Rehabilitation is a process that involves a variety of therapies and techniques to help restore health, function, and relieve pain. Whole-body rehabilitation may involve physical, occupational and speech therapy, massage, and other modalities such as chiropractic. Chiropractic rehabilitation is specifically focused on the musculoskeletal system and overall wellness. It usually includes joint and spinal manipulation, exercise recommendations, stretching and nutritional counseling.
Serious musculoskeletal injuries, head injuries, and strokes nearly always require comprehensive rehabilitation. Even a minor injury like a sprained ankle may benefit, however, as rehabilitation can restore flexibility and strength and may help prevent a second injury. When muscles are tight, weak or unbalanced (muscles work in pairs), rehabilitation can correct the problems and improve function. Muscle imbalances and alignment problems may remain even months after a minor injury or an auto accident that caused whiplash. Rehabilitation can also help people learn to compensate if the disability is permanent.
The first goal of rehabilitation is to relieve pain. This is often accomplished by restoring or improving function and mobility, which is the second goal. People who have injuries tend to limit movement or change the way they move, which creates secondary problems like tight muscles. Tight muscles promote further movement limitations and a vicious cycle begins. Rehabilitation can break the cycle. In addition to the major goals, each patient and practitioner set specific goals, such as walking a certain distance or achieving so many repetitions of an exercise. These goals will change as rehabilitation progresses.
Since so much of rehabilitation is related to the musculoskeletal system, chiropractors are uniquely positioned to specialize in this field. They are extensively trained in anatomy and musculoskeletal function. Physical therapists receive similar training as far as the musculoskeletal system is concerned, but chiropractors also learn about nutrition and whole body wellness, as well as spinal and joint adjustments.
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