Doctor, Chiropractor, Acupuncturist or Massage Therapist?

| October 23, 2012

chiropractor massaging patient Seeking pain relief doesn’t have to mean a trip to the doctor. Today’s focus on holistic alternatives offers a variety of choices. Read more about these specialties, and once you decide which specialist to seek, don’t forget to check out for acupuncturists
chiropractors, massage therapists and doctors.


Stemming from traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture stimulates the nervous system. This unlocks the body’s ability to heal itself and bring about a balance that helps to relieve pain and stress. Acupuncturists do this by using needles and targeting points on the body that act as energy channels. The theory behind acupuncture is that these points can become obstructed. Using needles or modern techniques such as electricity, acupuncturists can unblock these obstructions and restore the flow of energy.

A fear of needles isn’t a reason to avoid an acupuncturist. The website describes alternatives, including acupressure, acupoint massage, warming herbs or cold laser.

Acupuncture is said to help with anything from pain relief and stress reduction to weight loss. It can also be used for overcoming an attention deficit disorder or controlling epilepsy. It is widely used for helping with back pain, neck and joint pain, and headaches.

The Food and Drug Administration requires certain standards for needles to make sure they are sterile and non-toxic. While few complications have been identified, there is a concern that, when administered incorrectly, the practice of acupuncture can cause health problems, including infections and punctured organs. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) suggests not relying on acupuncturists to diagnose diseases unless they have received regular medical training.

Massage Therapist

Massage therapy is increasing in popularity thanks to new trends in health and wellness. Massage therapists can be found in wellness centers and fitness clubs as well as in hospitals, chiropractic offices. Some will even travel to a client’s workplace.

Massage therapists help bring about wellness and reduce stress by manipulating the body’s soft-tissue muscles. According to the University of Minnesota’s Taking Charge of Your Health series, massage improves blood and lymph circulation, which can help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s muscle cells.

Massage therapy can also relax muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists claim that sheer touch can bring about relaxation that helps with conditions, including insomnia, digestive disorders, anxiety and chronic fatigue. It has also been promoted as beneficial to treating sports injuries.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states there is limited evidence that massage therapy influences health. There are studies that show it alleviates anxiety, high blood pressure and pain, such as cases of low-back pain that may not respond to medical treatment. The catch is that not much is known about how exactly massage affects the body and whether the claim that it keeps pain signals from reaching the brain can be substantiated.

The NCCAM cautions that massage should not be done in areas of the body with blood clots, fractures, open or healing wounds or weak bones. Extremely vigorous massage should be avoided if people have bleeding disorders, are taking blood-thinning medications or have low blood platelet counts.


Chiropractors bring about wellness through their focus on the body’s nervous, muscular and skeletal systems. The basic notion is that problems with the spine can disrupt body functions by disrupting the central nervous system. To correct this imbalance, chiropractors manipulate the spine with their hands. These adjustments help bring about relief from ailments, including neck and back pain.

The practice centers around what chiropractors refer to as a vertebral subluxation, an out-of-place vertebra that many chiropractors believe interferes with nerves and can cause pain and fatigue and even illness. Chiropractors promote their practice as a non-surgical way to bring about relief. WebMD states that this is the most popular choice for people seeking back pain relief.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has stated that this form of therapy seems to help ease low-back pain and may also help with headaches, neck pain, joint conditions and problems related to whiplash.

There is debate over claims that manipulation of the neck area can impede the flow of blood to the brain, and in rare cases, lead to life-threatening complications. Side effects may include headaches, tiredness or discomfort in treated areas.


Doctors believe they still have a seat at the table, though they may suggest that patients consider more holistic methods such as massage therapy. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine distinguishes between the two by saying that complementary medicine is done along with conventional medicine, while alternative medicine is just that, something done in place of conventional medicine. The preference is to consider massage therapy, chiropractic therapy and acupuncture as complementary medicine, preferably after consulting with a family physician.

The NCCAM suggests talking to health care providers so they can help coordinate care and make sure it is safe, especially in cases where alternative treatment may interfere with medications. It also warns against turning to complementary or alternative medicine as a way to postpone talking to a physician about a health problem.

Physicians can prescribe drugs needed to rid the body of infections. They are trained to scientifically diagnose illnesses and treat conditions that science has shown to be unsuccessfully treated by alternative medicine.

Whatever the choice, experts agree on the importance of being an informed consumer. Research the various types of complementary and alternative medicines and weigh the positives and negatives. Each one offers a tool with which to manage your health. As you contemplate your path to wellness, head to Dex Knows for advice on where to find doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists.

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Category: Chiropractors & Massage Therapists, Evergreen, Health & Fitness

About the Author ()

Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.