• Dr. Donald Littlewood

Should I see a chiropractor?

I often get asked: ‘I have [insert pain here] and I don’t know if I should see a chiropractor?’ And, it’s a good question. Most people don’t know what professional is best or if your pain complaint is even something that can be addressed outside of your family doctor’s office.


Well I am here to answer all those questions and more, so let’s dig in.


What is a chiropractor?

You may think you’re the only one out there who doesn’t know what a chiropractor does, but I can assure you that isn’t the case. So let me break it all down for you.


Chiropractic comes from the Greek word “chiro” which means hand. Essentially, we are experts in the musculoskeletal system. We use our hands to treat conditions that arise from the muscles, nerves & joints of the body. Chiropractic is a hands-on, safe, and effective way to alleviate pain, improve function and restore movement.


Most people think that chiropractors only treat the spine, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Chiropractors can treat any muscle, joint, or nerve in the body. There are even chiropractors out there that treat those who are pregnant and children. And yes, chiropractic is safe in pregnancy and childhood!


Chiropractors are also primary healthcare providers. This means that you do not need a referral from an MD to see one. It also means that chiropractors often work in multidisciplinary practices where there are other practitioners there to help you with any other health-related problems you may have. We love a one stop shop!


When should you see a chiropractor?

The easy answer to this question is: whenever you have pain, but that doesn’t give you much to go on, does it?


Since chiropractors can treat every joint, muscle or nerve in the body, a lot of pain complaints can be resolved, or at least made better, by seeing a chiropractor. But let me make it a bit easier for you to actually make a decision on whether or not you should be seeing one of us.


Think chiropractic care if you have:

  • Spinal pain, whether it be neck, upper back or lower back

  • Headaches

  • Jaw pain

  • A recent or persistent injury

  • Sprains/strains

  • Arthritis


If you have noticed a decrease in range of motion of a joint, then a chiropractor will be able to help you restore that movement. Or, if you have pain when you turn your head or lift your arm above a certain height, a chiropractor can help decrease the pain and teach you some ways to strengthen up the shoulder to ensure that it doesn’t persist or get worse.


Another time that you might want to consider seeing a chiropractor is if you have not recently been very active and would like to be more active, especially if that activity involves weights. A chiropractor can help you make sure you are not doing too much all at once and can help you decrease any post-workout soreness you might (will) experience from an increase in physical activity.


When shouldn’t you see a chiropractor?

This is a loaded question because I truly think that everyone can benefit from chiropractic care, but there are some things that are outside the scope of a chiropractor [by the way, this is not an exhaustive list].


  • Abdominal pain/cramping: visceral organs are outside a chiropractor’s scope and should be examined by a medical doctor to rule out anything sinister.

  • Hormonal imbalances: a naturopath is your best bet if you think you may have a problem with your hormones. If you are currently seeing a chiropractor, ask them for an ND referral, guaranteed they know someone!

  • Fractures: while chiropractors can help rehabilitate and optimize the healing of a fracture, the point person should be an MD.


My practice niche

As you can see, chiropractic is a pretty vast profession and there are lots of us who treat in different ways and different populations. So where do I fit into this holistic health world?


Well, my practice has two niches, one being neck pain & headaches, and the other being the LGBTQ+ community.


I used to get a ton of neck pain studying during chiropractic college and so naturally a trip to the student clinic was in the cards for me. Working with a 4th year intern really helped me learn how to manage my neck pain. I know how debilitating neck pain can be and I also know personally how much chiropractic care can really turn your life around.


It is pretty hard to have a neck pain practice niche without also treating headaches because the two are so closely related. Sometimes neck pain can cause headaches; we call those cervicogenic headaches, while others are correlated because of shared musculature & innervation.


I also treat a fair amount of jaw pain. This is for a couple of reasons, first off being that, again, a lot of people who have neck pain & headaches also come in with jaw pain. The second reason why I treat a lot of jaw pain is because patients often don’t know where else to go. Those who have jaw pain have usually already seen someone & I am a last resort or a second option when other treatments aren’t as effective as originally intended.


Now to my second niche: the LGBTQ+ community. Those in the LGBTQ+ community are often stigmatized in their healthcare and find that they aren’t able to discuss all of the things that truly matter with their healthcare provider, whether it be an MD or a member of an allied health profession. This is why I strive to create a community & my practice is an open door to help anyone talk about any health care problem they may be having. I have also created a group of LGBTQ+ (& ally) service providers that I refer to. If I cannot help, then I will find someone who can, and I promise that that someone will listen to them and their concerns without judgment.


What is your first appointment like with me?

Every chiropractor does things a little bit differently, so this blog post wouldn’t be complete without sharing my process.


The first appointment starts off with a history of what’s going on. Think of it as the who, what, when & where of your pain. We talk about intensity, aggravating factors, relieving factors, as well as medical history, lifestyle, sleep, stress, activity levels, etc.


Then we move into a physical exam where I poke around, do some reflexes, muscle testing, and other orthopedic testing to help me get down to the bottom of your pain. Most of the testing happens in the area of complaint, but some of it is in areas above and below. Bear with me, there is a method to my madness.


The third step is the report of findings. This is where I tell you what is going on, explain treatment options and talk about any risks or barriers to recovery that may be present. We talk about expectations, rehab, frequency/duration of the treatment plan, and answer any questions you might have about the process or the treatment.


Then we get down to treatment. I pride myself in doing my absolute best to treat you on your first visit. Pain relief is the reason you’re seeing me after all. This treatment is usually a shortened version of a full treatment, but I do my best to get you some relief day-of.


A tidbit of wellness advice

You didn’t think I was going to write this whole blog post talking all about me and my practice without giving you a piece of actionable wellness advice that you can take to the bank, did you?!


Movement. That’s my piece of actionable advice. But what the heck do I mean by that?


Well it is no secret that we, as a society, have been more sedentary than ever over the past 2 years. And while things are open now and people are on the move, our daily movement levels are still not where they were pre-pandemic. Just think about how much walking you did on your commute, trips to and from the washroom, getting lunch, etc. We are not doing as much of that as we were and we’ve resorted to the couch.


So here is my advice: during your workday, set an alarm for every 45-60 minutes. When that alarm goes off, get up and do something active for one minute. But what should you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Bodyweight squats

  • Push ups

  • Jumping jacks

  • Stairs in your condo building/house

  • Biceps curls with a theraband or light weight


Incorporating easy movements throughout your day gets your body moving and blood flowing, and it also encourages the body to want movement. The more you move, the more your body craves it. So just get up and move, you’ll feel better for it!


Final thoughts

Chiropractic is a hands-on way to relieve musculoskeletal pain complaints of all shapes and sizes. We treat everything from heads, shoulders, knees & toes, but my practice is focused around neck pain & headaches, as well as the LGBTQ+ community. If you are interested in chiropractic care, head on over to this link and you can book your free consultation call to get the ball rolling!


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