Chiropractors rarely limit themselves to chiropractic techniques alone. In fact, many choose to broaden their practice by incorporating other holistic healing methods and alternative forms of therapy.
It makes sense. Chiropractic treatment rests upon the understanding that the spine’s ability to function impacts all of the body’s systems—which in turn influence the spine’s health. In addition to studying chiropractic treatments, many students pursuing a doctorate in chiropractic also express an interest in using nutrition, exercise and lifestyle modification to improve overall patient health.
Which therapies are appropriate to incorporate into a chiropractic practice, and which aren’t? While the answers will depend on each practitioner’s personal interests and target patient base, most chiropractors agree that exercise and nutrition play a critical role in chiropractic care across the board.
Chiropractors understand how intricately the body’s systems work together. The foods a patient eats can have a powerful impact on the neuromuscular system, which means changes in diet can dramatically enhance the effectiveness of chiropractic techniques.
Inflammation caused by dietary factors can aggravate many of the conditions chiropractors treat, including rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, and neuritis. By combining nutritional counseling with chiropractic techniques, D.C.s can minimize systemic inflammation and thereby reduce pain as well as other symptoms.
Most chiropractors recognize the importance of nutritional counseling in their work. In one study, more than 80 percent of D.C.s reported providing nutritional counseling to their patients—and at least half of those considered it important to their practice. Although the counseling usually revolves around musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, more than half of chiropractors also address dietary issues related to coronary artery disease, diabetes, obesity, allergies and fibromyalgia.
Nutritional counseling can take a variety of forms—most commonly prescribing dietary supplements and dispensing literature about nutrition. However, effective counseling also includes:
- Monitoring a diet diary.
- Conducting and analyzing lab tests.
- Creating a customized dietary plan.
- Monitoring the patient’s improvement.
Fortunately, students pursuing a doctorate in chiropractic often have more opportunities to incorporate nutrition into their education than conventional medical school students. While most medical schools require few or no nutrition classes to graduate—although some do offer electives—most chiropractic colleges “have a greater emphasis on nutrition by offering at least two nutrition courses in the core curricula, with some offering extended training in elective programs,” said the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.
Chiropractic and Exercise
Exercise is another complementary treatment that often goes hand in hand with chiropractic techniques—particularly for the treatment of lower back pain. Many studies have cited the importance of exercise, along with spinal manipulation, in the treatment of acute and chronic lower back pain. Exercise helps strengthen the lower back and abdominal muscles to better support the spine, keeping patients limber and improving their quality of life.
It’s also helpful for relieving neck pain. Studies have proven a combination of exercise and chiropractic techniques to be more effective at treating neck pain than any other noninvasive interventions.
Chiropractors with an interest in exercise will find plenty of opportunities to incorporate into their practice. A doctor of chiropractic might prescribe pain-relieving stretches between spinal adjustments or incorporate physiotherapy into a patient’s overall treatment plan.
By incorporating nutritional counseling and exercise into their chiropractic practice, D.C.s can achieve better treatment results while nudging patients toward improving their overall health.