Chiropractors are health practitioners specially trained to treat the joints and muscles of the body with their hands. In Australia, chiropractic practice is government regulated. Practitioners must be registered with the Chropractic Board of Australia after undergoing an accredited 5-year university programme within Australia. Overseas trained chiropractors must have completed an accredited programme which satisfies the requirements of the Chropractic Board of Australia.
The term 'chiropractic' has its roots in the Greek language, meaning treatment by hand. The hallmark of chiropractic practice is the use of drug free treatment. It is a form of alternative therapy based on the principle that the body can heal itself if the skeletal system is made to align correctly and the nervous system is fully functional.
To achieve this, the chiropractor uses the hands to manipulate the bones of the spine into proper alignment so that nerve transmissions from the spinal cord to various parts of the body are uninterrupted.
Back pain due to poor posture or overextension of the back constitutes the majority of complaints presenting to chiropractors. Through a detailed history of the problem and a complete physical examination, the chiropractor attempts to identify the cause of the problem.
An evaluation of the range of motion of a joint may help in identifying fixation or hypermobility of the joint. In some cases, laboratory investigations may help in the diagnosis of a more serious medical condition which requires referral to medical practitioners. The chiropractor may also request an x-ray of the affected part of the body if it is considered necessary to establish the cause of the problem.
Depending on the nature of the problem, the chiropractor recommends an appropriate treatment and suggests lifestyle changes to prevent future recurrence. The most common technique employed is the manipulation of the joints with the hands or an adjusting tool.
Typically, the adjustment produces a high velocity but painless, low amplitude thrust which is accompanied by a popping noise. This is meant to enhance the range of movement of the joint being treated.
The chiropractor may also employ various forms of stretching designed to restore structural integrity and apply massage therapy on soft tissues to relieve pain and to enhance the functions of muscles. In addition, nutrition, and exercise regimes may be recommended to complement the treatment if the problem was due to poor health or fitness. Chronic problems usually require longer-term treatment.
In Australia, chiropractic treatment is not covered by Medicare but private health insurance generally covers certain out-of-hospital services not funded by Medicare such as chiropractic treatment.