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From headaches to colicky babies, chiropractic care offers alternative relief

With a focus on wellness through alternative means and about 40 licensed chiropractic doctors in the Rochester area, chiropractic care is taking root in our community. But what is it really and who can benefit from this type of care?

Overcoming skepticism

One of the biggest battles waged by the pioneers of chiropractic care was overcoming the perception that their methods were a heap of quackery.

“Chiropractic is a very misunderstood profession by many,” says Dr. Monica Nelson of Northgate Chiropractic. “However, skeptics open to learning about the benefits of chiropractic typically make great patients. We spend time answering questions and clearing up the myths they may have been told through their family, friends, internet, etc. They typically follow through with care if our answers make sense and are reasonable to them.”

According to the American Chiropractic Association and the State of Minnesota, doctors of chiropractic have stringent educational requirements to become licensed, including pre-medical undergraduate college education and four to five years of professional study at an accredited chiropractic college with significant time spent in clinical training. They are also required to pass a written examination, given by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, which includes testing in the basic sciences of anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, pathology, hygiene and chemistry as related to the human body or mind; the clinical sciences of chiropractic, chiropractic physiotherapy, diagnosis, roentgenology (radiology) and nutrition; and professional ethics.

The time commitment involved with some chiropractic treatments can lead to skepticism for some people, says Dr. Elizabeth Olson of The Connection in Stewartville, who used to be a skeptic herself.

Dr. Olson, whose original background was in physical therapy, changed her perception of chiropractic when she began working as a low-force physical therapist at a chiropractic office. After many discussions and after reviewing some of the research that has been done regarding chiropractic, Dr. Olson became attuned to the benefits of the practice…and became a chiropractor herself.

Chiropractic patients

The typical patient seeking chiropractic care is “usually in some type of pain that no longer responds to self-management and is looking for a more natural means of treatment,” Dr. Nelson explains. “Most have tried over-the-counter meds, creams and exercises that may no longer address the root cause of their problem.”

Dr. Melissa Brennan, Brennan Chiropractic, also sees patients seeking chiropractic care as an alternative way to reclaim their health, especially when it has been ravaged by stress. According to Dr. Brennan, there are three types of stress: mental stress (the worst type); chemical stress from processed foods, medications, lack of nutritional supplements and lack of water; and physical stress from car accidents, sports injuries, and repetitive tasks, such as sitting at a computer all day long without proper posture or other ergonomic corrections. Eliminating or even lessening these stresses will decrease the need for regular chiropractic adjustments, says Dr. Brennan.

The most common ailments Dr. Laura Pirkl of Pirkl Chiropractic sees “are a very high percentage of headaches and low back pain.” Other issues she treats are body pain, rotator cuff injuries and abnormal gastrointestinal issues.

There is also a growing patient base that seeks care as part of a preventive, wellness lifestyle.

“These patients are proactively getting treated so future problems do not arise,” adds Dr. Nelson. “They treat it as a facet of their health like exercise, dental hygiene or annual physicals. They utilize regular chiropractic care to have optimal function in the present and prevent pain in the future.”

A First Visit

Never been to the chiropractor? Here’s what to expect from a first-time visit to a chiropractor:

  • Thorough patient health history, including diet and lifestyle
  • Physical exam which may include diagnostic studies, such as x-ray
  • Review of findings that includes your diagnosis
  • Treatment plan for your condition. Course of treatment will vary based on if the condition is acute (new) or chronic (old) and treatment is customized for each patient.

How does it work?

“Chiropractic care offers relief of pain by reducing tissue inflammation and spasm and restoring normal motion and flexibility,” says Dr. Pirkl. “This can alleviate stiffness, headaches, back and neck pain. The care we offer also improves relaxation and impacts our self-awareness, coordination, sense of balance and well-being.”

Modern chiropractic care has emerged beyond the “snapcrackle-pop” of traditional chiropractic. Chiropractors are taking their time-tested, traditional methods and infusing their practices with more options for their patients, including acupuncture, massage therapy and nutritional services.

Pediatric chiropractic

Although these all sound like “grown-up” problems, a significant number of chiropractic patients are infants and children.

It may be a difficult concept to envision—chiropractic adjustments for newborn babies and infants—but pediatric chiropractic care is a growing niche parents are using to address a myriad of ailments in children.

“Chiropractic care can help with many conditions in children,” says Dr. Katie Layden from RAK Chiropractic , listing such issues as colic, ear infections, asthma, bedwetting, acid reflux, ADD /AD HD, torticollis (asymmetrical head or neck position) and nursing problems.

Pediatric chiropractic doctors don’t twist and turn children into adjustment but utilize gentle, low-impact pressure to achieve proper alignment for babies. The amount of pressure used by a chiropractor in adjusting children is “similar to checking the ripeness of an avocado or a tomato at the grocery store,” says Dr. Pirkl. “We’re checking their neck and upper cervical processes,” she adds.

“I have gone into the hospital and have adjusted babies as soon as they are out of the birth canal,” says Dr. Olson.

Although that seems relatively early for a person to start an ongoing relationship with a chiropractic doctor, there is logic in it.

“Even in an uncomplicated birth scenario, it is estimated that at least 90 pounds of force is placed on the baby by the uterine contractions and active pushing,” Dr. Olson explains, referring to a vaginal birth with no complications for the mother or baby.

Prenatal care

Any woman with childbearing experience can detail the aches and pains associated with carrying a child. But are these “growing pains” necessary?

According to Dr. Layden, who primarily focuses her education and practice on pediatric, prenatal and postnatal chiropractic care, they are treatable.

Some of the common symptoms from which pregnant women seek relief are lower back pain or sciatica (pain and tenderness of the sciatic nerve).

“A woman can seek care up until delivery, even while in labor, to reduce pain and aid in progression of birth,” says Dr. Layden. “If they have never had chiropractic care before, they quickly realize how much relief they receive,” she adds.

Another reason women seek chiropractic care during their pregnancy is for the Webster Technique, a technique used “to reduce intrauterine constraint to help babies position themselves ideally for birth,” explains Dr. Layden, “and help with the breech presentation of the baby.”

According to Dr. Layden, there are no risks for pregnant women in seeking chiropractic care, so long as they are going to a chiropractor trained and experienced in prenatal care.

“Find a professional that is clinically and educationally experienced in pre/post natal care,” Dr. Layden advises. “Look for credentials from the ICPA (International Chiropractic Pediatric Association) or other professional associations.”