What Christians need to know about going to the Chiropractor | Redemptive Postures Series
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Chiropractic care is one of the most mainstream alternative health treatments in our culture. Though it is widely embraced, if you have never been to a chiropractor yourself, you probably have some questions about what a typical visit is like and if there are any spiritual concerns you should be aware of.
What is Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic is a complementary therapy that uses physical manipulation of the skeletal system to achieve proper alignment. Most chiropractic adjustments focus on the alignment of the spine and allowing for proper nerve and blood flow from the spine to the rest of the body.
Reasons that the skeletal system gets out of alignment are varied including: posture, genetics, imbalanced muscles, blocks in the meridian system, physical trauma (such as a car wreck), or even chemical effects on muscles. Whatever the cause, the chiropractic adjustments are the same. Although additional lifestyle changes may be needed to help support alignment.
Chiropractic in western medicine started in 1895 with David Daniel Palmer. He observed that when the spine is out of alignment the body experiences dis-ease. He found that physical manipulations of the spine could relieve various ailments and began a school of chiropractic in Canada that his son later took over. (Much more detailed history)
Until the late 1980’s chiropractic was seen as a fringe therapy with no real science to back it up, even though it was a licensed profession in all 50 states. Modern chiropractic care that we have today has actually been researched extensively and is regarded as an effective form of alternative medicine (more research sources).
The spiritual concerns most often held about chiropractic care are not about the adjustments themselves but the beliefs of Palmer and current chiropractors. Sources say that Palmer developed chiropractic after being visited by a deceased doctor that told him about it and his own views of chiropractic were that it was a religion and not just a therapy model.
You can certainly find chiropractors today that hold New Age beliefs about chiropractic, just like you can find a medical doctor who holds New Age beliefs. This doesn’t make the medical interventions themselves New Age. Modern chiropractic schools are very scientific in their approach to chiropractic and while individual practitioners may hold views that you do not agree with, that does not mean the chiropractic adjustments themselves are a danger.
Ultimately, a Christian doesn’t need to know much more than anyone else needs to know about seeing a chiropractor. Don’t turn your brain off, be mindful in choosing the health professionals you see whatever the speciality. But don’t let the beliefs of some chiropractors scare you away from the entire therapy. If you would like to find a chiropractor who is a Christian, the Christian Chiropractors Association has a listing of their members. (But keep in mind, not all Christian chiropractors will be members of that association or listed on their site).
What to expect at the Chiropractor
The First Visit
At your first appointment the chiropractor will ask you about any back problems or other pain you are experiencing. They will examine your posture and alignment and may take x-rays to get a precise look at your spinal health. After discussing your goals for chiropractic care and analyzing your current state they will give your first adjustment.
During the adjustment they may have you sit on the table, lie down face up, or face down. Some parts of the table raise and lower to allow for certain adjustments.
The chiropractor may have your take deep breaths in and then press on your back to adjust it as your breath all that air out. Remember to stay relaxed as they adjust you so that your body is not fighting the adjustment. Tense muscles make it hard for the spine to adjust.
By the end of your first visit, you should have a sense of your treatment plan going forward and the goals you are working towards.
Tools and Terms
Subluxation: You’ll hear this term used a lot at the chiropractor. Super basic definition is a vertebrae that is out of alignment. (Super detailed definition here) Typically this is from the vertebrae rotating slightly and not a major displacement from the spinal column. When you have a subluxation the nerves that come out from the spinal column are not getting a proper flow (think a garden hose that has a kink in it) and the muscles that attach to that vertebrae strained.
Subluxations are also why chiropractic work can affect health in other parts of the body. The nerve supply to our organs and the rest of our bodies comes from the spine. If a subluxation is cutting off that nerve supply those other parts of the body are not getting the full nerve supply they need. Aligning the spine and letting those nerves flow freely can have an overall benefit to the body.
Activator: This little tool is used to make precise adjustments in a concentrated area. If you are uncomfortable with having your neck adjusted manually (or if manual neck adjustments make your muscles exhausted) you can ask your chiropractor to adjust your neck with the activator instead. They may also use the activator on any spot that needs a little more focused attention.Stim: The “stim” (stimulator), as it is often called, is a set of electrode pads that are used to stimulate muscles to increase blood flow to the area and help the muscle relax. If you have a trigger point in a muscle that keeps pulling you out of alignment your chiropractor may use the stim to soften up that muscle. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels like tingling or vibration.
Traction Table: At the beginning of your appointment your chiropractor may have you lay on a traction table to loosen up your muscles and get you ready to be adjusted. It feels like a giant massage chair and can be adjusted if it pushes too hard or too soft on your back.
After your first adjustment (or even first few adjustments) you may experience what is called a healing crisis. As your body learns to hold this new adjustment and as your nerves begin to flow freely you may experience some of these symptoms:
- Muscle soreness
- Cold like symptoms
- Acne or rash outbreaks
These symptoms will eventually pass as your body processes the toxins that had been stored and were released through the adjustment and restoration of nerve and blood flow. Drink lots of water and give yourself time to rest to support your body in this process. If you don’t already take a multivitamin and probiotic, now would be a good time to begin taking those regularly to give your body the resources it needs to function well.
How often and how long
You can’t expect chiropractic to be a one time thing that fixes you. Because you are retraining your body to hold a new alignment multiple appointments will be needed. The main reason I see people get frustrated with chiropractic or not get the results they were hoping for is not sticking with it and going as frequently as their chiropractor recommends.
At first you will likely be going twice a week for adjustments for even the first few months of treatment. Over time your chiropractor will adjust your schedule to once a week and even every other week until they are satisfied with how your body is holding alignment between adjustments.
My Tips for a Great Chiropractor Experience
Metal free clothes your first visit: Most chiropractors will take a standing x-ray of your spine at your first visit. To avoid having to wear a hospital gown for the x-ray, wear clothing that does not have any metal or bring yoga pants and sports bra to change into. It’s also easier to get adjusted when you are wearing comfortable clothing.
Drink lots of water: Your muscles get quite the work out getting adjusted and you may feel tired and sore the rest of the day. Drinking lots of water will help flush out any toxins that were released and will help keep your muscles from getting dehydrated and sore.
Do your stretches: In one of your first few visits your chiropractor may give you specific stretches to support your alignment. Actually do those stretches! A big part of your body learning to hold a new alignment is retraining your muscles. Stretching helps relax muscles that are too tight and keeps your muscles from pulling your spine out of alignment as quickly. I’ve also found that doing yoga at least once a week helps my body hold alignment better between appointments. Over time your muscles will learn the new alignment and can become the biggest support to holding an adjustment.
Pay attention to your body: and let your chiropractor know what hurts, doesn’t hurt, feels better etc. If you are not in-tune with your body now is a good time to grow in that skill. Pay attention to how you feel when you first wake up, throughout the day, in different activities, sitting, standing, when you go to bed. What position are you sleeping in? Is the way you sit at your computer pulling your neck? A chiropractor can adjust your alignment but it’s lifestyle and posture changes that are needed to actually keep that alignment over time.
Align flower essence: In addition to stretching and doing yoga, one thing that has helped support my adjustments is the Align flower essence from Freedom Flowers. Just a few drops in my water each day have made a difference in how well my body holds alignment after each adjustment.
Special thanks to Levinson Chiropractic for letting me take pictures for this post. If you are in the Atlanta area and are looking for a chiropractor I highly recommend Dr. Levinson.
Redemptive Postures Series
This post is the fourth in a monthly series. The heart of redemptive postures is that God created everything and said it was good. Redemptive postures looks at various health and wellness topics that Christians have concerns about and seeks to find what if any of those topics can be brought back to the good God originally intended for them.
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