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Pushing the Boundaries of Chiropractic Care
January 15, 2001 -- Chiropractors don't just treat back pain.
In fact, while all chiropractors care for patients with musculoskeletal problems -- those of the bones, joints and muscles -- many also help patients with nonmusculoskeletal conditions, such as depression, insomnia and fibromyalgia.
But while many scientific studies support chiropractic's effectiveness for musculoskeletal conditions, there is currently only anecdotal evidence and a few scientific studies supporting chiropractic's effectiveness for nonmusculoskeletal conditions.
Soon, however, the evidence may be more substantial. A major chiropractic research institution, Palmer College of Chiropractic's Practice-Based Research (PBR) Program, is beginning a study that could lead to more solid conclusions by spurring the interest of other researchers and scientific disciplines.

Hints of something big
Much research suggests a larger role for chiropractic care. A University of Southern Denmark study published in a 1999 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, for example, reported that babies with colic cried less after getting spinal adjustments.
And in 1998, a study in the same journal reported that 23% of 1,504 Swedish patients who sought chiropractic treatment for musculoskeletal conditions also experienced respiratory, circulatory and digestive benefits following chiropractic adjustments.
But despite research findings and chiropractors' experience, many patients -- and the medical establishment -- still see chiropractic as merely a treatment for bone, joint and muscle problems. A study published in 1998 in the American Journal of Public Health found that from 1985 to 1991 less than 1% of chiropractic patients sought care for nonmusculoskeletal conditions.

Improving the evidence
Palmer researchers hope their study will change patients' perceptions of chiropractic, as well as increase understanding of chiropractic's effectiveness for nonmusculoskeletal conditions. "We want to contribute to the documentation and to the further development of wellness issues in the chiropractic profession," says the study's lead author, Dr. Cheryl Hawk, in a press release.
To achieve their goal, Hawk and her colleagues are recruiting chiropractors to collect data from patients who suffer from specific nonmusculoskeletal conditions, including epilepsy, Tourette's syndrome, cerebral palsy, depression and fibromyalgia.
The researchers shouldn't have too much trouble finding chiropractors to help. According to an article published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, only 14% of Canadian chiropractors believe that chiropractic should be limited to musculoskeletal conditions.
Apparently, proving chiropractors believe in their treatment doesn't require further study.

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