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What Does a Chiropractor Treat?

Chiropractors are focused on attending to a wide variety of chronic pain and even medical conditions that result from misalignments in the spine, which are called subluxations. When your spine is out of alignment, it can result in all manner of pain and health issues, from back and neck pain to problems in the extremities – as far as your fingers and toes.

Many medical conditions are often related to spine problems. These include issues like hernias, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ, and even ear infections, among others. Your chiropractor can be an important part of your overall health and wellness routine. They allow your body to engage in its best natural healing, working like a finely tuned machine to maintain itself.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more common conditions a chiropractor improves, as well as some of the other benefits you get from chiropractic care.

How Can a Chiropractor Treat Chronic Pain?

The primary focus of chiropractors is to help patients improve their overall health and wellness, and that includes the management of chronic pain. Many patients are surprised at the different kinds of pain that are actually associated with a simple and common misalignment in your spine.

Just a few types of chronic pain that the chiropractor can improve include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Upper back, shoulder and neck pain
  • Hip and leg pain
  • Conditions like whiplash and sciatica
  • Headaches

All of these conditions can be caused by the pressure placed on your nerves due to a vertebral subluxation, or a spinal misalignment. Correcting such misalignments can not only alleviate pain but allow your body to work better, improve your immune response, and let you heal from injuries faster.

Back Pain

When you’re having back pain, many options are available. The majority of people simply go for medications such as anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants. While these are good temporary options, they can carry serious side effects from liver damage to addiction. With the opioid problem in our country, many people are starting to look for new options, and that’s where chiropractors come in.

Chiropractic is a non-invasive, safe and chemical free method of alleviating back pain. Your chiropractor will examine your back for areas where its curvature is out of alignment. By manipulating your spine, it can be returned to its ideal curve, and this can remove your back pain permanently.

It’s important, however, to understand that it may take more than one visit. Like many medical procedures, adjusting the spine can be an ongoing process. As one subluxation is adjusted, another can develop. Eventually, however, the chiropractor will get your spine back into its ideal curvature, which will in turn remove the pressure placed on your nerves. This pressure is the root cause of many types of back pain.

Back pain can be caused in a number of ways. It can result from heavy lifting, poor posture, even what people refer to as “sleeping funny.” Your back is strong but also designed to be flexible, which can lead to a number of injuries that medication can only treat to a certain extent. A chiropractor can address the root cause of the problem.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is the single most common cause of worldwide disability. It’s among the most common reasons that people miss work, and over half of all Americans in the workforce report suffering these symptoms at least once a year. According to experts, up to 80% of the populace will have a back problem at some point.

Most causes of back pain are caused by something mechanical – a minor injury as opposed to something like a fracture, an infection or a disease. In these cases, a chiropractor can be of help. Still, you should never ignore lower back pain, whether acute or chronic. It can be an indicator of more serious problems.

With Americans spending over $50 billion on treating back pain annually, a chiropractor can be an ideal way to get back on your feet without breaking the bank on complex treatments and side-effect-laden drugs.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is another type of ache that can be caused by spinal issues. Whether it’s spending time hunched over your computer at the office all day or even spending too much time texting on your phone, these activities can result in poor posture. In addition, spending too long with your head bent down and forward can actually lead to the degradation of your spine.

Neck pain can manifest in a number of different ways: soreness, numbness (pins and needles), stabbing or searing pain, burning and even weakness that radiates into your arms. Chiropractors are widely used for the management of neck pain because they can help the pain without invasive surgery and without chemicals that can be addictive or cause side effects. 

The various types of neck pain that can benefit from chiropractic care include, but are not limited to:

  • Spinal degeneration.
  • Bone disorders.
  • Slipped or bulging discs (also called prolapsed discs).
  • Cervical Spondylosis.
  • Torticollis (also called wry neck).
  • Arthritis.


Whiplash is a unique kind of neck pain that’s almost exclusively caused by injury. It occurs when you have a sudden impact that causes your head to snap forward then back, like the cracking of a whip. The medical term for whiplash is cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome, or CAD syndrome.

The symptoms of whiplash can manifest in a range of ways, not all of which are physical pain. For example, while neck pain, headaches, back and shoulder pain and stiffness can be part of the condition, so can difficulty with concentration and memory, as well as mood swings, fatigue and sleeping problems.

These symptoms can be quite severe and can last a very long time. They can, in fact, be debilitating, which can damage your social relationships and your basic ability to do a job. Chiropractors are uniquely qualified to address the symptoms and underlying cause of whiplash and can help to alleviate the problem for good.

Shoulder Pain

While there are a number of causes for shoulder pain such as rotator cuff injuries or dislocations, more often than people realize, pain in the shoulder is actually tied to the spine. When your spine gets out of alignment, it can put pressure on the nerve bundles it protects, resulting in pinched or compressed nerves that can result in pain in the shoulder.

Shoulder pain can range from a nuisance to quite literally crippling in nature. Shoulder pain that’s caused by spinal problems is often marked by flexibility and motion issues. That is, your shoulder won’t hurt to touch, but when you move it a certain way there will be aches or even sharp, shooting pains.

Very often, shoulder pain begins with a sharp, stabbing sensation, then fades to an ache before going away. When the pain returns on a regular basis, it’s time to seek treatment. You might need medical help if you’re experiencing the following symptoms, such as:

  • Inability to raise your arm or difficulty with motion.
  • Prolonged heat or inflammation.
  • Pain that recurs time and again.
  • Chronic pain that continues for more than a few days.
  • Noticeable misshapen shoulder.

Pinched Nerve

Pinched nerves are very common injuries. If you’ve ever woken up in the morning after having “slept wrong,” and realized you’ve got a sharp pain in your neck, back, shoulders or somewhere else when you try to move, that may be a pinched nerve.

Sometimes pinched nerves resolve on their own. All too often, however, letting them go without treatment can lead to serious problems in the future.

Pinched nerves most commonly happen in the neck and can manifest a number of different ways. These include difficulty turning the head, pain in the shoulders, arms or legs, even symptoms similar to a heart attack. Muscle spasms are not uncommon, and depending on the nerve, you might even have issues with other internal systems.

Spinal subluxations are the most common causes of pinched nerves. When your spine is misaligned, it puts direct pressure on the nerve – pinches it. Related to subluxation are bulging or slipped discs, which can also rub against the nerves. Finally, disc degeneration, when your cartilage wears down, can pinch nerves, as can bone spurs from osteoarthritis.

By dealing with the subluxation, slipped disc or other issue, your chiropractor can address the root problem of the pinched nerve. They can free it up from the pressure and help you get rid of the symptoms and pain associated with it.

Hip Pain

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that your hips are actually tied to your spine. After all, they are what connects your spine to your legs. When you’re dancing, running, stretching, bending over or doing just about anything else, your hips play into that motion. Your hips are made up of two bones, which attach via ligaments to the base of your spine.

When your spine is misaligned (or subluxated), pressure on your spinal cord interferes with the signals from your brain, which can limit your range of motion and cause pain. One of the most common indicators of hip problems is when your legs appear to be different lengths. This is known as hip displacement. 

When your hips are displaced, it can cause extra wear and tear on the body. This can cause you to end up with bulging discs, arthritis, sciatica, sacroiliac injury and even issues with pregnancy or childbirth in women. Symptoms can include exhaustion and fatigue, in addition to pain.

A chiropractor can correct these issues by getting your hips back in their proper alignment. You’ll experience improved motion, more energy, reduced pain and better overall quality of life.

Knee Pain

Few people think about chiropractic when they think about getting their knee pain evaluated. In truth, however, chiropractors often ply their craft in providing joint pain relief. Your chiropractor doesn’t just adjust your spine, though that is certainly their focus. They also can adjust your extremities, those other movable joints in your body.

A chiropractor can use a number of remedies to address knee pain. These include cold therapy to lower inflammation, soft tissue massage to improve range of motion and varying levels of manipulation and mobilization to help improve mobility throughout the joint.

When you visit your chiropractor, they will ask you to walk and will observe your gait to assess the stress on your joints. They will then align your knee properly and work with you to create a custom therapy that will suit your daily habits and needs.

What Medical Conditions Can a Chiropractor Treat?

A chiropractor’s main focus is to help you with chronic and acute pain to gain a better quality of life. The best means of doing that is to handle the underlying problems that cause the pain. Chiropractors don’t believe in just treating symptoms. They look at the medical conditions that cause the pain you experience.


Migraine headaches are the third most common illness in the entire world, with almost 25% of U.S. households alone including someone who experiences these headaches. A full 12% of the population has migraines, which are most common between age 25 and 55.

Over 4 million adults experience chronic migraines that directly affect their quality of life. What many don’t realize is that the most common reason for migraines to go from episodic to chronic is overuse of medication. While migraines can be utterly disabling, medication is not the answer.

A chiropractor is, for many people, a much better option to help control your migraine symptoms. Many migraines can be caused by spinal misalignments which put pressure on the nerves, resulting in neurological conditions causing these headaches. Chiropractic service can repair these subluxations, without invasive procedures and without the use of drugs.

A wealth of scientific studies back up these findings as well. These studies show that chiropractic care is an effective means of preventing migraines, with a significant number of patients experiencing up to 90% fewer instances.


Major nerve bundles run through your lower spine, the sciatic nerve being more prone to injury than most. When the sciatic nerve is subject to pressure, the resulting condition is called sciatica.

Sciatica manifests as an intense pain that radiates throughout your lower back, thigh and even down to your feet. The pain from sciatica can vary in intensity, being mild one moment and severe the next. Some people experience constant pain, while others find it’s only occasional.

While it’s often similar to what you’d experience from a toothache, it can be sharp, dull or even electric. It can result in numbness, burning or tingling. It’s also sometimes referred to as neuralgia, neuropathy, radiating or referring pain.

Since sciatica is caused by pressure on your sciatic nerve, usually from a spinal misalignment, a chiropractor is your best bet at improving it. Chiropractors can investigate the underlying cause of your condition and help to alleviate the area of the spine putting pressure on the nerve. This will not only control your pain, but also will help to keep the condition from coming back, and will improve your overall health and wellness.


Once again, few people stop to think about chiropractors when suffering from hernias. Hernias come in different varieties, however, and these different varieties require different approaches.

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the muscle that serves as the diaphragm for your food pipe gets a hole in the lining, allowing a portion of your stomach to push up, through and into your chest. It’s very painful and can cause a whole range of health problems, interfering with nerves that pass through and, in very rare circumstances, can even be fatal.

Usually there are very few symptoms of a hiatal hernia, though larger hernias can cause symptoms like chest pain, acid reflux and breathing troubles. In the worst cases, vomiting and ulcers can result. Chiropractors can help resolve these symptoms by reducing tightness and restriction caused by the infringing stomach.

Herniated Discs

Spinal discs are the pieces of cartilage that rest between your vertebrae. They cushion the bones so that they don’t rub against each other and serve to shield your nerves from pressure. Sometimes, these discs get damaged, causing them to bulge and move out of place. When this happens it’s called a bulging, slipped or herniated disc.

In general, surgical procedures will be recommended by normal medical science. Chiropractors, however, believe in non-surgical, non-invasive means of correcting these injuries. Through addressing the spinal subluxation that caused the disc to herniate in the first place, the herniated disc can very often be slipped back into place without the need for surgery. Your chiropractor can advise you as to whether your condition can be restored holistically or if it’s serious enough to warrant surgery.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows, which usually happens with age. It is also usually caused by conditions like arthritis or bulging discs. The more people have had back problems over the years, the more likely they are to suffer from spinal stenosis.

The symptoms of spinal stenosis include conditions like sciatica as well as chronic lower backaches and weakness in the legs. Those whose condition is progressing find that it becomes less painful when they lean forward, and more so when they lean back.

A chiropractor can engage techniques like spinal manipulation to address the misalignments causing the narrowing spinal column. In addition, the chiropractor will work with you to develop exercises and stretches to increase and improve your strength and range of motion.


Subluxations are the core medical condition that chiropractors correct. At their most basic level, these are simply misalignments in your spine. They can be caused by any of a broad range of reasons. Most commonly they occur from accidents or injuries. They can, however, be caused by such common things as poor posture over a long period of time, shifting oddly while sleeping or even sleeping in a sub-optimal position.

Subluxations have been known to occur as early as birth. The problem with subluxations is that they don’t always carry obvious symptoms, or the symptoms you do experience may appear to be entirely unrelated to your spine. Unfortunately, the longer you go without having the problem corrected, the more chance of wear and tear on your spine. This wear and tear is called subluxation degeneration.

The process of degeneration can begin as quickly as two weeks. The several phases of the process begin with abnormal motion and imbalances in posture, as well as scarring on the spine. The next phase sees changes to the bones and joints, including decreased height and irregular surfaces.

The third stage of degeneration shows extensive spurring and the beginning of fusion. Finally, late stage degeneration involves severe fusion and extensive changes to the bones, along with major health issues.

A chiropractor can fix subluxations before this problem begins simply by adjusting your spine to get it back into the proper curvature. Every chiropractor is different, and all will work with you to develop a restorative plan specific to your needs.

Ear Infections

Kids are prone to illnesses that are much less common in adults. The most well-known of these is ear infection. The scientific term for these infections is otitis media, or OM. It’s among the most common childhood illnesses all over the world, and all too often people turn to drugs and invasive procedures to treat the condition.


Most common in kids up to 6 years old and peaking in kids about 2 years old, it affects 1% of kids in developed countries, and up to 45% of kids in underdeveloped populations. The symptoms include:

  • Ringing or popping in ears.
  • Buildup of pressure – watch for kids rubbing their ears.
  • Hearing problems.
  • Lack of coordination, dizziness and balance issues.

As many as 164 million kids can end up with some sort of hearing loss, and around 30,000 people die from these infections every year.

According to literature published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicinechiropractic can be an effective remedy for ear infections. The truth is that chiropractic care is entirely safe for kids, and a simple alignment can often help to correct the problems that are at the root of the ear infection, while also improving issues like asthma, developmental problems and even digestive issues.

In some cases, pediatric chiropractic can stop ear infections and keep them from ever coming back, or at least greatly reduce the number of instances of infection. It helps by allowing the infection to drain rather than build up in the ear. A couple adjustments can sometimes produce serious results without surgery.


Vertigo, a feeling of dizziness and being off-balance, is terrifying to experience. The issue has all manner of causes, and it’s important that you understand these causes, as well as what they mean for your health. In some cases, vertigo could be a sign of a serious illness. Often, however, a simple chiropractic adjustment can help address the issue.

Vertigo happens when your brain and body don’t communicate effectively regarding balance and position. It occurs when your brain isn’t sending the proper signals to your skin pressure, vision, sensory nerves and inner ear, resulting in a sensation that the world is spinning around you. It can be the result of everything from head injuries to central nervous system damage, chemical exposures and other factors. It can also be due to a spinal subluxation.

When vertigo is the result of a spinal misalignment, it can be because there is pressure on the nerves within the spine that interferes with the signals to and from the brain. By correcting this misalignment, the chiropractor can sometimes effectively mend vertigo and prevent its recurrence.


Scoliosis is an ailment that usually strikes between the ages of 10 and 15; most kids in school are examined for symptoms at some point. Girls are more prone to this illness than boys, but it can strike anyone, anywhere. Up to seven million Americans live with this disease, which is a major cause of back pain.

Your spine is built to have a natural curvature that supports the weight of your upper body. That curve is, in general, outward from your belly. When it curves more than 10 degrees to the side, you have scoliosis. It’s generally a hereditary condition, but it can be caused by injury, tumors or other conditions.

Scoliosis can sometimes be corrected by a chiropractor through spinal manipulation. This can help to alleviate the pain you experience and ensure that the condition doesn’t worsen. In the worst cases, surgery may be required, but manipulating the spine can be an effective course.

Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS, is the most common and well-known form of repetitive motion injury. It’s characterized by radiating pain through the wrist, combined with weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the hands and fingers. It affects nearly 9 million people across the United States, with an average age between 40 and 50 years of age.

Many people turn to traditional medical treatments to deal with this pain, including surgery and drugs, but in truth, there’s another way, and that’s chiropractic care. Part of the problem can come not just from the repetitive motion, but from hunching over a computer keyboard for hours at a time. This leaning creates posture problems, which can result in a subluxated spine.

When this occurs, the signals from your brain can’t effectively reach the rest of your body, making it difficult to maintain an ergonomic positioning of your wrists and fingers properly. By addressing these misalignments, your chiropractor can help to prevent CTS. In addition, when combined with extremity adjustments, physical therapy, ultrasound treatments and other non-invasive approaches, it can help to alleviate the condition when it arises.


TMJ can be an excruciating condition. It’s centered in your temporal bone, which attaches your jaw to the rest of your skull. The ligaments that connect the bones together form the temporomandibular joint. Like any other joint in the body, this one can become misaligned and can create a range of surprising symptoms, including:

  • Tinnitus (ears ringing).
  • Loss of hearing.
  • Swollen throat.
  • Toothaches.
  • Pain that radiates throughout the face, shoulders, jaw, and neck.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Vertigo and dizziness.
  • Throat infections.
  • Congestion and stuffy nose.
  • Ear infections.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Asthma.
  • Cardiovascular problems.
  • Emotional issues.

TMJ can be caused by injury, malnutrition, posture problems, dental procedures and even spinal subluxations. Traditional treatments include mouth guards, massage, dietary adjustments, invasive procedures like restorative dentistry and mouth guards. Chiropractors take another approach. They approach it with the idea that your whole body can heal itself if it’s allowed to do so.

By adjusting subluxations, the chiropractor can often alleviate the pressure and help your pain and symptoms to fade. This can sometimes even allow your jaw to align more naturally.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common running injuries that athletes face. Like carpal tunnel, it’s a repetitive motion injury. It occurs when you repeatedly strain the bottom of your feet, an area called the plantar fascia. It results in serious pain and inflammation in your feet, which can radiate up into your legs. The cause is the increased load on your arches when you run without the right posture and position.


The best remedy for plantar fasciitis is to adjust and adapt your posture when you run. A chiropractor can help with this. In addition, bad posture can often result in your spine being out of alignment, which can make the problem worse. The chiropractor can fix these misalignments, making it easier to adopt good posture and alleviate the problem.

ACT Wellness

We have covered just a few of the many chronic pain and medical conditions that can be corrected by a qualified chiropractor. For nine years running, ACT Wellness has been the leading provider of chiropractic care in the Woodbridge, VA, region. We are proud to provide a holistic, whole-body approach to health and wellness to our patients in this area. Take some time to learn about us and get in touch to schedule your next appointment today!

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