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Ever wonder what the chiropractor does and how it works as well as it does?


Simply put, we fix the mechanics of your spine and other joints as much as possible. There are many ways to practice the art of Chiropractic. Most of us have slightly varied techniques to address the reasons that you end up in out offices, and as you would imagine we do sit around the campfire and argue about this, but, basically, what we are doing for you is relatively easily explained and all to frequently goes without a good, simple explanation.


Neurology (your brain) is what is driving the bus so to speak and it is in constant contact with every part of your body. There really isn’t one thing that happens in you that isn’t at least partially under the direct control of your brain or it’s extensions whether directly or by coordinated release of chemical influences (hormones.. neurotransmitters etc.). Your spinal function, through all the balance and position receptors, has a massive influence on the brain….command central. In the eyes of a chiropractor you are a great big walking feedback system (positive and negative). Simply put… Your higher brain functions are directly affected by the information making it’s way up through the sensory system that affects responses and control functions. That is where we chiropractors live.


We are restoring normal joint function as much as possible so that all of the receptors in the joints give as normal a signal to the brain as possible. This has an affect on posture because the receptors in your joints and muscles are in constant contact with your brain and the information exchange helps tell your system, for example, how to stand correctly..which muscles to fire etc. …Your neurological balance system gets MASSIVE input from your spinal system (as well as the eyes and inner ear) and alterations in joint mechanics throw a proverbial wrench into the works.

Locally (at the level of the spine), normal movement of the joint fires receptors in the muscles and tendons that suppresses pain signaling through a mechanism called “pain gating”. Without normal motion this mechanism suffers and pain signaling becomes dominant…. and you end up with….pain, spasm, headaches and all sorts of other nasty issues. A good chiropractor does not just “crack” your neck and back to loosen it up. Unless the very specific joint mechanics issues are addressed the problem with just continue. Rehabilitation/strengthening after correction is also imperative to really get the condition stable but that’s another very big topic for later.

With regards to disc injuries, the neurological as well as the local structural issues come into play. If conservative non-surgical management is appropriate (and we can tell you), chiropractic treatment is an excellent part of a recovery program. Discs receive nourishment through a process called imbibition. Movement of the joint causes fluids to circulate in the joint and bathes the disc in healing factors. No movement… very poor imbibition. If the joint is locked up you will heal much slower and the muscles will maladapt to the altered function, likely leaving you often in a world of hurt. Local inflammation is hell on the nerve roots too and there are many serious symptoms of say, sciatica, for example that respond to treatment just because the whole thing can heal better and faster with good traditional care. The important thing is that the system is allowed to move normally… allowing all the receptors to give good info to command central. Good in, good out… Bad in, bad out… It is as simple as that. We break up scar tissue and re-educate the muscles at the level of the joint. Significantly, we get the body “out of it’s own way” by normalizing the control system as much as is possible by normalizing the mechanics… and it is very significant.

We endeavor to specifically correct joint malfunction and normalize only the mechanically compromised joints. That’s why we tend to typically say adjustment instead of manipulation.

If I had to explain it to a child (as the saying goes) I would say:

We make your body work as normally as possible. We do this to make the way your body talks to your brain as good and normal as possible. Got it kid?


Well, technically, we are not treating your pain or your sickness. We are treating your control system through the mechanical structures, trying to make it the best it can be and indirectly treating your pain or your issue. We are not “pounding you into shape” or “stacking you up” or “aligning” you… we just aren’t. If you were to put a bone in place and then move through any range of motion at all…. the joint would move and it would change position. We are not in any way putting a magical force into you. We are very seldom, though not never, lifting discs off of nerves (un-pinching) though we do help with the quicker restoration of normal levels of function and reduction of inflammation in the case of disc injury (see above). If you have a severe disc bulge and a fully pinched nerve, you will likely need someone with a steady hand, a knife and the will to get in there and folks, that is not me.  Thankfully, these days we are all team players so we can likely put you in the right place if need be but we can be an excellent place to enter the system with almost anything.


Hopefully, you will always have friends to draw upon for advice in your area, but there are some general good guidelines for picking a truly excellent chiropractic physician.

No one, not a physical therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist or whomever has the gift of future sight. In my opinion a good practitioner will suggest a SHORT care plan of perhaps 4-5 treatments at first to see how you respond to treatment and then any suggestions about ongoing care will be discussed based on your response and needs. In my opinion this will always include some home rehabilitation/lifestyle modification (and there is something out there called “best practice standards” that backs this up). If someone suggests that there is the need for months of care up front at any frequency perhaps you should ask to see their crystal ball, it is better than mine and I would love to get one. If something sounds unreasonable, get a second opinion. Street fairs, mall screenings, discounted service deals… these are no way to meet a physician whom you will trust with your health. “caveat emptor” as the saying goes. It is unthinkable that you would choose a neurosurgeon this way and I will never understand why the public accepts this type of thing from us.  Ask your friends about their experiences. This is the best resource if you filter their answers through an educated model of what we do.

Ask the doctor what their post doctoral continuing education has been.. We all have to do lots of it and we all have areas of focus that might be more or less appropriate to you (sports rehabilitation, neurology, orthopedics etc…). Ask questions and look for sensible and reasonable answers.


If you like this article and it speaks to you, perhaps you should ask a potential chiropractor why they do what they do, what they are doing exactly and how they feel about educating you about your condition. Most importantly ask how they will get you over it and then keep you out of the office as much as possible. Armed with a basic understanding, you will be much better able to find someone who fits your needs. There are so many great practitioners out there that if you ask around and use your head you can absolutely find someone that fits with you. You won’t be sorry if you bring any variety of issues to our offices for help, and now you hopefully know why   (by the way, we also work with knees, feet, elbows wrists etc…).

For the past 19 years I have been shy about saying that everyone should be under the care of a chiropractor but I have seen way too many train wrecks that could have been easily avoided when the problem was small. If your dentist didn’t recommend bi-annual cleanings you would think him negligent. So here it is…. Everyone should be under the care of a conservative chiropractor, one that is interested in keeping you functioning and healthy and out of the weeds with a minimum of treatment.  Ask around wherever you are, look at internet reviews and find yourself someone who will be in your corner.  Call me or email me if you need to wherever you are in the country (or the world for that matter). and I will help you find someone locally, I don’t mind at all.

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A bit about me… I am a Graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College (Iowa 1995) and am now in practice in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I have trained in various topics- neurology, sports injury, gait analysis, rehabilitation, treatment of extremities, standards of practice, whiplash injuries and various other topics since I have been in practice. I have worked closely with university health clinics and hospital rehabilitation departments in Boston, have lectured to state regulatory agencies as an expert in standards of practice and have been a teaching participant in the orthopedics rotation of NMC hospital. I specialize in traditional treatment methodologies and I firmly believe that  a combination of rehabilitation and a proper short care plan of chiropractic treatment is the best approach for almost any musculo-skeletal condition.   Visit www.drpetermcmanus.com or facebook.com/PeterWilliamMcManusDc for more information or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and to stay plugged in with its healthy tips and current relevant research links.

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