Disorders of the musculoskeletal system – and the spine in particular – affect the nervous system, according to the basic tenets of chiropractic. Since the spine houses the spinal cord and the nerves that control all body functions run off the spine, chiropractors hold that misalignment of the spine has a negative effect on the nervous system, which leads to organ dysfunction and chronic health problems as well as pain. Chiropractors try to reduce pain and improve overall health by correcting spinal alignment problems.
A bachelor's degree is required to enter a college of chiropractic, although the degree need not be in a health- or science-related subject. Chiropractors complete a four-year doctoral program in which they study anatomy, physiology, nutrition, dietary and lifestyle counseling. The programs focus heavily on the musculoskeletal system, as well as therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise. Chiropractors are required to pass a licensing exam and they must complete continuing education courses to remain licensed.
The best-known of chiropractic techniques is the spinal adjustment or manipulation. Joints can become less mobile after injury or because of poor posture and muscle imbalances. The chiropractor applies controlled force to the joint to free it and promote normal movement. Most chiropractors work in offices and clinics, although some do admit and treat patients in hospitals. They also use highly technical therapies like the Acuscope/Myopulse and Myofascial Acoustic Compression Therapy (MYACT). The first two use biofeedback technology and electrical stimulation to help cells repair themselves. MYACT uses acoustic waves (like submarine sonar) and has an effect similar to deep tissue massage.
A chiropractor might treat nearly any kind of musculoskeletal problem except a fresh fracture. In nearly all cases, an injury, poor posture, or body mechanics create a situation in which joints move out of alignment, leading to muscle tension and pain. Chiropractic treatment has also been found effective in treating headaches, including migraines. Jaw pain caused by temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome may also respond to chiropractic care.