The word "chiropractic" comes from the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (action), and simply means "done by hand." Chiropractic patients often visit their chiropractor periodically in order simply to relieve irritations - to get "adjusted." Individuals also seek chiropractic care for back pain, headaches, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sprains, as well as non-musculoskeletal conditions including allergies, asthma, and digestive disorders. Some chiropractors further specialize in orthopedics, sports injuries, neurology, pediatrics, nutrition, internal disorders, or diagnostic imaging.
Due to its focused hands-on attention to the spine, the profession is often thought of by its tools and by its avenue of care. Chiropractic, however, is not just about manual care of the spine, although it has certainly built a reputation caring for that often troublesome piece of anatomy. In chiropractic, care of the spine and nervous system (which is of fundamental importance in human health) is the way to optimize the health of the whole human system and not just a means to relieve back complaints.
A basic philosophy of chiropractic is that the body naturally seeks the proper balance among all the systems of the body, and that these systems are meant to work together. A second basic principle is that proper structure is necessary for proper function. If a structure is impaired by injury or stress, its function can be adversely affected.
For example, when our spine (structure) is not positioned normally, it can irritate the nerves exiting the spine. And when spinal nerves are irritated, they don't function normally and can affect the function of the tissues they interact with. This "end-organ" effect is the central interest in chiropractic care. The relief of localized discomfort at the point of irritation is also an objective of care.
Thus, chiropractic focuses on the integrity of the spine and its surrounding tissues as a means to enhance normal human function and health.
Expert Contributor: Larry Kuusisto, PhD, DC