An Interview with a Healthcare Professional: Chiropractor Dr. Bryan Johnson (Part 3)

Q: Tell us a little about sciatica and what you can do to help.
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): You do see that term on a lot of chiropractic websites and I don’t think that it’s often clear what exactly it is. Sciatica is pressure on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is actually a large bundle of nerves that come from the lower back and sacrum area. It forms one big nerve that runs down your buttocks and the back of your leg. A chiropractor’s role in alleviating this pain is adjusting the hips and the lower back take the pressure off the nerves.

Q: What is the sound that happens during an adjustment and why does it do that?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): That sound is actually air going through the joint space between the bones in your spine. The spine consists of 24 bones. In between each bone, there is a disk space that is known as a “joint”. Whenever the adjustment occurs and the bone moves, the joint space and disk opens slightly and air flies through the vacuum in the disk. It is not a bone cracking or ligament snapping, it’s just the sound of air moving through the joint space as the bones are adjusted back in the correct position. It is the same sound that happens when you crack your knuckles.

Q: I’ve had surgery on my back or neck. Is it still safe for me to see a chiropractor and why?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): It is definitely still safe, but a full evaluation is necessary before treatment is started. I always like to see the post-operation x-rays of the back or neck to see the stability of the given space. If it is not stable, obviously I cannot adjust it. If the surgery occurred a while ago, I like to take my own x-rays to make sure that it is still stable. Typically, sections of the spine that have been operated on contain pieces of metal, so they are very stable. The problem with this is that the rigidity eliminates some range of motion.
Using the neck as an example, there are seven bones in the neck, which move independently and give you the proper range of motion. If you have surgery on two of the bones, this gives you one less joint space for motion. Additionally, it is putting extra stress on the bones above and below it. This overwork and over-stress can become problematic after surgery. It is important that you work closely with a chiropractor after the surgery to maintain the joint above and below the surgical area.

Q: What are the similarities and differences between a chiropractor and an osteopath?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Chiropractors and Osteopaths are both licensed to do adjustments, though osteopaths call it a “manipulation”. A chiropractor’s approach is always to adjust the spine in order to improve nerve flow. The osteopath’s approach is to adjust the spine and try to improve blood flow. Over time, osteopaths have also gotten away from the natural approach of no drugs or surgeries. They can now prescribe medications and recommend surgeries. Chiropractors try to let the body heal itself through optimal nervous system functionality.

Q: I work out and eat healthy. Why should I see a chiropractor?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Life is about balance, no matter what you do. If you work out seven days a week or you sit on the couch all day, you are still putting stress on your spine. It is subject to wear and tear, so it’s important to get your spine checked on a regular basis. This will help you to prevent problems from occurring. It will also help you to be able to continue to exercise.

Q: Why do you take x-rays?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Technically, a chiropractor does not need an x-ray in order to adjust someone. However, I like to take them for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, if a person has never had any work done on his or her spine, it will help me understand what is happening in the spinal column very efficiently and quickly. Secondly, it will help me determine the severity of their issues, how often I need to adjust them and how long the treatments should last. Thirdly, there are also instances where an x-ray will show a problem in the spine that is in contradiction to them being adjusted. There are certain issues, especially in the upper neck, that if I see a malformation of the bone on a person’s neck, I have to be very careful with the adjustment or the adjustment cannot be performed. Finally, I like to use the x-rays as an educational tool. I can show the patient their spine so that they can understand exactly what is wrong and what I can do to fix it. It goes from being abstract to concrete. If you can see the issues, most people will want to get them fixed to make sure that they have mobility function as they continue to age.

Q: How do you select a good chiropractor to see?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Google, Yelp or Facebook reviews are always a good place to start. You can also ask your friends. Referrals are big in chiropractic because no one is going to suggest a chiropractor that they have had a negative experience with.
Once you get to speak with the chiropractor, make sure that s/he is asking you good questions about what is wrong with you. Make sure that they take a complete case history as well and do a full exam, complete with x-rays. A big red flag to look for is if a chiropractor makes promises that seem unrealistic or false. Chiropractic is about improving the function of the body, so there are some amazing healing situations that you can see with chiropractic care. However, if they tell you that they know that they can cure cancer or type 1 diabetes, you want to proceed with extreme caution. Make sure that you are receiving a proper education from your chiropractor.

Q: What is a sublaxation and why do I see it on all chiropractic sites that I visit?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): A sublaxation is hard bone in the body that is misaligned and putting pressure directly on soft nerve. I am a chiropractor who is sublaxation-based. This means that I look through all 24 segments of the spine to determine which bones are out of alignment and adjust them. A sublaxation can be silent, which means that they can cause a dysfunction and a miscommunication from your brain to your body, but you as the patient are unaware of it because it is not causing pain. These silent sublaxations are why it is so important to treat the whole spine and not just the parts that have pain. There are chiropractors that are pain-based, but I do not recommend that method.

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