Spotlight on: Chiropractic

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spineEach month Fitness Journal puts the spotlight on a health profession or treatment. This month chiropractor Sarah Nelson offers an insight into her profession.

What is it?
Chiropractic is a treatment that is used to restore the proper function to an injured or damaged area.  The problem can be due to ongoing micro trauma such as “text neck” or poor work place ergonomics, or an accident, such as a car crash.

How does it work?
Chiropractic aims to speed healing by improving the stabilisation of the affected region and by reducing the associated muscle tightness that occurs.   The techniques used are gentle – but fast in their application.  This is because if you apply a fast impulse into a stretch receptor located in a muscle, it will relax.

A fast impulse into a damaged spinal segment will help break up any adhesions that have formed around the joint due to inflammatory cells being present.  Breaking up the adhesions allows improved movement of the spine.  For example, you will be able to turn your head more easily.

The blood supply to the disc actually comes from the spinal bone on either side.  If the joint has been damaged, then the normal movement is affected, which in turn leads to a decreased flow of blood to the disc.  Therefore, an injury can be with someone for a considerably long time.

Chiropractic treatment should also provide the patient with quick pain relief, due to the stimulation of a nerve called a 1A afferent.

Finally, as a chiropractor, we need to improve the proprioception of the injured segment.  Our main goals therefore are to improve the function of the injured area and to decrease pain.  This allows the area to heal faster without the stiffness that normally occurs after an injury.

Who can it help?
Anyone who is in pain or is concerned about their posture and would like to be assessed.  Sometimes people aren’t sure if they have a muscle or a joint problem.  This is because injuries often affect both the muscles and the joints.  As we treat both areas, the best way to know if we can help is to make an appointment.

Are there any restrictions on people who can have this treatment?
No – anyone can benefit from chiropractic treatment.  Just like a GP will alter the dose of a drug depending on the patient’s age or condition, a chiropractor will choose the most appropriate technique for each patient.  Chiropractors have many different methods they can choose from and as we are all different, no two people will be treated in the same way.

By the time a child has turned seven years of age, research suggests that most will have had up to 2000 falls and knocks.  These injuries can have a compound effect in the way a child grows and develops.  While many adults see us when they are struggling with migraines, or back pain, preventative checks are a worthwhile investment for our children.

What conditions are the most common?
The three primary conditions chiropractors treat are neck and back pain and headaches/migraines.  However, many chiropractors also treat other joints such as ankle sprains, knee pain, carpal tunnel or tennis elbow.

Other benefits/usage?
Most people who come to my office report that they feel much improved after treatment.  It might be that they sleep better, they have more energy, or that their head feels clearer.

Are there any side effects or restrictions?
If a chiropractor does too much then you can end up being a little sore.  Let the chiropractor know if this happens and they can adjust the pressure.   It could take just a couple of sessions before they start to make a positive impact on your pain and injury.

What are its origins?
While many credit Chiropractic starting with DD Palmer in 1897, the roots of Chiropractic can be traced back to 2700BC in Chinese writings and in 1500 BC in Greek writings.  Even Hippocrates published texts detailing the importance of spine adjusting.

How and why did you become involved?
I was struggling with lower back pain after having my first child, and I was referred to a chiropractor who helped me immensely and so I decided to embark on a career change.  I studied in Melbourne at RMIT.  RMIT had a well-funded degree that focused on all of the core medical subjects such as – anatomy, physics, pathology, physiology and radiology and chiropractic treatment.

How do you become qualified?
Most chiropractic degrees are located in universities, such as Macquarie in Sydney or RMIT in Melbourne.  The degree structure is five years and involves a Bachelors/Masters programme.  However, the NZ course is a private NZQA approved diploma structure.

Who regulates it?
A national chiropractic board which chiropractors in NZ must be registered with and we are also regulated by the Health and Disabilities Commission.  Unless someone has completed their degree with the appropriate qualifications recognised by the Board, they cannot call themselves a chiropractor.  We are also ACC registered and are able to submit an ACC claim.
No GP referral is required.

What are the most common misconceptions?
That chiropractors are rough.  I have been told on many  that I’m a lot gentler than other health professionals.

What is the average cost per treatment?
The average cost is $50 or $30 while on ACC.  This does alter from clinic to clinic and for different age groups.

Sarah Nelson is a Hamilton based Chiropractor at Hillcrest Spinal Centre.

She grew up in Rotorua and has a strong interest in sports performance and health. She qualified as a naturopath in 1993; before embarking on a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Bachelor of Chiropractic from the University RMIT in Melbourne.

Further post graduate studies have seen her complete a Sports Medicine Diploma from Auckland University and many papers in Neurology from CDI in Sydney.  

Sarah combines her love of nutrition, sports and chiropractic to provide a unique blend of information and treatment. Areas of clinical interest include chronic spinal pain, sciatica, migraine and sports injuries. Sarah published a book in 2014;  How to Age Well – it’s Easy.

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