very frustrated when a close friend, relative , or patient is suffering; they go to their medical doctor, and not only does this doctor list off all the many possibilities that may be causing their symptoms, they also put that person through unnecessary, time consuming and often painful testing. And while all of this is taking place, that person and their loved ones are worrying. After all tests are completed, there may still not be an answer.
A complete thorough history and exam may have provided them with an answer from the beginning without the worry and unnecessary tests. Unfortunately we see this everyday and we hear not only about the large amounts of money that has been spent for these tests, but we also have a person sitting before us with no answers, frustrated, and they still have their symptoms.
Bottom line, sometimes the answer is as simple as stop taking ibuprofen everyday for your back pain, headaches, etc., and get to the bottom of what is causing your pain and fix that. Ibuprofen is a band-aid, it masks the important symptoms your body is experiencing that are there to tell you something is not right. It is not intended to be taken everyday. Your body is not ibuprofen deficient. That is not the problem.
However, the answer may not be that simple. That is why a complete history and exam is performed, and if your symptoms are not a chiropractic case, than we will refer you to an appropriate physician. But more often than not, there is something you are eating or doing everyday that you have not even thought of that is causing your symptoms. And ninety-nine times out of a hundred you are a chiropractic case and there is something that we can do.
I encourage everyone to ask questions and be educated, no matter which type of doctor you choose to see. And be honest with them about your symptoms. Do not omit information because you think it is not relevant or important, it just may be. You only have one body and you have the right to ask questions. Stop suffering everyday and get some answers! It is not normal to vomit daily, have headaches daily, have stomach pain, or the inability to eat. Your body is meant to be healthy and your health absolutely can be restored starting today.
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