The healing art of chiropractic was discovered in 1895 by D. D. Palmer and since that time has become the largest nondrug natural healing art in the United States. On average, each year, over two hundred million visits are made to the sixty thousand plus practicing chiropractors. By 2008, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of all visits to complementary and alternative practitioners will be to chiropractic doctors.

In its 112-year history, chiropractic has come a long way in its development and practice. Initially, skeptics considered chiropractic to be quackery. However, as chiropractic science and practice evolved, chiropractic itself has become one of the most accepted and widely used forms of health care.

For many people, when they think of chiropractic, a vision of bad backs or necks comes to mind. Although many people first go to see a chiropractor because of back pain or a neck problem, patients often find many other aspects of their health improving for the better.

One common question most people have regarding chiropractic care is, What conditions do chiropractors treat? This is a misleading question since chiropractic is not a specific treatment for any condition. Instead, rather than treating a specific disease or condition, chiropractic focuses on the inherent ability of the human body to heal itself.

Many people are surprised to learn that their bodies have the ability to heal themselves. In fact, your miraculous human body is constantly changing and adapting. Throughout your life, virtually all the cells of the body are in a continual state of growth. When old cells are worn away, they die and are replaced by brand new ones.

Chiropractors respect the factual knowledge that it is the body that does the healing and that the job of the doctor is to help the patient by removing barriers to healing. The specific focus of the chiropractor is on the spine and nervous system. The nervous system is the control, communication, and coordination system of your body. The job of the brain is to monitor, run, and control the functions in your body, and it uses the spinal cord and nerves of the body as its communication lines.

As long as the brain and nervous system are able to communicate with the body without any interference, then the body can function at a higher level. When someone has a nerve or spinal cord injury, often they have numbness, paralysis, or lose the ability to breathe on their own. More severe injuries to the nervous system can result in loss of life. This is why the most vulnerable parts of the nervous system are protected by bone.

Your brain is protected by your skull, and the spinal cord is protected by your spine. The spine is truly an engineering masterpiece. It is structured primarily for protecting the nervous system but is also the main support system for the human body. The spine is composed of twenty-four moving bones called vertebrae, and each vertebra contributes to the overall support, stability, and protection of the spinal cord. When a vertebra loses its ability to move properly, or its alignment relative to the other vertebrae is altered, it places abnormal stress on the spinal joints, ligaments, muscles, and discs (cushions between vertebrae). This changes a person’s overall posture. If you have ever seen someone with bad posture, it is likely they have a spinal problem. In addition, when a vertebra loses motion or alignment, it creates abnormal stress and irritation on the nervous system. Between each vertebra, a pair of nerves branches off the spinal cord. These nerves go directly to the muscles in the spine, arms, and legs. The spinal nerves also connect to a major part of the nervous system that controls the function of the internal organs, blood vessels, and glands of the body.

The chiropractic term for this condition is vertebral subluxation. Subluxations of vertebrae can negatively affect nerve function. When nerve function is disturbed by a spinal subluxation, any body part connected to that nerve pathway can also be affected. Dr. Chung Ha Suh of the University of Colorado showed that even a small pressure (about the weight of a dime) on a nerve can reduce the function of the nerve by 60 percent and that the nerve will start to degenerate if the pressure is sustained for three hours.2 Most of my patients have had a health challenge for longer than three hours!

Many people are taught that if they do not have a symptom, they are healthy. The majority of the time, the body can be malfunctioning without any signs or symptoms. Perhaps one of the most common symptoms associated with a subluxation is pain. Pain, however, is only one of many different signs that can show up. Some of the other common problems people have are lack of energy, poor immune function, loss of sleep, muscle aches, digestive problems, headaches, menstrual difficulty, infertility, weight problems, allergies, and asthma. Children who have spinal subluxations often have frequent illnesses; are more likely to have ear, nose, and throat infections; and are more likely to develop a condition of the spine called a “scoliosis.” A scoliosis is an abnormal sideways bend in the spine that usually begins early in life. If left untreated, it has the potential to create many problems with the spine but also with the overall health of the child.

The cause of spinal subluxations usually comes from three areas. First and most common are physical injuries to the body. One of the initial injuries to the spine can occur during the birth process. If the mother experiences a difficult delivery, then injuries can happen in the upper neck region. Noted researcher Abraham Towbin of Harvard University found that damage to the upper spinal cord and the first several vertebrae can negatively affect the function of the nervous system and the development of the spine.

As a person moves through childhood, thousands of falls, accidents, sports injuries, and other traumas can have a negative cumulative effect on the continuing growth of the spine. This is often when a scoliosis will develop. Add car accidents, work injuries, repeated stressful movements from jobs or housework, and the spine can be subjected to a great deal of physical trauma. Often, many of the problems adults suffer with their spines have their origins in childhood.

Another cause of subluxations are emotional and mental stresses. Chronic exposure to mental and emotional stresses create long-standing muscle tension in the spine and body. Over time, the body must adapt to these changes as the abnormal muscle tension becomes a pattern. These muscle imbalances further weaken the spine.

The last main cause of subluxations are biochemical stresses. For example, when a person has a poor diet, does not exercise the body, or is exposed to toxins in the environment, it can create inflammation throughout the body. The increase in inflammation causes pain and dysfunction of the joints in the body, particularly those in the spine.

Spinal subluxations not only have the potential to cause dysfunction in the nervous system and body, but also have a degenerative effect on spine itself. Because of the vertebrae being out of position, an abnormal stress is placed on the bones. The spinal joints, the spinal discs, muscles, and ligaments are overloaded. As the force of gravity works on the vertebrae that are misaligned, it creates a wear-and-tear effect on the spine. Areas where there are subluxations frequently have an accelerated rate of arthritis, bone spurs, and disc degeneration.4 This is most commonly observed on patient X rays.

The good news is that spinal degeneration can be halted and, in some cases, reversed, depending on how severe it is. Noted researcher, author, and chiropractic pediatrician Dr. Ogi Ressel conducted a landmark study that showed evidence supporting the reversal of spinal deterioration with chiropractic care.4
Chiropractic can be an excellent way to improve the health and well-being of you and your family. In the age of preventative care, the spine is unfortunately often most overlooked but is one of the most important parts of the body to take care of. The doctor of chiropractic is extensively trained to be able to detect and help correct spinal problems.

There are many types of chiropractic healing techniques. Some of the chiropractic approaches focus on the spine only. Other chiropractors utilize care for the spine and other parts of the body such as the arms, legs, and muscles. Also, many chiropractors focus on specialties such as rehabilitation, nutrition, weight loss, and family care.

Many people have been told that chiropractic is unsafe or harmful. As compared to other forms of health care, chiropractic is one of the safest methods of care available. Many chiropractors now offer a low-force care approach for those who do not prefer the traditional hands-on style of adjusting. It is also useful to know that some chiropractors only work with patients until they are out of pain, while other chiropractors offer their patients additional options for the overall holistic improvement of health. If you are unsure of the type of care a chiropractor offers, always ask ahead of time, and find the one who is right for you.

If you are concerned about the health and well-being of your spine and the impact the spine can have on your overall health and well-being, I would highly recommend seeing a chiropractor. Today’s chiropractic has advanced considerably—as millions of people find each year, chiropractic can make a tremendous difference in your life.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Aaron Peters graduated with honors from the New York Chiropractic College in 2000. Prior to chiropractic school, Dr. Peters attended the Pennsylvania State University and majored in electrical engineering. In 2002, he opened a chiropractic practice with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Peters, at their current location in DuBois, Pennsylvania. Since 2005, Dr Peters has been the host of the weekly health show he created called The Healthy for Life Show. The program can be heard every Wednesday morning on 1420 WCED. For more information on chiropractic, visit Dr. Peters on the Web at Dr. Peters can also be contacted via e-mail at