by Casey Chan, DC, QME
For the last several decades, chiropractic has been a very popular and effective choice for the care for low back pain. Little known, however, is that chiropractic is also very effective for the treatment of conditions related to the extremities, such as ankle or knee sprains, rotator cuff tears, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
During a chiropractic student’s education, he/she is taught about whole-body anatomy; biomechanics; chiropractic, orthopedic and neurologic examination; and various forms of treatments. He/she is trained to use chiropractic manipulation, soft tissue therapies and physiotherapy including rehabilitative exercise for both the spine and extremities. All chiropractic students are required to be competent in the evaluation and treatment of spinal and extremity conditions during their education programs and for licensing through National Board examinations.
Some of the more difficult cases in dealing with extremities involves diagnosing the cause of numbness and tingling. Doctors must differentiate between a solely localized problem from one that is caused by systemic or centralized problems stemming from the spine. For example, when a patient experiences numbness and tingling in the hands, doctors must rule-out whether the symptoms are caused by problems in the hand, wrist, elbow/forearm, shoulder or neck – all areas that may cause “pinched” nerves. Poor blood circulation and conditions such as diabetes must also be considered. Chiropractic doctors are trained and experienced to evaluate and manage such cases.
As an example of how a chiropractic doctor would treat an extremity, take the case of an ankle sprain where the patient is unable to walk. The first step is to perform a history and evaluation. The foot, ankle and lower leg are particularly examined to identify areas of soft tissue injury and possible fracture. Given that the patient is unable to walk, x-rays are likely to be used to rule out fracture. The talofiibular ligaments or deltoid ligament will most likely to be injured. Initial treatment includes the well-known RICE regimen of REST, ICE, COMPRESSION and ELEVATION. Depending on the stage of healing, soft tissue techniques and physiotherapy such as friction massage and ultrasound therapy may also be used as well. Uniquely, a chiropractic doctor may use chiropractic manipulation to restore or maintain the mobility of the ankle joint as stiffness in the joint and muscles settles into the ankle. Later, rehabilitative exercise will be used to strengthen the ankle and to improve balance and proprioception (the ability to sense position and movement) as to avoid future injury.
Chiropractic is a safe and effective choice for the treatment and management of injuries to the extremities. A chiropractic doctor’s knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, neurology and a wide-range of treatment tools makes them a great choice for the care of conditions related to the extremities. Many patients come into chiropractic offices with extremity pain, sprains, strains, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, flat feet, heel spurs, and bunions. Not all chiropractic doctors treat extremity conditions, however. A patient should ask if and how their chiropractor treats extremity conditions.
At Chan Chiropractic our practitioners are well-versed in evaluating and treating spinal and extremity conditions for injuries related to sports, work and accidents. Please contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment.