Women’s health knowledge is power (and pain relief). And it’s no wonder since studies have shown women are more likely to experience back pain (surprise, surprise) than men. So whether you’re suffering from back pain, you’ve noticed a lump at the back of your neck from poor posture since working from home, or your back is cracking all of a sudden and you’re thinking of seeing a chiropractor, we’ve got everything you need to know about women’s chiropractic treatment.
Chiropractic Treatment For Women
We spoke to the President of the British Chiropractor Association, Catherine Quinn, who answered women’s frequency asked questions about chiropractors and chiropractic treatment. Catherine has been President of the British Chiropractor Association since 2017 and is the youngest President the BCA has ever had. She is the third female President in the BCA’s history, with its first in 1945 and the second in 1970. As well as making a lasting impact on the BCA by breaking down some of the barriers and myths about the industry, Catherine has empowered those in the profession so that its breadth and support is better understood by a wide range of audiences.
What is the difference between a Physiotherapist, Osteopath and Chiropractor?
“When discussing the main differences between osteopaths, chiropractors, and physiotherapists, it is important to remember that these are all regulated
healthcare professionals who all use a wide variety of diagnostic and clinical skills to assess and provide care to their patients.
“There is often a degree of misunderstanding, with the public thinking that these professions are treatment approaches, but there are numerous parallels in the skills learnt across all healthcare professions (including medicine), particularly in the areas of clinical assessment.
“What will differ is what the healthcare professional then does with that information. For example, you will find that an examination that your Chiropractor performs for back and leg pain will be incredibly similar to that of an Orthopaedic Consultant, but rather than considering surgical interventions, your chiropractor may use that information to design a hands-on, functional and wellbeing focused plan of management. It’s important to also remember that chiropractors can also refer patients onto other areas of the healthcare system if needed.”
“Chiropractic is more than just treating back and necks, it is evidence-informed healthcare which is supported by quality research. At the British Chiropractic Association, we regularly communicate with all of our members where research is evolving, empowering them to make informed decisions about the individualised treatment they provide to patients.
“All Chiropractors study for a Master’s Degree over four to five years full-time at one of five universities, and upon graduation, British Chiropractic Association (BCA) members take this a step further, completing post-registration training with the Royal College of Chiropractors. Physiotherapy degrees are usually completed over three years and Osteopathy over four years. Chiropractors train across all areas of healthcare during their Masters Degree, including:
• Anatomy and Physiology
• Diagnostic Imaging (X-Ray and MRI)
• Care of the older patient
• General Diagnosis (i.e., Blood Pressure, listening to heart and lung sounds and abdominal exam)
“Understanding that a great proportion of a Chiropractors’ training is in how to best assess and understand your health status should give great reassurance around the high levels of competency and expertise your Chiropractor has considered prior to performing the hands-on skills we are known for.
“Your Chiropractor has also completed training across a wide range of hands-on and hand-off treatment methods which they will build on with post-graduate education. Chiropractic treatment for women include:
• Spinal manipulation, known as adjustments
• Low-velocity techniques including Sacro-Occipital Techniques
• Soft tissue releases
• Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
• Motivational Interview
• Instrument assisted techniques
• Exercise prescription
• Electro, Shockwave and Laser therapies
“By training in a wide range of techniques, considering the person as a whole and using diagnostic skills, Chiropractors can tailor each treatment to the individual patient – it’s not a one-treatment-fits-all-approach. Most importantly, the patient’s wishes and expectations will inform how that treatment goes. With Chiropractic being primarily delivered in private practice settings, this means that patient choice is paramount and there is no limitation on the resources which can be used, when clinically indicated, to help that patient.”
Are most Chiropractors male or female? What percent of Chiropractors are female?
“There is a very even gender balance in the chiropractic profession, with women making up 50.2% of all chiropractors and men 49.8%. This trend has continued since 2017.”
What is a chiropractic adjustment?
“An adjustment is a term used by a Chiropractor to describe a hands-on form of treatment, most usually in the form of spinal manipulation.
“Before any adjustments or other treatments take place, your Chiropractor will always begin their interaction with you by asking thorough questions about why you are there and what you want to achieve from your care, we call this your ‘history’. Depending on whether you are visiting them about an acute injury (like sudden onset back or neck pain, ankle sprains or sports injuries), a more chronic issue (like long-term back or neck pain) or a wider health and wellbeing concern, they will tailor these questions to ensure that the clinical examination they undertake will give them all the important information to form your treatment.
“In the UK, Chiropractic is a regulated profession and Chiropractors provide patients with a whole wealth of treatments, the spinal adjustment being just one. At the British Chiropractic Association, we deliver a patient-centred approach meaning no one-fit approach and every patient’s plan is treated individually.
“When an adjustment is performed, it can be in various forms. Some of these adjustments involve cavitation of a joint which is where the joint makes a crack or pop sound, but some are ‘low velocity’ and may involve mobilisation of a joint.”
Are chiropractic adjustments painful?
“Adjustments, when carried out by a qualified practitioner such as a Chiropractor, are not usually painful. If you have acute muscle spasms or severe inflammation, when even the lightest touch hurts, there may be some discomfort. However, at this stage, your Chiropractor will likely treat you with more gentle procedures and recommend other modalities such as mobilisations, laser therapy or acupuncture to help you. Sometimes, if you have had a problem for some time, you may feel short-term soreness whilst your body starts to respond to care. Your Chiropractor will tell you if this is likely to happen and will advise of self-help remedies in between treatments.”
What happens when a Chiropractor cracks your back? What is the cracking/ popping noise caused by?
“The sound that can occur during a Chiropractic adjustment is not the bones cracking, grinding together or anything scary! It is a natural phenomenon that occurs within a specific type of joint, a synovial joint. Synovial joints are found within the spine, but other examples are in the fingers, toes and jaw, also known as Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
“This cracking noise is the sound of a gas bubble forming (rather than a gas bubble collapsing or popping). This makes sense since a Chiropractic adjustment typically provides a gapping of a joint to allow for improved motion instead of a compression of a joint that would ‘pop’ a bubble. Science is often still catching up to mechanisms that occur within our body and may not be settled quite yet on this phenomenon. This sound, called ‘cavitation’, is normal, safe, and does not hurt. It’s the same thing as when you ‘crack’ your knuckles. The sound isn’t a guide to the quality or value of the adjustment.
“Chiropractic treatment may involve specific spinal manipulation to improve the function of joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly, but this is one part of the package of care provided by a Chiropractor. Chiropractic treatment for women isn’t just about manipulation or adjustments. Chiropractors may use a variety of other techniques including instrumental modalities such as Shockwave and Laser Therapy, exercise prescription, nutrition and lifestyle advice, and dry needling as well as occupational and mental health advice.”
Why does it feel so good when you crack your back?
“This very much depends on why you were looking to have an adjustment in the first place. If you have been suffering from stiffness and lack of movement in a joint for years, months, or even a few days, the relief that you feel after having an adjustment, normalising the movement in that joint, and allowing it to perform at its optimal function can be incredibly relieving – this is often why it feels so good! However, not all patients come to see us because they are in pain, some patients know that they can perform more optimally, fire up muscles in the gym well and go about their day-to-day lives with greater comfort because of the adjustments they receive. Maintaining this high quality of life is one of the things that really motivates me with my patients every day.”
Is it bad to crack your own back?
“Many patients report that if they stretch in a certain direction or roll over in bed, they may feel a cracking sensation in their spine or other joints. I always advise patients that as long as they aren’t forcing these movements, and if they aren’t painful, then it’s nothing to worry about. Some people feel better for stretching and feeling a pop or crack through a joint but if you are not sure, or this has become painful for you then definitely speak to your Chiropractor about what to do next.”
What if your back cracks when you twist in bed? Is that normal?
“As long as you’re not pushing this movement excessively, or with force, then it can be a very normal phenomenon. Some people ‘click’ more than others, just like some people are more flexible than others. Our bodies are all different and as long as this isn’t a painful movement for you, it’s likely nothing to worry about.”
What should a woman wear to a chiropractor appointment?
“Chiropractic treatment for women should allow a woman to feel comfortable. Your Chiropractor will want you to be comfortable when you visit them and be able to show them and easily move the areas in which you are being assessed. I have previously had a patient attend for me to assess their knee whilst wearing skinny jeans, this can be very tricky and leads to me needing to ask the patient to put on a pair of our shorts or a gown. Whilst your chiropractor will always be able to make these accommodations for you to change, I would suggest wearing loose-fitting clothing, consider a vest top if we are looking at your neck or shoulders, and bringing shorts to change into at the clinic if we are looking at your knees or hips. My female patients tend to turn up in their ‘chiropractic uniform’ of leggings and a vest top which makes everything easy and relaxed for them.”
Should I wear a bra to the Chiropractor?
“Again, this is all about your comfort. My patients tend to keep their bras on during treatment, and if I need to move or undo a strap during the treatment, then between us, we work around this within the patients’ comfort.”
Can I go to the Chiropractor during my period?
“Absolutely! Women should treat their chiropractic treatment appointment much like going to the gym, make sure you are wearing sanitary products that you are relaxed moving around in. If you are worried about this at all then always speak to your Chiropractor, and they will be able to reassure you. Some patients find that the tension that can build up in their bodies around the time of their period and this can be relieved by seeing a Chiropractor for an adjustment.”
Is it normal to feel tired after chiropractic adjustments?
“Roughly 12% of chiropractic patients report feeling tired after chiropractic treatment. Most of these short-term effects from chiropractic care begin within four hours of treatment and typically disappeared within the following 24 hours. To help avoid feelings of fatigue after chiropractic visits, patients should consider drinking plenty of water before their treatment.”
Is it normal to feel emotional after Chiropractor?
“Imagine you’ve been suffering from a headache for years. Every time you look over your shoulder, that headache catches you. Now imagine that you visit your chiropractor, they’ve assessed you, asked you lots of questions about how, when, and why these headaches occur, assessed you physically, and once they know that there is nothing to be worried about, or needs further investigation, they have used their hands to normalise the movement in your neck and shoulders, giving you relief from this headache. This is a common occurrence in our chiropractic clinics and these patients can indeed become emotional after treatment, particularly when they walk out of there feeling immediately better; like a weight has been lifted.
“In other cases, it may be that for the first time, someone has really taken the time to listen and understand the symptoms that you are living with day-to-day. Just being reassured by your chiropractor that they are going to be with you every step of the way and work out exactly how to best assist you with the symptoms you present to them, can be emotional and a relief. Giving patients the confidence that I can help them to understand their condition and learn how to improve it, manage it, or in many cases fix it, is part of what motivates me every day.”
Can pregnant women see a Chiropractor?
“Yes! Chiropractors are taught to work with pregnant women, babies and children and are trained in a wide variety of techniques to help you deal with the stresses of pregnancy. Your chiropractor will use safe, gentle techniques that are suitable for you. Some Chiropractors will have completed specialist training and post-graduate qualifications in paediatric or pregnancy care and will be very experienced in treating pregnancy at all stages and children of all ages.
“I spend a great deal of time discussing the wider implications of pregnancy in areas like exercise, nutrition and sleep with my pregnant patients which helps them to manage their pregnancies well and in good health. Chiropractors sometimes work with midwives, health visitors and lactation consultants so that you have an integrated, team approach to all aspects of your pregnancy.”
Can a Chiropractor get rid of a dowager’s hump?
“This condition gets its nickname from the slightly rounded hump you might see at the base of an elderly woman’s neck, but this kyphosis (excessive rounding of the upper back) can result from chronic forward-leaning, a posture that is too common in our world of computer screens and other devices. Over time, a habit of poor posture can cause you to develop an abnormal curve of the upper vertebrae and a mass of tissue at the lower part of the neck. Everyone has a degree of curvature in their spine, this is normal. However, a curve of more than 45 degrees is considered excessive. Sometimes kyphosis doesn’t cause any symptoms other than the back appearing abnormally curved or hunched. However, in some cases, the condition causes pain and stiffness in the back.
“In kyphosis, the normal curve in the middle section of the vertebral column (the thoracic vertebrae) is more curved than normal. There are a number of reasons why this might happen, including:
• Postural kyphosis: Usually a reversible presentation from slouching, leaning back in chairs and carrying heavy bags
• Scheuermann’s kyphosis: This is a genetic condition and results in abnormally shaped vertebrae
• Congenital kyphosis: Abnormal development of the spine in the womb
• Age: As people get older, their spinal curvature can increase
If your kyphosis disappears when you sit up tall and pull your shoulders back then it is likely that your chiropractor will be able, with a combination of hands-on techniques and exercises for you to complete at home or the gym. But you are the key ingredient here… if you go back to slouching at your desk then the curve will reappear!
“If your kyphosis reduces but some rounding remains at the top of your spine on pulling yourself up tall then it is still possible for your Chiropractor to help either reduce or prevent the worsening of this.
“In both examples, many patients with this presentation will have joint and muscle stiffness in their upper backs, necks and shoulders which makes it difficult to maintain a more upright posture. On top of this, a lack of conditioning through the muscles that hold you upright can also make it tough to change this habit.
“Your Chiropractor will use their hands and give your exercises which aim to reduce that stiffness, making you more comfortable and functioning better. Then, by working on the gentle strengthening exercises you are given, you will find your new habit of holding yourself more upright a breeze!”
Do posture correction braces work?
“Some patients ask about using postural braces to physically retract and hold the shoulders in place, but I tend to advise people against these. I find that when patients become dependent on a brace to hold this posture it simply reduces their ability to learn the habit of using their own muscles to achieve the desired position. In some cases, I will suggest that patients who are performing very manual jobs use these braces in short periods to help train them out of a bad habit, but not to wear one when doing light or usual duties.”
Can Chiropractors help with menopause?
“Whilst there is no evidence that chiropractic will directly help with the symptoms of menopause, it’s important to remember that every patient with another condition such as the menopause, fibromyalgia, or other systemic conditions, still lives with a spine and a musculoskeletal system. People with these conditions will almost inevitably experience musculoskeletal pain or dysfunction, and chiropractors are always looking to work on a patient’s wider well-being. If encouraging a better range of motion through a patient’s spine, hips and shoulders can enable them to move more freely and experience less pain and discomfort then it is likely that this person will have a better quality of life.”
The British Chiropractic Association is the largest and longest-standing association for Chiropractors in the UK. As well as promoting international standards of education and exemplary conduct, the BCA supports Chiropractors to progress and develop to fulfil their professional ambitions with honour and integrity, at every step. The BCA is raising awareness about the rigour, relevance and evidence driving the profession and the association’s ambition for chiropractic to be more closely embedded within mainstream healthcare.