More people and health systems are embracing integrative medicine\u00a0\u2014 and chiropractic care.\nIn fact, chiropractic care is the third largest health care discipline in the western world, right behind traditional medicine and dentistry. But there\u2019s still misunderstanding about what a chiropractor does and when you should visit one.\n\u201cAs family physicians serve as the gatekeepers for access to traditional medicine, chiropractors sit poised to be the gatekeepers of integrative medicine,\u201d said Daniel Shawn Miller, DC, staff chiropractor at the UPMC Shadyside, Center for Integrative Medicine, one of the top hospital-based integrative medicine centers in the country.\n\u201cA close working relationship between family physicians and chiropractors is crucial,\u201d Dr. Miller said. \u201cThis melds the best of traditional and integrative medicine and is creating a whole new healthcare paradigm, one in which the patient is the ultimate winner.\u201d\nWhen Should I See a Chiropractor?\nChiropractors treat musculoskeletal problems, with the most common complaint being low back pain and sciatica, followed by neck pain and headaches.\nMillions of Americans have low back pain, and it\u2019s the second most common cause of disability in the country. It\u2019s also the No. 1 reason why people miss work.\nDr. Miller said that musculoskeletal problems including back pain have three main causes:\n\nDisuse, or being inactive\nOveruse, or overdoing it when you played basketball with the kids last weekend\nTrauma, such as with a car accident, a fall, or work injury\n\nSpinal manipulation, also called an adjustment, done by a chiropractor is a safe, effective way to relieve back pain. It\u2019s also pretty affordable compared to traditional medicine.\nDr. Miller explains how an adjustment works: The tiny vertebrae in your back can shift slightly out of place. This can inflame the nerve or surrounding tissue. This nerve irritation leads to muscle spasms and swelling in the surrounding areas. The spasm and inflammation keeps the problem \u201cstuck,\u201d which causes you to have ongoing pain.\nWhat to Expect During Your Visit to a Chiropractor\nOn your first visit to a chiropractor, he or she will do a comprehensive history and examination on your main problem, like lower back pain, for example.\nThe chiropractor will find the vertebrae that may be causing your trouble and, unless the doctor feels that further tests are needed, he or she will gently twist and push on the specific bone and surrounding muscles. Often you will feel a \u201cpop,\u201d which is a rapid pressure change in the joint as it moves back into its proper position.\n\u201cOften, the combination of gentle spinal manipulation techniques or \u2018adjustments\u2019 and anti-inflammatory medicines from your primary care physician leads to the fastest recovery,\u201d Dr. Miller said.\n\u201cEven faster improvement can occur if we incorporate physical therapy or core muscle strengthening exercises into the treatment plan.\u201d\nSome people worry about hearing their back \u201cpop,\u201d but Dr. Miller assures patients that chiropractic medicine is safe.\n\u201cMost people notice no pain or side effects, just pain relief,\u201d Dr. Miller said. \u201cIf there are any side effects, it\u2019s most often a temporary minor stiffness or soreness at the area that was treated. This clears up within a day or two.\u201d\n\nHow to Choose a Chiropractor\nAs with any health care provider, it\u2019s important to understand your chiropractor\u2019s approach, philosophy, and experience. Don\u2019t be afraid to ask detailed questions before making an appointment.\nDr. Miller recommends making sure the chiropractor performs gentle spinal manipulation, because that\u2019s what research has shown to be the most effective. This is what sets a good chiropractor apart: the adjustment.\nIf your chiropractor is not \u201cpopping\u201d and realigning the structure, Dr. Miller recommends finding another, no matter how \u201chigh tech\u201d they claim to be.\n\u201cAlso, make sure the doctor believes in short term duration of care,\u201d he said. \u201cFor acute sprains and strains, a natural recovery time is about 6 weeks. If the chiropractor wants you to see him or her for months on end, reconsider.\u201d\nIn addition to spinal manipulation, a good chiropractor will instruct you on lifestyle changes and exercises you can do to get well faster.\nLearn more by visiting the UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine webpage.