Chiropractic is a therapy for certain functional and painful disorders of the musculoskeletal system and their effects on other functions, such as biomechanical and neurophysiological.

What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a natural and holistic medical approach that deals in particular with the diagnosis, treatment, prophylaxis and rehabilitation of functional disorders and painful diseases of the musculoskeletal system, as well as their biomechanical and neurophysiological effects.

It makes it possible to diagnose, treat and, if possible, protect against such diseases.

The spine, pelvis and the joints of the extremities play a central role in diagnosis and therapy.

Chiropractic goes far beyond treatment with the hands, as can be deduced from the etymology (of the ancient Greek cheiro "hand" and praktikos "to be active"), but represents a holistic approach in which the patient is guided to a lifestyle that meets the needs of his musculoskeletal system.

Independent discipline in scientific medicine

Chiropractic is an independent discipline in scientific medicine that uses mainly non-invasive and non-drug treatments, and thus corresponds to a modern approach to health care. The chiropractor, or chiropractic physician, has extensive medical training and expertise in the diagnosis, manual treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal impairments and the discomfort they cause.

Chiropractor as a nationally recognized medical profession

Chiropractic is one of the five university-based disciplines of the medical sciences recognized by the Federal Medical Professions Act (MedBG) as of 09/01/17. Like physicians and dentists, chiropractors carry the title of doctor and can be consulted directly by patients without a referral. They practice independently, make their diagnosis and prescribe additional examinations and treatments as necessary. Their services are covered by basic health insurance.

Long tradition of chiropractic 

Based on widespread practices of antiquity that were rediscovered and scientifically substantiated in the United States in the 19th century, chiropractic did not gain recognition in Europe and Switzerland until the mid-20th century.

Antiquity and the Roman Empire

Chiropractic as we know it is not quite as old as mankind, but the treatment of joints is. In fact, this method of treatment was widespread early in China, Egypt and Greece. As early as the time of the Roman Empire, Galenos of Pergamon used this therapy to help gladiators get back on their feet.

19th century

The scientific era of chiropractic began a little more than a century ago with Daniel David Palmer (1845-1913). While Louis Pasteur was researching the role of certain microorganisms in the development of infectious diseases in Europe, D.D. Palmer was rediscovering the benefits of manipulative correction for misaligned vertebrae in the Midwestern United States.

It is still not known where this researcher got his knowledge, possibly through contact with Indian healers. However, he found out that the importance of the spine goes beyond its function as a support of the body. Since it forms the transition between the central and peripheral nervous systems, it plays a crucial role in health balance: disturbances in the mechanics of the spine can affect the neurological system, and if the spine does not perform its function, there will be disturbances in the information transmitted by the nervous system.

This theory was further elaborated by the son of the founder, Bartlett Joshua Palmer (1882-1961). At the end of the 19th century, the Palmers finally established chiropractic in the sciences by founding the "Palmer College of Chiropractic" in Davenport, in the state of Iowa, the first research and teaching institute.

Zurich's pioneering role in the 20th century

In the 1920s, the first Swiss moved across the Atlantic to the sober rooms of Palmer College in the USA. With a degree in hand and back home, the new doctors successfully cared for patients who had failed the usual treatments. Word spread and the method developed so rapidly that politicians ultimately decided to approve the treatment method, despite skepticism from the medical association at the time.

A chiropractor from Lucerne, who had even been sentenced to prison for practicing his healing art, was greeted with a triumphant reception when he left prison. The initiative petition of January 22, 1939 in Zurich, carried out after a passionate and biting campaign, resulted in the authorization of chiropractic.

Thereafter, the practice of the healing method was gradually allowed in other cantons and spread throughout Switzerland. Finally, on July 5, 1962, the petition of the patients' association Pro Chiropraktik, submitted with 394,390 signatures, was successful and chiropractic was recognized as a compulsory health insurance benefit.

When you should see a chiropractor

Chiropractic naturally treats pinpoint ailments such as lumbago, a herniated disc if it does not require surgery, or the common whiplash injury, etc. The chiropractor then restores the normal function and mobility of the joints.

He/she uses his/her hands in the treatment and achieves his/her goal by applying precisely measured pressure to the joint whose function has been disturbed. To understand what happens when a joint is treated in this way, it is important to know all the "components" involved and the function assigned to them.

Chiropractic treatment options

Chiropractic treatment aims, among other things, to break the pain cycle by restoring joint mobility. It corrects the dysfunction in the affected vertebral joint, thereby reducing the abnormally increased flow of nerve impulses to the spinal cord. The affected muscle thus regains its usual amount of impulses and its basic tension normalizes. This improves muscle function, reduces abnormal strain, and decreases irritation and inflammation.

Systematic anamnesis

A prerequisite in any treatment is a thorough anamnesis. In addition to the usual orthopedic, rheumatological and neurological examination methods, chiropractic also uses specific examination procedures, such as static and dynamic palpation of the musculoskeletal system. Recommendations, especially regarding posture and gymnastic exercises, are part of the treatment.

Like any therapy, chiropractic has its limitations, and knowledge of these (contraindications to chiropractic treatment) is an integral part of clinical training.

Treatment of joint blockages

Chiropractors have a variety of manual techniques to correct joint blockages and improve mobility. The principle is to apply precise and finely measured manual impulses to the joint, respecting its physiological limits, to release the blocked contact surfaces and thereby restore and improve joint mobility.

A cracking sound is usually produced during the treatment. Impressive, but painless: When the joint blockage is released, a negative pressure is created between the two bony parts, causing certain components of the joint fluid to change to a gaseous state. These "gas bubbles" burst and produce the cracking sound typical of chiropractic treatment.

However, the treatment is not only aimed at normalizing joint function, but is also intended to exert a reflex effect on the surrounding tissues (muscles, tendons, nervous system).

Muscle, reflex therapy and orthopedic aids

However, the therapeutic arsenal of modern chiropractors is not limited to joint treatment alone. Depending on the indication, various methods of muscle and reflex therapy, joint mobilization and head massage, as well as physiotherapeutic measures (controlled stretching, ultrasound, electrotherapy, cryotherapy) are used.

The daily practice of chiropractors also includes the prescription of orthopedic aids, support bandages, gymnastic exercises, nutritional and ergonomic counseling, and even the use of acupuncture and acupressure. Chiropractors also prescribe medications or nutritional supplements (analgesics, anti-inflammatories) as needed.

Chiropractors usually have their own x-ray equipment, but they may also hire outside providers to perform the radiological or laboratory tests necessary to make a diagnosis.

Side effects

Side effects may occur locally in the form of restricted movement, pain and contractures, or by remote action in the form of headache, radiation of pain to the limbs, etc.

Cases have been observed in which internal functions were affected. Chiropractic treatment is indicated when there is a disturbance in the posture or movement of the human body. This disorder may be caused by an illness or accident, or it may occur due to age, which affects all of us.

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