The Quick Answer
(i.e., I'm hurting so please, just get to the point)
Doctors of chiropractic practice a hands-on, drug-free approach to health care and pain relief that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment.
Chiropractic is an effective, evidence based, non surgical, non drug treatment for most back and neck related issues. The simplest way to look at Chiropractic Care is to understand that the injured area of your body has more mechanical stress on it than the other areas. This could have been due to a sudden injury like a quick twist, a fall or car accident, or it could have developed over time. Either way this extra mechanical stress will cause soft tissue in or around the injury site to stretch and tear and thereby cause the pain and swelling you feel.
Normally, when the joints in our neck or back (or any joints) are moving properly, the muscles and ligaments surrounding that joint can move within their normal pain-free range. When they move beyond that range like in a sudden injury, or even slowly over time, they tear and cause the majority of the pain we feel in classic back pain. Sometimes, the nerves can become involved which leads to pain that runs down the legs as in sciatica or into the arms and hands, or even up into the head causing headaches. A Chiropractor will do an exam and find the areas that aren't moving correctly, usually, but not always, the painful area, and gently get things moving better. By taking stress off the injured area, the body can start healing and you start feeling better. It's like if you have a cut on your finger, and you keep pulling at it, it will never heal correctly. But by taking the stress off the area by "unsticking the joints" and restoring motion, the injured soft tissues (i.e. muscles, ligament, tendons, and nerves) can start healing which means less pain and stiffness.
Long Answer Science shows that we all have within us an innate ability to heal ourselves. This "innate" ability is housed in our brain and communicates with every cell of our bodies through our nervous system. As long as this two way communication is functioning unimpaired, we are in a state of health and wellness. However, when this communication between our brain and body is impaired or irritated, our innate ability to heal ourselves doesn't work properly. This causes the symptoms we want to get rid of like:
many many more
Our brain and spinal cord are well protected within our skull and spinal column. However, the nerves that leave the spinal column to connect with our muscles and organs, called spinal nerves, are not protected. Because of our human anatomy, our spinal nerves can become compressed between the joints of our spine if our spine is injured or not moving properly. The small bones of the spine called "vertebrae" can become misaligned or restricted in their motion. These misaligned and or restricted vertebrae are called "Subluxations". Subluxations stress and irritate the soft tissues of the joints, and can compress the nervous system, ultimately leading to stiffness, pain and eventually arthritis of the joints. Doctors of Chiropractic, called "Chiropractors", identify these subluxations through a thorough history, examination and X-rays if needed. The Chiropractor then formulates an appropriate treatment plan based on your particular problem.
The basic chiropractic treatment involves gentle re-alignment of the misaligned bones and restricted joints. These specific manipulations done only by chiropractors are called "Adjustments". Chiropractors are the only health practitioners qualified to diagnose and treat subluxations. Chiropractors perform adjustments on other joints of the body, as well as the spine, to treat foot, ankle, knee, wrist, elbow, hip and shoulder problems. While other factors affect the total health of an individual, elimination of subluxations is the single most important thing to living a happier, healthier, and pain-free life.
Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. Medication often just masks the symptoms, and does not address the real cause of the problem. If the oil light came on in your car, would you cover the light with tape? Of course not, you would fix the problem and prevent major problems in the future. It is exactly the same with your body, only far more important.