A Visit to a Chiropractor
( Originally Published 1957 )
If you are visiting a chiropractor for the first time, the chances are that you are already ill and that medical science has failed to help you. And you have probably heard about chiropractic in one of the following ways.
You have been recommended to a chiropractor by a satisfied chiropractic patient. In this case, chiropractic has probably been praised to you with such fervor that you may consider it a miraculous cure-all; it is far from that, as chiropractors themselves point out. No responsible method of healing claims to be able to cure everything. Chiropractic has, however, demonstrated amazing success in the treatment of a multitude of ailments which medical science has failed to benefit.
You have perhaps heard of at least one chiropractic cure in considerable detail. If it is a case similar to yours, you approach chiropractic with hope and not as a last desperate expedient. Maybe you know some-thing about chiropractic procedure—you know that the chiropractor does not, as many persons erroneously believe, massage you, wallop your backbone with a mallet or his fist, twist your limbs about, or damage you in any way. You are convinced that chiropractic, even if it fails to benefit your particular condition, can at least do you no harm. Finally, you are equipped with the name of a chiropractor who has been de-scribed to you as a competent practitioner. Chiropractors vary in skill just as do medical doctors.
You have been recommended to a chiropractor by a medical doctor. Until recently, this did not happen too often, but now it is happening with increasing frequency. Consider, for example, what happened in the case of Col. George E. Ijams, Director of National Rehabilitation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and for twenty-seven years top Assistant Administrator of the Veterans Administration.
Col. Ijams had a medical background; his father, a great uncle, and three cousins were M.D.'s. He had a neck condition that medical doctors had diagnosed as neuritis. A man who was not only a medical doctor but a medical administrator as well said to him, "George, would you like to get rid of that discomfort you are suffering from?"
When Col. Ijams answered that he certainly didn't want to keep it, the medical administrator said frankly, "For heaven's sake don't tell anyone I ever suggested this to you, but if you want to get rid of it, go down to the man I go to because I have the identical complaint and he is the only man in this town who has given me any relief." He gave the colonel the name of a chiropractor.
The reaction of Col. Ijams was similar to that of many to, whom chiropractic is recommended for the first time. As he put it, "Having been raised in a medical atmosphere, I thought that it was a sort of sacrilege to talk about a chiropractor. So I went down there with a good deal of fear in my heart. But when I walked out of that office, I could turn my head very much better than I could when I came in. After the second treatment, I had no more neuritis."
Your medical doctor has condemned chiropractic to you. This happens very frequently, as Dr. Horace Gray noted somewhat caustically in New International Clinics: "It is well known that the regular physician seldom speaks favorably in public of any doctor outside the regular fold." Bear in mind that it is the exceptional medical doctor who knows anything about chiropractic. It is not taught in medical schools, it is seldom mentioned favorably in medical journals, and it is frequently belittled in these same areas. The average medical doctor, in giving what he believes to be an honest appraisal of chiropractic, may call it "unscientific," "crackpotish," or even "sheer quackery." He may admit that, "It's good in a few cases of back-ache, but that's about all."
When an M.D. expresses such an opinion, one might ask him, "Then how do you explain the fact that there are more than thirty-five million chiropractic patients today in this country alone and that their number is increasing at a rate of two million a year?" In attempting to answer this he will probably reveal his own ignorance of chiropractic.
You have read items about chiropractic in the public press or the popular magazines. These may be articles extolling chiropractic or perhaps condemning it. Nevertheless, you have obtained sufficient information to stimulate you to investigate further.
You have merely heard about chiropractic in a vague way, know nothing about it, but are trying it., as a "last desperate resort."
However you may have heard about chiropractic, once you have decided that you are "going to try a chiropractor," the first and most important thing you will want to know is, "How can I be sure that I will select a good one?"
If a chiropractor has already been highly recommended to you, there's no problem. If not, you can make inquiries just as you would about the merits of medical doctors. Few towns are so small that they do not have at least one chiropractor. Find out who a few of the local chiropractic patients are and ask questions of them. In towns of any considerable size, good sources of information are union leaders, shop foremen, and other employed persons who deal with groups of people of considerable size.
As in the case of medical doctors, there are chiropractic associations and groups whose members must meet rigid professional standards in order to belong. In all states where the practice of chiropractic is regulated by law, chiropractors must pass state administered examinations before being permitted to practice their profession. Find out about the chiropractic organization in your area and query it.
Like medical doctors, the doctor of chiropractic is thoroughly trained in all methods of diagnosis. In the physical examination of the patient, he makes a skillful analysis of the spinal column for body balance, postural distortions, and spinal defects which may be causing nerve irritation and resultant dysfunction. A careful examination of all skeletal structures and the nervous system is indeed an important factor in his diagnosis.
In addition, he may use in his diagnosis all modern laboratory and clinical procedures, such as electrocardiography, stethoscopy, percussion, auscultation, nerve tracing, urinalysis, blood tests, blood-pressure instruments, X-ray diagnosis, and other scientific instruments and procedures, as indicated.
In fact, the diagnostic value of the X ray has played a very vital part in chiropractic's continuing research into the causes of diseases which stem from spinal defects, postural distortions, occupational hazards, and the stresses and strains of "high pressure'' living, which produce constant tension and nerve irritation. These irritations can upset the functioning of the various bodily organs, conditions which may result in far more serious disease, if not promptly corrected.
Your chiropractor will depend very greatly on his highly trained and sensitive fingers in performing his analysis. He will examine your spine digitally with great care, noting the various curves and irregularities that are detectable by touch; this is known as palpation. In addition, when he locates an area that is sensitive, that reveals tenderness, pain, or that may even be numb, he will determine its extent and then follow the course of the nerve or nerves leading to or from it by means of his fingers; this is termed "nerve tracing."
Nerve tracing can also be done by means other than the fingers alone; there are various extremely sensitive devices which some chiropractors use to aid them in this part of the analysis. One of these is the neurocalometer—the name means simply "nerve heat meter." It takes full advantage of the fact that nerves whose transmission of impulses are hampered in some way throw off an abnormal amount of heat.
An advanced method for detecting spinal hyperemia, caused by nerve irritation, is done electronically by means of a photoelectric device.
Another means of locating nerve interference is by picking up minute electric currents from the tissues. A variety of instruments is used for this purpose.
These are only a few of the devices employed in chiropractic for detecting structural and nervous abnormalities within the body. For many conditions these instruments are not required, and if you are an average patient, you may never get to know much about any of them.
In addition to palpation with the fingers, which is extremely revealing, your chiropractor may have you stand in front of an ordinary plumb line and ask you to turn this way and that while he looks for evidences of curvatures of spine and shoulders, tilting of the head to one side, and other irregularities.
By the time your chiropractor has completed his physical examination and arrived at his analysis of where the nerve impingement or other interference is and what vertebrae are causing it and in just what way, you should have a pretty good idea of why Prof. Bircher-Brenner said, "Up to now I have not yet met one M.D. who could judge the spinal column half as well as a competent chiropractor."
Once he has determined the area that requires attention, the chiropractor will initiate you into the "adjustment." In this process he is seeking to correct an interference with nerve impulses. He does this by moving a vertebra in the direction necessary to realign it to normal position, and restore normal nerve function.
To perform his work, the chiropractor will have to overcome the tension of the body, increased probably by the uncertainty and even fear which you may feel.
The fairly immediate reactions to your "adjustment" may be none or several. You may feel exhilarated, you may experience a sensation of warmth throughout your body or in one specific area. After all, nerve function has been altered for the better. It takes the nerve control center a little while to become accustomed to the new situation and restore normal function.
Although the doctor of chiropractic is primarily concerned with the relationship between structural anatomy and health, his four years of training at chiropractic college prepare him to deal with the patient as a distinct personality as well as a physical organism. Thus mental and emotional problems, as well as physical complaints, form the basis for treating the whole person. He places reliance on the inherent recuperative powers of the human body and patient managment is conducted with due regard to environmental, nutritional, and psychotherapeutic factors, as well as to first aid, hygiene, sanitation, rehabilitation, and related procedures designed to restore and maintain normal nerve function.