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FAQs - Chiropractic Medicine

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What Does a Chiropractic Physician Do?

A chiropractic physician is a primary spine care physician, focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with back pain, neck pain, and headaches, among other problems. Chiropractic physicians do not use medications or surgery as treatments, but rather utilize natural, hands-on methods along with exercise and lifestyle modification. Although most cases can be diagnosed through discussion of the problem and physical examination, chiropractic physicians utilize blood tests, MRI, CAT scans, X rays, and other diagnostic tests when necessary. The chiropractic physicians at the Rhode Island Spine Center work in cooperation with medical physicians and other practitioners to provide high quality, well-rounded care to each patient.
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What Types of Problems do Chiropractic Physicians Treat?

Chiropractic physicians are primary spine care physicians. Therefore, any disorder that involves joints, muscles, discs or nerves can potentially be appropriately addressed by a chiropractic physician. This includes:

Back pain
Neck pain
Pregnancy-related low back or leg pain
Whiplash injuries
Thoracic outlet syndrome
Work-related injuries
Shoulder, arm and leg pain
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Muscle tightness, weakness or imbalance
Numbness and tingling
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What is the Difference Between a Chiropractic Physician and a Physical Therapist?

At the Rhode Island Spine Center, chiropractic physicians and physical therapists work together as a team. The function of the chiropractic physician is to first diagnose the cause of the particular problem that the patient is experiencing, including, if necessary, ordering X rays, MRIs, blood tests or other diagnostic studies. The chiropractic physician then formulates a management strategy that may include education to help understand the problem and reduce the mystery and fear that often surrounds spine problems, manipulation, muscle treatments, exercise and nutritional advice. The physical therapist’s job is to perform a comprehensive evaluation of movement, stability, and joint and muscle function, and to provide manual therapy, exercise, ergonomic and lifestyle advice, and other rehabilitation approaches. The chiropractic physician and physical therapist communicate regularly regarding each patient’s care.
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What Techniques are Used at the RISC?

The chiropractic physicians at the Rhode Island Spine Center use a variety of techniques. The specific techniques used for each patient will vary depending on the diagnosis and structures involved, as well as patient preference and comfort. The techniques used include Diversified manipulation, muscle energy manipulation (no quick movement or "crack"), distraction manipulation (a.k.a. Cox Technique), neural mobilization, muscle stretching, myofascial release technique, rehabilitative exercise, and trigger point therapy.
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What are the Educational Requirements to Become a Chiropractic Physician?

Most students are required to have a Bachelor's degree before applying to Chiropractic school, with credits in basic science and math. Chiropractic college itself is then 4 additional years of post-graduate, full-time, intensive schooling, including an internship, with a foundation in basic sciences, not unlike that of medical school. After graduation, there are several state and national board examinations to pass before attaining licensure.
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Do I Have to Have My Neck and Back "Cracked"?

No. Manipulation is a technique used to correct joint dysfunction, which is thought to be a condition in which there is loss of normal movement of a joint and is thought to be a common cause of spinal pain. Manipulation is exceedingly safe if provided by adequately trained practitioners. However, many people are afraid of the “cracking” sound that often accompanies manipulation. If you do not have signs joint dysfunction there is no need for manipulation. Even if you do have joint dysfunction, if you’d prefer, there are "non-cracking" techniques that can be used to correct it, which are often equally effective.
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What is the Cracking Noise That Often Occurs with Manipulation?

Often when a joint is manipulated, it makes a "popping" sound. There is fluid inside all joints, and within this fluid there are bubbles. When the manipulation is performed, the bubbles pop, producing an audible sound. Although this is not necessary for manipulation to be effective, it is simply the sound of the joint suddenly moving and is completely harmless.
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Will Manipulation Hurt?

Most of the time, manipulation is very comfortable. Slight to moderate discomfort has been reported in about 1/3 of patients, with 10% of these reporting more noticeable discomfort. In the majority of cases, any discomfort that does occur is gone within 24-48 hours. If discomfort occurs at all it is generally after the first and sometime second treatment, but not thereafter.
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How Long Does Chiropractic Care Take to Work?

This is a very commonly asked question, and unfortunately, there is no one simple answer to this because the amount of time needed for recovery is variable, not only for each different condition, but also for each individual patient. Generally speaking, conditions that have been present for a longer period of time will logically require a somewhat longer recovery time, although there are always exceptions. Our approach is such that the immediate goals are to help you get relief from pain and disability as quickly as possible, while at the same time, addressing the underlying dysfunctions that caused the pain and teaching you strategies to manage and reduce any future episodes that may occur. In this way we attempt to help you expeditiously reduce pain and return to normal function.
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Do You Think People Should Come in Regularly to Have Chiropractic Check-Ups?

Although there are certain uncommon instances in which regular, periodic treatment may be recommended, this is the exception rather than the rule. There will likely be certain exercises that are recommended to you to do regularly, and these have been shown to prevent re-occurrences of back pain. The chiropractic physicians at the Rhode Island Spine Center place much emphasis on teaching patients self-care strategies so that they can manage conditions themselves, only needing to return to the doctor if these strategies are not successful.
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Why Do I Have to Exercise?

Besides all the benefits of regular aerobic and strengthening exercise, your chiropractic physician may prescribe other exercises designed to keep joints moving properly or to improve the ability of muscles to stabilize the back or neck and prevent re-occurring pain. For many of these, it will be recommended for you to continue long term, while others are to be used only temporarily while you are having pain. In other words, certain exercises will help your condition to improve more quickly and others will be designed to lessen the frequency of recurring pain.
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What Can I Expect During the First Visit?

The primary purpose of the first visit is for the chiropractic physician to get to know you and your condition. He or she will ask you for certain details about the history of the problem and will perform a comprehensive examination for the purpose of establishing a diagnosis. Blood tests, MRI, CAT scan or X rays may be ordered, although most often these are not necessary. Then, the chiropractic physician will discuss with you his or her findings and your diagnosis and, if your case is accepted, will discuss the recommended treatment(s).

Treatment may or may not be rendered on the first visit, but the full scope of the diagnosis and recommended treatment will be discussed prior to any treatment being given.
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Can Children Be Treated by a Chiropractic Physician?

While spinal and other musculoskeletal disorders are less common in children than adults, certainly they are not rare. There is no reason why children cannot be seen at the Rhode Island Spine Center. If manipulation is required, the techniques used will be modified for the size of the child.
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