Chiropractic is a “hands on” health care discipline which emphasises the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The  practice of chiropractic focuses on improving the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as co-ordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.

What chiropractors look for is interference to the nervous system, particularly through spinal or joint dysfunction.  This interference is called a vertebral subluxation complex, or subluxation for short. The World Health Organisation notes, in its 2005 Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Chiropractic, that chiropractic has “an emphasis on manual techniques, including joint adjustment and/or manipulation, with a particular focus on subluxations”(1).

Thoughts as binary

If you have these subluxations occurring in your spine, you may have symptoms such as neck pain, headaches, whiplash, low back pain, hip, knee, elbow or  shoulder pain. These are all conditions for which the highest level research supports chiropractic as an effective treatment (2). But more often than not, those symptoms are the last thing to show up when your body has been in a state of dysfunction.

Research shows that the function of your spine actually impacts the way your brain works(3).  Research has suggested that chiropractic care can improve your brains ability to know where your arm or foot is when you close your eyes (4,5). It also suggests chiropractic adjustments can alter brain processing of sensory information from the arms (6,7), change how the brain integrates sensory information (6,8,9), and change the way the brain sends specific messages to your muscles (8,10,11).  Research also suggests it can improve lower limb muscle strength and prevent your muscles from getting tired during strong contractions (12,13).

We recognise the value and responsibility of working in co-operation with other health care practitioners in your best interest. Our key role as chiropractors is to assess how your lifestyle stress (home, work, school, play, sport, nutrition) is impacting your spine and nervous system and general health. In delivering your chiropractic care, your needs and preferences are combined with clinical experience and best evidence to develop your unique care plan


The World Federation of Chiropractic has a suggested reading list – if you want loads of the science and peer reviewed papers, here’s a great start!

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Further reading and references for What is chiropractic?:

1: World Health Organisation.  WHO guidelines on basic training and safety in chiropractic. Geneva, 2005.

2: Bronfort, G., et al. 2010. Effectiveness of Manual Therapies: the UK evidence report. Chiropractic and Osteopathy. 2010. 18:3.

3: Dr Heidi Haavik DC PhD, The Reality Check, 2014.

4: Haavik and Murphy. JMPT 2011. 34: 88-97

5: Holt, K. PhD Thesis. Auckland, NZ: Dept of Population Health, University of Auckland 2014.

6: Haavik and Murphy. Clinical Neurophysiology 2007. 118:391-402

7: Kelly, Murphy and Backhouse. JMPT. 2000. 23:246-251.

8: Haavik Taylor and Murphy. JMPT. 2010. 33: 115-188

9: Enebo. Chiropractic Journal of Australia. 2003. 33: 93-97.

10: Marshal and Murphy. JMPT. 2006. 29:196-202

11: Hillermann, Gnomes, Korporaal and Jackson. JMPT. 2006. 29:145-149

12: Niazi, Turker, Flavel, Kingett, Duehr, Haavik. Paper presented at World Federation of Chiropractic’s 12th Biennial Congress; April 6-9 Durban South Africa