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A Different Way to Heal?
Body on a Bench
 
. .
Keeping Your Spine in Line
4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Patients Like Their Chiropractors

Photo of Patient Being Adjusted
 
Chiropractors like Stephen Rowe look for "subluxations" or subtle abnormalities of the spine.

In terms of patient satisfaction, Carey found that doctors of chiropractic stood out. That might have something to do with the fact that patients tend to see chiropractors frequently - almost twice as often as any of the other kinds of practitioners. Moreover, in their telephone interviews, patients told the researchers that they felt doctors of chiropractic were more likely to give an excellent description of why their back hurt and more likely to give a detailed examination of their back.

"I think there is something fairly appealing about the explanatory model that doctors of chiropractic present to patients about their back pain that is more accessible to the patient than what the M.D.'s say," Carey says. "Since it doesn't make that much difference which health care provider you see, then it becomes a matter of personal choice."

   

Patients told the researchers that they felt doctors of chiropractic were more likely to give an excellent description of why their back hurt.

   

One factor that could limit personal choice is cost. While seeing a chiropractor eased back pain as effectively as seeing a primary care physician, it does cost more overall - in part because of the greater number of office visits. Still, Carey believes the similarity in success rates raised a number of questions that warrant more research.

"We're still not completely clear on why it works. We're still a little unclear why some patients choose chiropractic and other patients do not. It seems that some patients respond better to manual therapy than others," he says.

Photo of Patient Being Adjusted
 

Students at Life Chiropractic College West learn how to "adjust" the spine.

One reason for patients' back relief may be that many chiropractors use physical therapy techniques like stretching, heat, and massage along with spinal adjustment. But Dr. Robert Baratz, M.D., Executive Director of the National Council Against Health Fraud, who appears in Adjusting the Joints, advises his back pain patients to stick to the tried and true options, and save their money, too.

"Most back pain comes from muscle spasm," he says, "and by relieving muscle spasm -- by heat, by massage, by stretching exercises -- the pain will go away. So if the chiropractor, by whatever they did, took that tightened muscle and released it, then they have done what anybody else would do. But you might be able to do that by sitting in a bathtub and soaking in warm water, using a heating pad, or doing some stretching exercises. It doesn't validate manipulating the spine, because manipulating the spine won't cure a tight muscle -- it's the muscle that's the problem, and not the spine."

What would Carey do for his own back pain? "Take some aspirin or ibuprofen and give it a trial of time," he says. "See how you do in a week or so. If you are still unable to go about your usual daily activities, then seeing a health care provider is a good idea."


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