Chiropractic: the hand as healing tool

Paraplegics and quadriplegics are especially affected by disorders connected with the spinal column. Chiropractic is a technique that is being used increasingly in the treatment of paraplegics, including at the Swiss Paraplegic Center (SPZ). Using simple tools, principally the hands, chiropractors can achieve some astonishing results.

What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a manipulation at the central point of intersection of the nervous system – the spinal column. However, the treatment is not only used to treat back complaints, but organic disorders too. For many complaints have their origin in the blockade of vertebra.

Where did chiropractic therapy originate?

Chiropractic comes from the Greek word for hand actions. The therapy itself goes back to an American called David D. Palmer, who in 1895 was the first person to treat a patient’s spinal column using his hands. Together with his son, he founded the first chiropractic school in Davenport, Iowa, USA. Until the manual treatment of functional disorders of the spinal column became established, it had to overcome opposition from conventional medicine. In Switzerland, for example, chiropractic wasn’t covered by health insurance until 1964.

The path to the chiropractor can be the right way to avoid expensive treatment or even an operation. Dr. Ernst Schroeder, a chiropractor at the Swiss Center for Paraplegics (SPZ), explains the rudiments of this medical “trade” in an interview.

"Paraplegia": What part of the spinal column do you treat?

I treat functionally blocked vertebra. Let me explain that. The human spinal column consists of a series of individual vertebra, pairs of which form a movement segment. The free mobility of this segment can become restricted, or rather blocked. This can be compared to a drawer that gets stuck. The blockage of one movement segment disturbs the harmony of movement in the whole spinal column, rather like a badly tuned instrument in an orchestra.

What are the effects of a blockage?

A blockage means restricted mobility in part of the spinal column. Everyone is familiar with that sudden stabbing pain in the neck, what we call a stiff neck or torticollis. In this case the patient is unable to move their head to one side or bend it forward. A blockage triggers a chain reaction in the nerve and muscle reflexes. Just imagine you’re building a tower with blocks of wood. If one block is placed too far to the right, the next one should be placed a bit too far to the left, otherwise you end up with a crooked tower. In other words, a blocked vertebra is compensated by other vertebra. This chain reaction carries right through the whole spinal column. A blocked neck vertebra like this can trigger sciatica. A blockage also disturbs the nerve flow between the spinal cord and the organs. That means the body is no longer able to manage or control one or more organs correctly. Which explains how chiropractic treatment can influence not only pain syndromes, but also organic damage. In short, the treatment changes the statics of the spinal column, restores its harmony of movement and assures the nerve flow in the body.

How do you treat blocked vertebrae?

Before treating the spinal column, I give the patient a thorough examination. I can often find a blockage just by feeling the spine. The precise nature of the blockage can be established using X-rays with functional photographs (photos taken after particular movements) or by cineradiography of the cervical spine. I make a diagnosis on the basis of these examinations and then start the chiropractic treatment.
The most common form of chiropractic treatment used in Switzerland is classic hand manipulation, which loosens a fused vertebral joint.

Are there different types of chiropractic theraphies?

There are over 100 known techniques. For example, I use an instrument that delivers a high-speed mechanical pulse to the vertebra. Another piece of complementary equipment is the drop mechanism built into in the treatment table. When a certain pressure is applied – which can be precisely calibrated - the mechanism drops down, allowing parts of the surface of the treatment table to be moved downwards by a few centimeters. This movement is then transferred to individual segments of the spinal column. Both forms of therapy have been shown to be beneficial, especially in the treatment of paraplegics and quadriplegics. This is because it avoids rotating the spinal column, and the pulse instrument, which has a very small contact surface, which means I can work closer to the actual position of the lesion.
As well as treatment applied directly to the vertebra, there are also various forms of treatment that can be used for soft muscle tissue.

From: Paraplegia, journal no. 93. Edited by PmcC - MyH

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