"Chiropractic" comes from the Greek word chiropraktikos, meaning "effective treatment by hand." Chiropractic stresses the idea that the cause of many disease processes begins with the body's inability to adapt to its environment. It looks to address these diseases not by the use of drugs and chemicals, but by locating and adjusting a musculoskeletal area of the body which is functioning improperly.
Chiropractic is unique in health care because it affects the one system that controls all functions in your body—the nervous system. The nervous system is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves that exit the spine. Your body is designed to maintain and heal itself—this is called homeostasis. Every part of the body is coordinated through the nervous system. The nervous system, the most important system in the body, is constantly receiving messages from every cell, organ and system. It coordinates every function in our body (breathing, heart rate, digestion, body temperature, immune system and many more).
The nervous system is so important that we have developed bony structures (our skull and spine) to protect the most central portions of the nervous system. These bones also provide motion, however due to various causes, their function can become disturbed. Although the spinal column is meant to protect our central nervous system while allowing movement, spinal joint problems may actually create interference to the vital communication between the brain and the rest of the body. These joint problems have a clinical term: subluxation.
A subluxation is a misalignment of the vertebra or other bony structure that causes an interruption in the communication between the nervous system and the rest of the body. Subluxations, especially if left uncorrected, can lead to symptoms and deterioration of your health and well-being. Subluxations are caused by the body's inability to adapt to certain stresses. A good analogy is the circuit breaker in a house. If the energy (electricity) going to a certain part of the house exceeds the limits of the circuit breaker, the circuit shuts off. In your body, if stresses are too great, subluxation occurs. Although the subluxation occurs to protect the body from further damage, if left untreated it may lead to a progressive decline in your health.
Chiropractic is an art as well as a science. As an art there are many techniques that chiropractors utilize to detect and reduce subluxation and its effects. The procedures that chiropractors use to reduce subluxation are known as adjustments.
Although there are many types and styles of adjusting the intent is to use a specific force directed through the vertebra to restore proper alignment and function and to ultimately to restore the function of the nervous system. The desired effect is to re-establish full communication between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body, thus allowing the body to work properly and maintain homeostasis.