After diagnosing your condition, your chiropractor will recommend chiropractic treatments for you.
Your chiropractor will discuss the benefits and risks for each treatment and work with you to determine the best plan to relieve your stiffness or pain, as well as help prevent it from returning.
But you don’t have to have an issue or be in persistent pain to see a chiropractor. They can help you at many other times to improve your posture, flexibility and mobility, so you can live your best life.
Chiropractic treatments may begin during your first or second visit, depending on the time available and whether additional tests are needed.
However, before starting this stage, your chiropractor will explain the diagnosis and your recommended treatment plan. They will also answer any questions you have, so you are confident in giving your informed, written consent.
Depending on your needs and preferences, your plan will include various chiropractic treatments, such as:
- Manual, ‘hands-on’ therapy
- Customized, therapeutic exercises
- Soft tissue therapy
- Electronic modalities, such as therapeutic ultrasound and cold laser therapy
- Self-management strategies, such as positions for relief and pain management techniques
- Nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counselling
- Advice and education
One of the most frequently used chiropractic treatments is manual manipulation of the vertebrae of your spine or other joints, which is called an ‘adjustment.’
To perform an adjustment, your chiropractor will use their hands to apply controlled force to the joint and guide it through a range of motion. This evidence-based therapy restores your joint’s natural movement and improves its function. So your joint’s motion improves, as well as your ability to move through your day without pain.
Grand practising adjustments on a manikin at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC).
When applied to your spine, this treatment is called Spinal Manipulation Therapy (SMT). Manipulation is also used on other joints, such as those in your wrist, ankle or foot, as an effective treatment.
Best Available Evidence Care
Chiropractic care is widely recognized as one of the safest, drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for treating headaches, neck and back pain, as well other joint, muscle or nervous system issues. Adjustment techniques, one of the more familiar chiropractic treatments, are well researched. Complications are rare and side effects, such as temporary soreness, are usually minor.
Evidence-based practice is the process health care providers follow to apply the best available evidence into their clinical practice, along with clinical expertise that aligns with the patient’s values and preferences. Research demonstrates that among other benefits, evidence-based care:
- Enhances efficiency and accountability of health care
- Leads to better outcomes for patients
- Promotes knowledge-sharing between health care professionals and patients
In cases where applicable evidence is not available, health care professionals, including chiropractors, base their decisions on clinical expertise within their appropriate area of practice and their patient’s preferences.
Health leaders in various organizations, such as Health Quality Ontario (HQO), establish evidence-based recommendations to help health care professionals make appropriate clinical decisions. HQO’s evidence-based recommendations, called Clinical Practice Guidelines, recommend chiropractic care as one of the treatments for:
- Low back pain
- Pain associated with osteoarthritis
- Chronic and acute pain
- Automobile accidents
WSIB also has guidelines or care delivery plans for:
- Acute low back work-related injuries that require up to eight weeks of treatment
- Workers with one injury or more
Our Evidence-Based Framework Advisory Council (EBFAC) is working to develop a comprehensive and inclusive understanding of chiropractic care that integrates evidence-based practice. You can learn more about the EBFAC’s work and upcoming steps on this EBFAC work page.
Delivering Quality Care with Minimal Risks
There are also specific, evidence-based, clinical practice guidelines in place for how chiropractors treat headaches, back and neck pain. For example, for back pain, the guidelines recommend manual therapies, mobilization, therapeutic exercises and stretches.
The Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) and the Canadian Federation of Chiropractic Regulatory and Education Accrediting Boards (CFCREAB) launched the Canadian Chiropractic Guideline Initiative (CCGI) in 2013. The CCGI provides recommendations on how to deliver consistent, quality chiropractic care to patients, based on the best available scientific and expert evidence.
By assessing your medical history, performing thorough examinations and frequently re-evaluating your symptoms and progress, your chiropractor will work with you to minimize your risks and improve your quality of life.