I’m no longer a licensed chiropractor. (See Why I Gave Up My Chiropractic License for 2016 for more information.) But chiropractic is still a part of who I am, what I know, and how I embody what I know.
This article, first written a number of years ago, gives some perspective on this component of The Discipline of Pleasure.
Chiropractic has been a profession in the United States since 1895; however, there is evidence that people have been manipulating the spine (and other joints) in many cultures for thousands of years. Intuitively, people have always understood that the spine was a critical conduit for vital energy, and that keeping this channel strong and flexible was important to physical, mental, and spiritual health.
In the past few decades, research in many branches of science has begun to echo the knowledge of the ancients. Neurology now tells us that during waking life, 80-90% of the central nervous system is occupied with organizing movement; the joints of the spine are particularly rich in the receptors that allow us to organize ourselves in relation to gravity. Because the nervous system is richly integrated, aberrant function of the receptors in our joints can adversely affect many aspects of our health, including mood, cognition, digestion, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function as well as coordination and comfort in movement.
Because chiropractic has always understood that all aspects of health are interrelated, chiropractic education is extremely broad. In addition to extensive coursework in anatomy, physiology and radiology, chiropractic students take courses in pathology, microbiology, nutrition, obstetrics and gynecology, and differential diagnosis. In other words, chiropractic education equips chiropractors to function as point-of-entry health care providers; we can diagnose and participate in the treatment of a wide variety of health care conditions, not only musculoskeletal complaints. Most states, including Vermont, recognize the breadth of chiropractic education in their licensing, granting chiropractors a wide scope of practice.
While chiropractic education and practice is broad in scope, the heart of the profession is its understanding of the central importance of the neuromusculoskeletal system, particularly the nerves, joints and muscles of the spine, to overall health. Therefore, chiropractors specialize in detecting and treating functional imbalances in the nerves, joints and muscles.
Chiropractic care generally involves some form of spinal manipulation, and chiropractors are more extensively educated in spinal manipulation than practitioners of any other profession. Joint manipulation can be rather dramatic or extremely subtle, depending on the needs of the individual at a particular time. I employ a variety of methods of manipulation; I use the lowest-force technique that will get the job done.
Intelligent chiropractic care recognizes that joint manipulation is an extremely powerful tool, but it isn’t the only tool in the toolbox or the best one for every situation. Like any powerful tool, joint manipulation is best used with discretion. It shines most brightly when integrated with other approaches to improving, maintaining, or restoring self-awareness and health.