A 2006 Gallup poll shows that only one-third of Americans, 36%, gave chiropractors high praise for honesty and ethical standards. This lack of trust in chiropractors can be the result of a lack of understanding in chiropractic medicine. Sam Homola, a chiropractor himself, states that “chiropractic, one of the most controversial and poorly defined professions in the United States, has the confusing image of a back specialty capable of treating a broad scope of health problems.”
With questions like “are chiropractors doctors” floating on the internet, it is understandable that there is a level of uncertainty surrounding chiropractic medicine. “I believe chiropractic is very polarizing because chiropractic as we know it has only been around since 1895. Even at this point, a chiropractor from 1895 may not recognize current practices,” said Dr. Gavan Graham from Pearson Chiropractic.
“Also, as with every modality of healthcare, there are poor practitioners. It only takes one bad experience for a person to develop an anti-chiro mindset,” continued Dr. Graham. “Also, some of those “not-so-good” chiropractors claim they can heal any condition. That’s not possible for any branch of medicine.”
According to the Gallup poll, “the good news for [chiropractors] is that the balance of public opinion is more neutral than negative about them. Sizeable proportions of Americans call their ethics “average” while relatively few describe them as ‘low.’”
Adjusting Spines, and Opinions
To help remove reluctance and confusion around chiropractic medicine, we asked Dr. Graham some of the internet’s most popular questions about chiropractors.
Auburn Examiner: In your words, how would you describe chiropractic medicine?
Dr. Graham: Chiropractic is a physical treatment used to improve the function and movement of the joints being adjusted. Misaligned or “stuck” joints have the potential [to put pressure on a nerve causing pain directly]. They also typically have inflammation and/or swelling in the surrounding area that could press upon a nerve or other pain generating tissue. A chiropractor’s job is to get the joint moving within its normal limits. This typically relieves pain which is what brings patients in, in the first place.
AE: Are chiropractors doctors?
DG: A chiropractor is not a medical doctor. Instead, chiros have attended an accredited chiropractic school achieving a D.C. or Doctor of Chiropractic.
AE: What is your medical training?
DG: All chiros have completed at least three years of undergraduate to meet [prerequisites] for chiropractic school. At that point you [can] enter chiropractic school, but most students complete their bachelors.
See [the] breakdown of coursework for chiropractic school versus medical school. In no way is [this comparison] attempting to insinuate that chiropractic training is better. It is just showing that specializations are different between professions.
AE: There are additional certifications and specialties available post-graduate. Do you, or anyone at Pearson have any?
DG: We are certified in Graston technique, Kinisiotape, extremity adjusting and [Dr. Jay Pearson and I] have advanced post-graduate certifications in sports medicine known as Diplomate American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (DACBSP), of which there are less than 500 certificants in the entire world.
Receiving DACBSP accreditation is a difficult process. Before training for their DACBSP certificate, a chiropractor must first be a credited Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician. According to the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians, “earning the DACBSP certification requires successful completion of a written exam, a six-station practical exam, a written project, and 100 hours of practical experience in the field.”
AE: Do chiropractors take insurance?
DG: Most offices accept insurance as long as they are in the insurance company’s network of providers. At Pearson Chiropractic we are in-network with most insurance companies. Our front desk can call and confirm your benefits if you like.
AE note: any medical office, or your insurance carrier, can confirm if they accept your insurance. It is a good idea to verify if a practitioner is covered by your insurance, and your coverage, before your appointment
Getting Chiropractic Treatment
AE: Are chiropractors safe?
DG: There is an inherent risk with any type of treatment from a chiropractor, medical doctor, physical therapist or (fill in the blank). Our exam is used to determine if our patients are healthy enough to receive chiropractic care and find any red flags that would preclude someone from being treated.
AE: How do chiropractic adjustments help patients?
DG: [As described above,] but also chiropractic is not by any stretch guaranteed to help every person. There is no way for a chiropractic to know [before] treatment if you will benefit.
AE: Do chiropractors use any special tools or equipment?
DG: Some chiropractors use the adjustment as their only tool. These are known as straight chiropractors. Other chiropractors use soft tissue manipulation techniques, taping, and strengthening exercises. At Pearson Chiropractic we aim to assess the patient’s complaint and use the appropriate tools to have the patient feeling better as quickly as is reasonable.
Patients receiving care at Pearson Chiropractic will first have an initial exam to review the patient’s medical history and the reason for their visit. If necessary, x-rays will be done, using a digital x-ray. Heat is applied to loosen muscles before adjustments begin. Patients relax on massage tables post adjustment.
AE: How do chiropractors know what part of the body to adjust?
DG: If x-rays are taken, this can serve as a loose guide to where problem areas of the spine may be. Most chiropractors rely on a combination of palpation of the static spine and motion palpation which takes the joints through a range of motions to find restrictions.
AE: How do chiropractors make adjustments?
DG: There are over 200 specific chiropractic techniques out there. We use, again, the most appropriate technique for the patient. Some techniques are known as high-velocity low amplitude (HVLA). This is what most people think of when they picture chiropractic. Certain populations, such as older osteoporotic individuals or patients with injuries may require a lighter technique such as the drop table or the Activator technique. This is a spring-loaded instrument used to make the adjustment.
AE: When seeing a chiropractor, what should a patient wear?
DG: loose-fitting clothes that securely cover everything that should be covered.
AE: What is the cracking sound when a chiropractor is making adjustments?
DG: Scientists explain that synovial fluid present in your joints acts as a lubricant. The fluid contains the gases oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. When you pop or crack a joint, you stretch the joint capsule. Gas is rapidly released, which forms bubbles. To crack the same [joint] again, you [must] wait until the gases return to the synovial fluid.
AE: Can a chiropractor break a patient’s spine?
DG: It would take a force [more substantial] than is typically produced in a [standard] adjustment to break a spine, so no. For that to happen there would have to be some underlying condition, such as cancer or severe osteoporosis, that would be caught during an appropriately performed exam.
AE: It looks scary when a chiropractor makes neck adjustments. Can a chiropractor break someone’s neck?
DG: I’ve never heard of a neck being broken from a chiropractic adjustment, but weird things are reported in the world.
A chiropractor has training and therefore knows how to manipulate joints properly. According to Dr. Robert Pinto, a chiropractor with Pinto Chiropractic & Rehabilitation in Williamsburg, VA, Cracking one’s neck, if done too much and not [correctly] can cause serious problems, including stroke. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you stand a chance of hurting yourself,” said Pinto.
AE: If you utilize massage therapy, should get adjusted first or your massage first?
DG: I find this to be different for [everyone]. Try both; see what works best for your body.
How Chiropractic Adjustments Help
AE: What can chiropractic adjustments help with?
DG: Typically thought of are neck and spinal pain, and headaches. With the combination of therapies, we use, we are capable of treating sports injuries such as strained muscles and tendonitis. Conditions that involve the extremities also make up a large part of what we do. Shoulder injuries, golfer’s or tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis and many more come immediately to mind.
AE: Do you think there are mental health benefits to chiropractic adjustments?
DG: If you’re able to not think so much about the pain, you may receive mental health benefits. I always tell my patients that exercise is one of the best modalities for mental health such as depression. If I’m able to help a patient become more active, which should help with [mental health symptoms], then I could lightly argue I’m helping with mental health.
AE: Can a chiropractor prescribe medication?
AE: With the current opioid crisis, what is your opinion of pain medicine?
DG: I feel that pain medication is an easy way to sweep pain under the rug. If chiropractic care was recommended more by medical doctors to their patients, as opposed to immediately writing a script, I don’t think we would be so deep into this epidemic. [There] is a time and a place for most medications. There should be a list of therapies that need to be tried before you can just get a new pain medication prescription.
AE: Is it safe for a patient who is pregnant to still get adjustments?
DG: 100% safe. Again, the exam done [before adjustments] should show any potential red flags that would say someone shouldn’t be adjusted.
AE: At what age would you say it is ok for someone to begin getting adjustments?
DG: Immediately upon being born. Birth is a traumatic event in which the head and neck can be wrenched and pulled on. Adjustments for infants look much different than an adjustment for adults, [however]. The [gentlest] pressure imaginable is often all that is needed to help little ones.
Dr. Pearson shared the story of his son’s birth. Directly after he was born, his son showed apparent signs of duress. The midwife present checked his oxygen levels, which were normal. Though he was getting enough air, Dr. Pearson’s son continued to make small grunts and expressions of pain. Recognizing the discomfort his son was in, Dr. Pearson gently began to adjust his son until there was visible relief.
AE: At what point has a patient ‘graduated’ from treatment?
DG: Once pain levels have plateaued, or once [the] function has been restored to the most reasonable level for the individual.
Dr. Graham shared some parting advice for all potential chiropractic clients, “As we all know, bad reviews travel faster than good reviews. I encourage all prospective patients to [interview] their healthcare team and if something sounds fishy, find another provider.”
Pearson Chiropractic & Rehabilitation<
Pearson Chiropractic and Rehabilitation opened their first clinic in Kent in November 2002. They now have offices in Kent, Federal Way, and Auburn. Having opened in January 2019, their Lakeland Hills office is their newest location. Dr. Graham is the primary doctor at the Lakeland Hills clinic. Pearson’s Lakeland clinic also offers acupuncture and massage treatment. Acupuncture is provided by Dr. Christians Hunt EAMP and Amber Crookston, LMT is the clinic’s Massage Therapist.
In addition to seeing clients in the office, Pearson clinics are highly active within the community. Dr. Graham offers free adjustments to Veterans on Mondays at the Federal Way office. Currently, the office provides service to Kentridge High School and Stadium High School’s football team, doing injury assessments and treatment for student-athletes. Dr. Pearson and Dr. Graham also hope to extend this partnership to schools local to their newest clinic.
Having additional DACBSP accreditation also made Pearson Chiropractic the obvious choice to be the official team chiropractor for the Seattle Thunderbirds (hear that Seattle Hockey?)
Though the Lakeland Hills location is currently open and accepting new clients, the official grand opening is scheduled for Friday, April 12th, 5-8pm. The grand opening will include giveaways for a Traeger BBQ and Free services! Patients must be present to win, so be sure to stop by!
Do you still have questions about chiropractors or chiropractic medicine? Post them in the comments and we’ll make sure to follow up with our friends at Pearson Chiropractic.