FAQ's Section

Dr. Chris Gordon-Tennant’s answers to Frequently asked questions about CHIROPRACTIC

The term "Chiropractic" comes from ancient Greek and means "done by hand". Chiropractors are muscle, nerve and joint specialists that deal with a wide variety of conditions not only limited to the spine.

- Neck and Back pain - Headaches

- Whiplash - Rehabilitation

- Arthritis - Post surgical scarring

- TMJ disorders (Jaw)

- Joint pain (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hands, hips, knees, ankles, feet )

- Muscle pain/spasms (dull diffuse pain, can be sharp or refer)

- Nerve pain (numbness, tingling, burning, shooting)

- Sports injuries – (shin splints, sprains/strains, Tennis/golfers elbow, etc.)

- Office Overuse Injuries (Carpal tunnel syndrome, postural conditions)

- Plantar Fasciitis and Tendonitis

Contrary to what some may think, “diversified” or “mixer chiropractors” (see FAQ15 for the different types of chiropractors) do not use “adjustments” to treat all conditions. There are a number of treatment options chiropractors may use to help a condition get better. Adjusting, mobilizing, soft tissue massage, deep friction massage, physical therapy modalities (ie. IFC, ultrasound, laser etc.) nerve gliding techniques, acupuncture, postural education, orthotics, rehabilitation (stretching, strengthening and exercise) are a few of the other techniques some chiropractors may use to get you better.
No. Many conditions do not require an adjustment. After the initial assessment the chiropractor will recommend to you the best form of treatment for your condition. If your condition would benefit from an adjustment, the chiropractor will explain this to you and allow you to make a decision based on the chiropractors recommendation before any treatment has begun.
An adjustment is a controlled and precise form of treatment that helps to relieve pain and restore normal functioning to the spine and other joints of the body. Most people find immediate reduction of their symptoms. An adjustment can also reset and restore normal nerve activity and muscle tone. It has been called the ctrl-alt-delete button of the body. When your computer or cell phone starts messing up the first thing the service person will say to try is to turn the device off and back on, or take out the battery and reboot. This should be the first option you try for spinal discomfort as well.
popping sound that occurs after some adjustments is called a "cavitation" and is gasses being released from the joint. This is the same noise when you "crack" your knuckles. Cracking is a misleading term as the pop heard during an adjustment is definitely not from the bones rubbing together or breaking.
An adjustment actually feels good and usually does not produce any pain. In some circumstances, minor discomfort may result due to muscle tension. A good chiropractor will know when not to adjust just as he/she knows when and where to adjust. Also, after a thorough assessment, a good chiropractor will know what conditions require adjusting right away and which conditions may be aggravated by adjusting.
Adjusting is a drug-free, non-invasive approach to common musculoskeletal conditions such as headache, neck and back conditions involving pain, numbness, muscle spasm, loss of mobility, headaches and other similar symptoms. The risk of injuries or complications from chiropractic treatment and/or manual therapy is substantially lower than that associated with many medical or other manual treatments, medications and procedures given for the same symptoms. Complications arising from adjustment are rare.
A lot of simple acute conditions do not require lifelong treatments. However, there are two circumstances to which lifelong treatments may benefit and is dependent on the condition and your daily habits and stresses. Some individuals with chronic conditions such as degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) or recurrent neck pain, back pain, or headaches, may experience less frequent and less severe symptoms under regular chiropractic care. In the case of osteoarthritis, the joints of your spine do not move well. One known fact is that joints that do not move or joints that move too much tend to degenerate faster. Thus in osteoarthritis, having an adjustment here and there is great to keep that motion and prevent further degeneration. The reason joints that do not move well degenerate faster is because movement aids in the lubrication of joints which provide it with vital nutrients. If the joints do not move there is little lubrication and nutrients going to that joint and hence will cause degeneration. On the other hand, joints that move too much degenerate fast as well because of excessive wear and tear (ie. don't constantly crack your knuckles but once in a while is ok). Often joints that move too much are a result of compensation from joints that move too little. Thus a chiropractor will find the joints that are not moving properly and "adjust" them to restore the motion and hence prevent degeneration.
The second scenario where you would need regular chiropractic care is in individuals in highly stressful situations and those who experience repetitive physical and postural strain from their daily activities. Sometimes individuals have stressful jobs and demanding lives where removing the stressor is near impossible if they want to complete a job. This is like getting a cut on your arm, applying a band-aid, removing the band-aid prematurely, picking the scab and having to apply another band-aid before the cut is given ample time to heal. The obvious situation here would be to remove the stressor, however for some, the stressor needs to be delt with on a day to day basis. A chiropractor can help you minimize the stressor through ergonomic advice, postural correction and manage your symptoms through regular treatments to help you get through your tough work week.
You may find temporary relief with "Self adjusting", however you are most likely not getting the specific joint that is actually stuck. As mentioned above when a joint is restricted, the joints above and below have to move more to compensate for the lack of motion. Thus the joint that you are actually hearing a "pop" from are the joints that are already moving too much which may lead to more discomfort and degeneration down the road. Hence, self adjusting is not recommended.
The reason that chiropractors see you more than just once is the same reason people go to the gym more than just once. You cannot be a body builder after one workout. You have to work out frequently, then once you achieve your desired result you can ease off and just maintain your new body. In a sedentary individual, the body assumes that doing nothing is normal. It is not used to exercising. The more you exercise, the more the body gets accustomed to working out and the fitter you get. The same is said for adjustments. If you had bad posture for a long period of time, your body thinks that bad posture is normal and by having an adjustment, your body will think that it is abnormal and want to go back to the bad posture. You have to let the body know what the new normal is through a series of adjustments and postural correction.
Sometimes pain is the result of altered mechanics of the spine that have started long before the pain arrives. When certain joints of the spine get "stuck" from various day to day stresses, the joints above and below must compensate by moving more to allow you to carry out your normal daily activities. This extra motion above and below can cause added stress on the muscle acting across that joint and cause pain to eventually develop. By freeing that restricted joint, you can stop the pain before it starts. The restricted joint can also lead to symptoms on its own by altering the messages being sent to the body through the nerves. This is why some people can even see improvement in bodily functions after getting adjusted.
here are 3 phases to chiropractic care. The first phase is getting you out of pain. The second phase is restoring the range of motion and flexibility in the joints, and the last phase is rehab, strengthening and stabilization. In the second phase, only a little pain and discomfort through stiffness remains. In the last phase, almost all the pain has subsided but the problem may not be fully healed. This is why it is important to continue treatment. With an unstable back for example, you may not feel any pain, yet a simple movement may “tweak” your back and cause excruciating pain. Hence, the last phase of healing is the most dangerous because you think you are better and may perform activities that cause the symptoms to come back, maybe even worse. Thus strengthening the stabilizing muscles of the joints and spine can prevent future reoccurrences down the road. Many people stop treatment after the pain has disappeared and never fully recover. That is why it is not uncommon to hear “I’ve had this problem for years”! To put his in another perspective, you can compare spinal health to oral health (dentistry). Think of an injury as a cavity. As the chiropractor gets you out of pain, like the dentist filling the cavity, we help maintain spinal health just like the dentist with regular cleanings and proper education on brushing.
Most people do not realize the level of education that chiropractors actually receive. To become a Chiropractor in Canada you must complete 3 years of undergraduate studies at an accredited university. The Chiropractic program at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (only english speaking chiropractic school in all of Canada) is a 4 year rigorous professional degree program consisting of anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, radiology, pathology, nutrition, orthopedics, microbiology, etc. etc. etc. You may ask why Chiropractors need to know so much information. Doctors are the only professions in Canada that are given the ability to diagnose (legally tell you what's wrong with you). Those without that designation cannot legally make a diagnosis. Therefore, to make an appropriate diagnosis, a doctor of chiropractic must be able to rule out other, more sinister conditions that may require a referral to a Medical Doctor, in order to make sure the pain is within their scope of practice.
Many people do not know that there are two main types of chiropractors. Those that are called “straight” and those that are called “mixers”. Straight chiropractors almost exclusively use adjusting as their primary form of treatment and believe that adjusting your spine will be able to cure anything that’s going wrong with your body. It is heard that some medical doctors are skeptical about these types of chiropractors. “Mixers” are chiropractors that follow a more scientific model and use the most evidenced based treatment to help your condition. You will often see these chiropractors working along side physiotherapists and they generally spend more time during each patient visit. They will also address muscles and other joints of the body whereas straight chiropractors usually stick to the spine only. Straight chiropractors usually x-ray every patient no matter the condition. Mixer chiropractors think x-raying everyone is exposing the patient to unnecessary radiation and will only refer for x-rays when they believe it is medically necessary.
A lot of medical doctors think every chiropractor is a “straight” chiropractor and will adjust and x-ray every patient no matter what the condition. Because chiropractic is a relatively new profession, MD’s need to be educated on the fact that not all chiropractor’s practise that way. Some MD’s have come to this realization and will refer to specific chiropractors instead of recommending their patients to go to any chiropractor not knowing their philosophy.
Because the vertebral artery travels through the cervical vertebrae (neck), there are reported cases of stroke associated with many common neck movements including the chiropractic adjustment of the upper cervical spine. However, present medical and scientific evidence does not establish a definite cause and effect relationship between upper cervical spine adjusting and the occurrence of stroke. Sometimes patients present themselves to a medical doctor or chiropractor while they are in the initial stages of a stroke complaining of headaches and neck pain. A thorough history and examination can rule this out from simple musculoskeletal pain. In an extremely small percentage of the population, there may be a defect is this artery to where any twisting motion of the neck (not limited to a chiropractic adjustment) can initiate a stroke. These people are a ticking time bomb and any motion such as checking your blind spot or going to a hair dresser can trigger it.
Chiropractic is a healing discipline firmly grounded in science. Few other health care interventions have been assessed as extensively as chiropractic manipulation, both in terms of safety and effectiveness. There have been at least six formal government studies into chiropractic worldwide over the last 25 years and all have concluded that contemporary chiropractic care is safe, effective, cost-effective and have recommended public funding for chiropractic services. In addition, there have been countless scientific clinical studies assessing the appropriateness, effectiveness, and/or cost-effectiveness of spinal manipulation or chiropractic manipulation, most notably for low back pain. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHI) now offers research grants in partnership with the Canadian Chiropractic Association to chiropractors and other scientists for high quality, chiropractic research.
Physiotherapy, massage and chiropractic actually work extremely well together. Being treated by all 3 specialists will help you achieve your optimal health that much faster. Physiotherapy is great for stretching, strengthening and rehabilitation, while massage therapists specialize in the soft tissues of the body. Because chiropractors have a great understanding of the muscles and joints of your body, chiropractic care, in addition to these other professions, can fill in another piece of the puzzle of why your symptoms are taking place. Aberrant joint mechanics or spinal instabilities may be the reason your muscles are tightening up every week. Without addressing every aspect of your condition, complete recovery is difficult.
Yes, like medical doctors, chiropractors refer patients to other health professionals when they feel it is appropriate. Chiropractors are well trained to recognize risk factors as well as individual disease patterns and will not hesitate to make a referral when it is in the best interest of the patient’s health.

- Pain reduction - Improved range of motion

- Reduced Stiffness - Prevention of future pain

- Stronger, healthier joints and back - Decreased tension

- Increased functional abilities in sport, office or everyday activities

- Can have a positive effect on bodily functions