Back pain is the most common problem that is treated by chiropractors and for a simple reason, chiropractors focus on the health of the spine and the spine is usually the source of back pain. There are many ways in which back pain can develop. When stress is placed on the spine, generally repeatedly over long periods of time, there can be a gradual degeneration. The spine may shift slightly out of position putting stress on your muscles and causing pain. A joint may become damaged or sprained and cause the muscles around it to spasm to protect it, which makes the muscles very tight and painful. One or more vertebrae may become subluxated or misaligned potentially "pinching" your nerves as they exit the spine which can cause pain at the source and down the nerve as well as some other potential problems. Or it could be a disc problem, the disc may be degenerating or even herniated ("slipped"). All of these will cause back pain (though it may not hurt for a time) and all of them are fairly easily treated. By performing adjustments to your back, a chiropractor can gently realign any subluxated vertebrae, ease your spine back into position, and fix disc problems.
There are many potential ways to cause these problems. One is simply poor posture which increases stress to your spine and will eventually hurt it. Another is lifting heavy objects, especially lifting them improperly. Falls, auto accidents and other major traumas may also jar the spine out of alignment. Lastly stress can also cause problems as it tends to tense the muscles in your shoulders and back which can pull the vertebrae out of alignment.
Shoulder, Arm, and Hand Pain
While pain in these areas can be caused by pinched nerves in your spine, they are often caused by injury to the shoulder or the nerves as they pass through your shoulder. This usually results in continuous pain and restricted motion. Chiropractors can work to loosen your shoulder and restore motion as well as to take pressure off the nerves that pass through which is often the cause of your pain.
Another very common cause of pain is carpal tunnel syndrome which is usually caused by repetitive motion (like typing). In this case the tendons around your nerves as they pass through the wrist (the carpal tunnel) become irritated from over use and swell which "pinches" the nerve causing discomfort and numbness in your hand, wrist, and arm. Chiropractors work to loosen the wrist so the nerves are no longer pinched and reduce the swelling through heat, cold, or electro-therapy and rest.
Knee, Leg, and Ankle Pain
While pain in your legs can come from subluxated ("pinched") nerves in your hip and lower back, the pain comes more often from injuries or foot problems (like being flat footed). Injuries, such as spraining your ankle, often damage the ligaments which hold the joints together. This can cause scar tissue to form which is stiff and brittle and makes the ligaments easier to damage in the future as well as restricting motion. Chiropractors use a variety of treatments to restore mobility to your joints and strengthen the ligaments including stretching and exercising the affected areas.
Hip pain often is caused by nerve irritation or subluxation ("pinching") in the lower back which is fairly easily treated through chiropractic adjustments. However, it can also come from the hip itself and can be caused by swelling, balance problems, impingement in the hip, or more seriously osteoarthritis. Chiropractors aim to restore motion, reduce swelling, and strengthen muscles in order to eliminate the source of the pain. Unfortunately osteoarthritis is a condition which cannot be cured, but it can be treated to alleviate the symptoms and slow the onset.
Chronic headaches can be treated by chiropractors, which is not something you would expect to be treatable. However, there are several potential causes of headaches that can be treated. Subluxated (misaligned) vertebrae in the neck are often the cause of headaches. Being out of alignment, the vertebrae can slightly restrict blood flow which can be a cause of headaches. More likely however, it pulls on some of the muscles in the neck which in turn pull on the base of the brain which stretches the blood vessels and causes headaches in that way. Should this be the cause of your headaches, simple adjustments of the neck to realign the subluxated vertebrae can greatly diminish the frequency of your headaches.
Neck pain is another common problem which chiropractors must deal with. It can be caused by subluxations in your neck (pinched nerves) which can be fixed with chiropractic adjustments. It can also be caused by bad posture (including posture while sleeping), bad balance, and prolonged sitting which can cause stiffness, misalignment of the spine, and muscle spasms. These can also be treated with adjustments and may also be treated through stretching, exercise, and hot, cold, or electrical therapy.
One other cause of neck pain is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when your neck is jerked back and forth beyond its normal limits as a result of some trauma. Most commonly this trauma is an auto accident but it can also be a sports or work related accident. If you have whiplash you need to visit a chiropractor to have it corrected as it can be a serious problem. Whiplash will often damage one or more vertebrae in the neck causing soreness and restriction of motion. Chiropractors will gently realign the vertebrae while using exercises, stretches, and hot, cold, or electrical therapy to help restore motion.