Chiropractic means doing by hand which is the method chiropractic practitioners use in adjusting misaligned vertebrae and other joints. Vertebrae are the 26 bones that make up the spinal column or backbone. The vertebrae surround and protect the spinal cord. Between each vertebrae are disks made of cartilage with a gelatinous center that enables them to act as shock absorbers. Spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord from which they send messages throughout the body, to the muscles, glands, organs, and bones.

The spinal column is the central station for the nervous system. The nervous system consists of three parts: the central nervous system which is the brain and spinal cord; the autonomic nervous system which controls involuntary functions such as digestion, heart rate, and breathing; and the peripheral nervous system which connects the central nervous system to voluntary muscles and other body tissues.

When the vertebrae are in proper alignment, nerve impulses flow freely along the spinal cord and out to other parts of the body. However, if a vertebrae falls out of alignment, called a subluxation, it impinges on the spinal nerves as they try to leave the spinal cord. Consequently, the nerves are unable to continue their functions properly and the recipient organs are adversely affected. A subluxation can occur from a physical trauma or injury, poor posture, muscle spasm or weakness, or birth defect. Stress, chemical toxicity, temperature extremes, and a genetic predisposition are also possible conditions that can have an affect on the vertebrae and nerve transmission.

Methods used in treatment involve several types of adjustments including the manipulation of a joint by stretching it beyond its normal range in which an audible click can be heard due to the release of gases from the joint fluid. There are also nonforce techniques applied along the spine, skull, or pelvis. Some chiropractors give additional advice on nutrition and exercise.

Chiropractic treatment has been used for the neuromusculoskeletal (nerve, muscle, and skeleton) system, lower back, upper back, neck and head pain, and for extremity, joint, and muscle problems. It has also been beneficial for respiratory illnesses, the common cold, sinusitis, bronchial asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, heart trouble, menstrual difficulties, and emotional problems such as depression and schizophrenia.

For more information contact: American Chiropractic Association, 1701 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22209, 703-276-8800; International Chiropractors Association, 1110 North Glebe Road, Suite 1000, Arlington, Virginia 22201, 703-528-5000; World Chiropractic Alliance, 2950 N. Dobson Road, Suite 1, Chandler, Arizona 85224, 800-347-1011; Association for Network Chiropractic Spinal Analysis, P.O. Box 7682, Longmont, Colorado 80501, 303-6788086; The American College of Addictionology and Compulsive Disorders, 5990 Bird Road, Miami, Florida 33155, 305-661-3474.

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