What is Chiropractic? - FAQs


Chiropractors work with your nervous system, often the spine, and aim to locate and adjust ‘subluxations’. Subluxations are joints in your body that are no longer in perfect placement due to interference in the nerve supply. These subluxations are where your brain-body connections are not working in harmony. This may result in pain, organs not functioning properly, altered sleep patterns, mood disturbances and postural problems, to name a few. Chiropractors usually resolve subluxations with Chiropractic adjustments.

Chiropractic adjustments are usually classed as ‘manual’ or ‘non-manual’, and most Chiropractors have a range of techniques up their sleeves to help patients. Since everyone is different, Dr Robyn does not use a ’one size fits all’ approach, instead she finds the best ‘fit’ for each and every patient. She likes her Chiropractic Care to be highly individualised for each and every patient. If there is anything at all you are unsure about regarding your Chiropractic Care, please speak to Dr Robyn about it and she will make her best effort to resolve your concerns.

Chiropractors are also ‘Primary Care Practitioners’. This means anyone can walk in off the street to make an appointment without a referral. It also means that Chiropractors have a Duty of Care to best help the patient – and that sometimes means referring the patient on to another health professional who may be more specialised to help the patient with their current condition. Dr Robyn will always try her best to help you with your condition, but rest assured that you will be directed to the most appropriate area and/or other health professionals when needed. You may also be directed to other health professionals alongside your Chiropractic care.

What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

A Chiropractic adjustment is applying the correct combination of force and speed (via a low-amplitude, high velocity thrust) to realign your subluxated joint to a more ‘normal’ position. The nerves to and from the joint in question are able to function more freely because they’re not being irritated by tissues being out of place. Chiropractic adjustments are often considered as ‘manual’ or ‘non-manual’. A manual adjustment is where you may hear an audible release as the Chiropractor physically moves your subluxated joint by hand. Sometimes, the patient cannot hear any sound or even feel the joints move back into place. When there is a sound from an adjustment, however, it is usually referred to as a ‘cavitation’. Recent MRI studies have confirmed that the sound from a cavitation occurs when the joint in question forms a cavity of gas between the two bones in the joint – and is not what was previously thought to be the collapse of a pre-existing bubble of gas in the joint. As a manual force is applied to a joint to move it, the gases are forced out of solution due to the drop in synovial (joint) pressure, and this gas formation is what results in the ‘cracking’ sound. This cavitation may sound like a small ‘click’ or ‘pop’ or a deeper ‘thunk’ or louder ‘crunch’ sound. In the late 19th Century, when Chiropractic had its humble beginnings, Chiropractors originally only adjusted their patients by hand (a manual adjustment). But times change and there are many more Chiropractic adjustment varieties available to patients now. Finding the best way to adjust a patient on any given day is important. Dr Robyn often uses the Gonstead method of Chiropractic to adjust her patients This is a manual technique. A ‘non-manual’ Chiropractic adjustment means the Chiropractor may use a hand-held instrument to adjust a subluxation. Dr Robyn may use an Activator Adjusting Instrument on you, for instance. Or a Chiropractor may utilise a low-force technique, releasing soft tissues of the body. Dr Robyn may use Sacro-Occipital Technique on you, releasing your occipital muscle fibres at the base of your skull to reduce nervous system interference at different spinal levels that these fibres correlate to. Spinal bones are often frequently focussed on by Chiropractors because they have a direct correlation with the body’s spinal nerves, which are themselves offshoots of the spinal cord – your body’s direct neurological link to your brain. The bones of the skull and its underlying soft tissues protect the brain, and the bones of the spinal column and its internal soft tissues protect the spinal cord. If the spinal nerves become irritated in the spinal column, they may cause other effects in the body. Subluxations in non-spinal areas can also have feedback problems into the spinal nerves, thus a body’s nerve irritation could be running either from the spinal column or towards the spinal column. There is no ‘right’ way to adjust all people. Some Chiropractors only use manual adjustments, or certain techniques, others make no manual adjustments at all to their patients. Dr Robyn uses a mixture of manual and non-manual adjustments that are best suited to each patient.

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What should I expect from my first treatment?

Before you make an appointment, you may already have an idea about what Chiropractic is and what it might be able to help you with. Some people may have seen other Chiropractors previously to seeing Dr Robyn, others may not.
If you call up, you are likely to speak with Yass Chiropractic’s front desk assistant, Lauren, and she will do her best to answer all your questions. If you still need to speak with Dr Robyn before booking in to discuss anything, then this can be arranged.
There is only a small amount of paperwork to fill in on arrival as Dr Robyn usually asks a lot of questions at the New Patient appointment! She likes a thorough history. If you have any imaging (scans or X-rays) then it is usually helpful to bring these to your first appointment. On film or CD is fine, but film is preferred. A New Patient appointment can range anywhere between 30 minutes to well over an hour, depending on the problems being addressed and the age of the patient. Usually 1 hour is scheduled for all new patients, with 45 minutes for babies and children. After the history is taken, there is usually a postural assessment done standing (with no shoes on). Obviously a baby would be checked differently! After this, some range of motion tests, muscle strength tests and neurological tests may be undertaken (where warranted), along with the viewing of any imaging you may have brought. After all this, Dr Robyn will check you for subluxations. This might be done via static palpation (gently feeling the skin) for any abnormalities of underlying tissues. Motion palpation may also be used, where Dr Robyn will put specific joints through specific motions to see if they are moving as they should. Sometimes this can be mildly uncomfortable for the patient, especially if there is a lot of inflammation involved. However, Dr Robyn will try to be as careful as possible. Should a subluxation be found, and an adjustment is an appropriate remedy, you will be adjusted on your first visit. There are rare occasions where an adjustment may not occur on the first visit and this is usually where something particular has come up in the patient’s history, or some imaging must be viewed before any adjustments can occur: not adjusting a patient on the first treatment would always occur from a safety perspective.
Most people feel much better straight after an adjustment: they may breathe better, they may have less pain; they may just feel better. Some people may say they can see more clearly, others may say they have more energy. Sometimes people may noticeably feel much more relaxed – or even tired – after an adjustment. Often people are living at too high a stress level and when the body is brought back to a more neutral position neurologically (via a Chiropractic adjustment) it can indeed feel like ‘tiredness’. Some patients may not notice much change at all immediately following a Chiropractic adjustment; sometimes it may take a few treatments to notice an improvement. However, if you are not noticing improvement within 4 treatments, you will most likely be referred for other tests or to other health professionals.

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What should I do following a Chiropractic adjustment?

Drinking enough water after an adjustment is usually very helpful to aid the body in getting rid of any toxins that may have built up at the subluxation sites. When there is a subluxation, there is inflammation occurring at that joint. A Chiropractic adjustment may help the inflammation to settle at the cellular level i.e. the body adapts to the adjustment in that area. This takes at least 24-36 hours to achieve post-adjustment. Chiropractic adjustments may often give immediate positive results, but it still takes time for the body to adapt to all the changes. Going for a 5-10 minute walk on a flat surface immediately following an adjustment is also a good idea as it helps the body to adapt to tissue and nerve changes that have been made through a Chiropractic adjustment. So don’t just hop back in your car and drive somewhere for 30 minutes, go for a walk first! Trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour that night is also useful, as your body will have more regenerative time to build on the Chiropractic adjustment while you sleep. Depending on the nature of your complaint that day, not playing certain sports or performing certain tasks may be helpful. Dr Robyn will always advise you if she thinks you need more healing time. If you have any queries as to whether you should do certain tasks post-adjustment, please speak with Dr Robyn at your appointment.

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How can I get the most out of my Chiropractic care?

Keeping your appointments is highly recommended. After your first session, Dr Robyn will probably want to see you again to see how you have fared with your Chiropractic care. She may want to see you again in only a day or two if your problem is more acute, or perhaps 3-7 days or even more. Sometimes people may do better with more regular adjustments (‘maintenance’ adjustments, like checking your car regularly) or more frequent adjustments and sometimes people may need just a couple of adjustments and that’s it for a few years. Dr Robyn will not schedule you more than she thinks you need to be seen, and she will always adjust your care schedule based on your improvements or changes at each appointment. Your care level is always up to you, and you are always very welcome to discuss this with Dr Robyn. Sometimes lifestyle issues, or even genetics, may be the main reason why a patient’s problems might be recurring. It’s always up to you, the patient, to determine how many – if any – changes to your lifestyle you are willing to make to improve your situation alongside the Chiropractic adjustments you are receiving. Dr Robyn, with her Chiropractic expertise, can offer you a myriad of advice for lifestyle changes including: rehabilitative exercises, nutrition, basic exercise regimes, modifications to daily routines and habits, postural improvements, stretches, ergonomics and more. Chiropractic is a comprehensive primary health care modality and all Chiropractors are able to offer a patient help with basic rehabilitation and lifestyle choices. Sometimes, given the nature of your history, Dr Robyn will find it prudent to refer you for X-rays (or even other tests). This is usually to Yass District Hospital, where Medicare can cover the full cost of the X-rays. Please note that only spinal and hip X-ray referrals are covered by Medicare and should Dr Robyn feel you need other areas X-rayed, you may have to be referred to a GP to get the Medicare rebate for these. This will always be explained at the time of referral, however.

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Do you adjust only the spine, or other areas as well?

Most Chiropractors focus on the spinal column. If the spinal nerves become irritated in the spinal column, they may cause knock-on effects in the body. But irritations, or subluxations, in non-spinal areas can also have feedback problems into the spinal nerves, so the nerve irritation can be running from the spinal column or towards the spinal column. As such, arms and legs and jaws can definitely be problematic, and are well worth assessing. Dr Robyn Stephenson has completed multiple postgraduate seminars in the peripheral joints of the body and enjoys working on these joints: the feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder girdle, elbows, wrists, hands and jaw. It is amazing how these smaller joints can often cause many problems in the body when they are not in alignment (i.e. when they are 'subluxated')! If you have concerns about discomfort or reduced range of motion, for instance, in non-spinal joints, please discuss this with Dr Robyn as she may be able to help you.

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What Chiropractic techniques does Dr Robyn use?

There are 4 main techniques that Dr Robyn practices:

  1. Gonstead
  2. Diversified
  3. Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT)
  4. Activator Method

‘Gonstead’ and ‘Diversified’ are manual techniques. These are the ones where you often hear ‘cracks’ or ‘pops’ - but not always. Gonstead (further explained below) is a specific form of adjusting a patient. Diversified concerns a myriad of adjusting techniques. Dr Robyn may sometimes use the Drop-piece mechanism on the Chiropractic table alongside the manual adjustments, which allows up to 16mm more room (it seems small, yes, but it can help!) to realign your individual spinal or joint segments.
The second two points above are non-manual techniques: with SOT, some wedged blocks may be used under your pelvis to gently realign your body, your organs may be worked on (eg liver pumping or stomach releases), your muscles may be released (eg specific muscle releases or soft tissue work such as trigger point therapy) or your cranial (skull) bones may be gently worked on. SOT can also be used in conjunction with manual adjusting methods. With Activator Methods, a small, handheld, spring-loaded mechanism is used to adjust your joints (an Activator Adjusting Instrument) and the thrust from this mechanism gently moves joints back into place.
Your body position for being adjusted may be any of the following: lying on your side, back or tummy, sitting on the table or in a chair, kneeling on the Knee-Chest Table, or even standing up. Perhaps if you're a baby, you may be adjusted while you’re being held by your Mum, or even across Dad's lap. There are many ways to adjust a patient; finding the best way to adjust a patient's subluxations on any given visit is part of your care.
Dr Robyn may also use a small, hand-held 'Nervoscope' that is run up or down your spine to detect 'breaks' in your nervous system. The Nervoscope detects heat differences between spinal levels, finding places in the spinal column where the body’s temperature has changed from one level to the next. Given inflammation is a requirement for a subluxation (and inflammation causes bodily heat changes), using the Nervoscope can be a good way to determine subluxations at different spinal levels. Heat-reading machines have been around for over 100 years in the Chiropractic profession to help Chiropractors locate – and fix – subluxations.
Dr Robyn practices from a Gonstead base (also incorporating some SOT, Diversified and Activator where warranted). The Gonstead system of Chiropractic is very specific, is quite comfortable for the patient because the spine and body parts are adjusted from a neutral position (so your joints aren't locked up or twisted up) and often has a brilliant visceral component when done just so right (such as positively affecting the organs of your body by reducing reflux, getting the bowel more regular or regulating women's periods for instance), as well as helping your body to heal up tingles/pins and needles, numbness or painful joints. It's a safe technique for adults, children and babies. Dr Robyn, like all Chiropractors, modifies her adjustments for babies and children (and adults, sometimes!) to reduce the force but not the specificity of the adjustments.
As stated above, Dr Robyn has also completed multiple postgraduate seminars in the peripheral joints of the body (your arms, shoulder girdle, legs and jaw) and likes working on the peripheral joints of the body.

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How did Chiropractic start?

The idea behind adjusting spinal bones goes all the way back to 1895 when Daniel David Palmer performed the first modern-day Chiropractic adjustment in Davenport, Iowa (USA). His premise was that the body was a self-healing organism, and when things stopped healing so well, or an organ was ‘sick’, this could be caused by a malfunctioning spinal nerve that travels to that area of the body that is now ‘sick’. Was the spinal nerve being ‘pinched’ by a vertebra being out of place? Indeed D.D. Palmer seemed to find this to be the case judging by the success he had with his patients, and so went forth the idea of modern Chiropractic! Just like all professions, Chiropractic had its humble beginnings, although today there is obviously a lot more research that goes on compared to 1895!

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