Chiropractor performing adjustment on a patient.

What Does a Chiropractor Do? Understanding Chiropractic Care.

Chiropractors are health care professionals who treat patients by manually manipulating the spine and joints, helping to complement many aspects of traditional medical care. The purpose of chiropractic treatment is to relieve pressure on the nerves and surrounding tissue, which affects the function of other parts of the body. A chiropractor is also certified to diagnose injuries or conditions that affect your body’s ability to move freely and painlessly.

Chiropractic Education

To become a Doctor of Chiropractic, a student must first obtain a bachelor, masters, or doctorate degree. Three degrees that are very common among prospective chiropractic students are human biology, kinesiology and exercise science.

After obtaining a degree, the student can then enroll in a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program, which typically takes between three and a half to five years to complete. Chiropractic students undergo extensive study of the human musculoskeletal system and nervous system, but it’s important to note that this degree is not the same as the degree that is granted to a medical doctor. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require chiropractors to be licensed.

In addition to completing a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program, obtaining one’s license also requires the applicant to pass all four parts of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NCBE) exam.

Chiropractic Care: Not Just For Back Pain

Chronic pain is the main reason that patients turn to chiropractic adjustment, commonly with low back pain or neck pain as a result of poor posture, lingering surgical pain, sports injuries, or whiplash (often related to car accidents).

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Patients also seek chiropractic care for issues with hips, knees, and shoulders. Other common ailments that can be treated with chiropractic care include:

  • Migraines
  • Joint Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • Scoliosis

Spinal manipulations are the most common chiropractic treatment, especially for lower back pain, but practitioners also use alternative methods of treatment, including soft tissue therapy, Kinesio taping and stretches/exercises.

What Happens During Chiropractic Treatment?

The main goal of chiropractic care is to promote healthy living by making sure that all body parts are functioning as they should. To achieve this, chiropractors use manual adjustment (and other techniques) to improve misalignments in the spine. These conditions, according to chiropractors, can cause pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body or lead to a variety of health problems.

Chiropractors may also recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet and other forms of therapy to complement their treatments. Here’s what to expect when you visit the chiropractor:


At your first appointment, you’ll receive a consultation. This is an opportunity for your doctor to learn about you, your current health and your medical history. Your chiropractor will also perform an examination to determine if chiropractic treatment is right for you. If it isn’t, he or she can refer you to another healthcare provider who can help you with your condition.


If your doctor feels that X-rays are necessary, he or she will recommend them as part of the examination process. This may be the case if there is an injury involved or if there is potentially dangerous spinal misalignment present.

X-rays are a diagnostic tool that allow doctors to visualize the inner workings of the body using electromagnetic radiation. They are safe when performed by a trained professional and can help confirm a diagnosis so that medical treatment can be directed appropriately.


During a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor places the patient in specific positions to treat affected areas. The main chiropractic treatment technique involves manual therapy, especially manipulation of the spine, ligaments, other joints and soft tissues.

The patient is often positioned lying facedown on a specially designed chiropractic table that is padded for comfort. The chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply controlled pressure to a joint, pushing it beyond its usual range of motion. You may hear popping or cracking sounds as your chiropractor moves your joints during the treatment session. The sounds come from pressure being released in the joint and are called cavitations.  After a spinal adjustment, patients may feel tired or sore like they would after a workout.

Risks of Chiropractic Treatment

As with any medical procedure, there are risks involved with chiropractic treatment and it’s important that anyone seeking chiropractic care be aware of them. Complications are very rare, but can include situations like rib fractures, nerve irritation, and muscle pain.

If you have increased risk of stroke, severe osteoporosis, or are aware of bone abnormalities in your neck, you may not be able to receive chiropractic treatment.

Find Out About the Benefits of Chiropractic Care

Have you been wondering “what exactly does a chiropractor do?” If so, reach out to Meridian! This medication- and surgery-free form of treatment can lead to natural healing, ultimately restoring mobility and reducing pain, and has been proven to be effective for patients who need pain relief. It can also help people with a host of other complaints, including headaches, poor sleep, mobility and inflammation.

Chiropractors are a trusted partner in helping you attain and maintain your health and wellness through non-invasive treatment options.

Contact Meridian Healthcare to learn how chiropractic care can improve your overall health – see what a customized chiropractic treatment plan for chronic pain management (without the side effects of pain medication) can do for you!