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“Chiros are interested in mechanical health. It doesn’t matter what causes the mechanical problem—if there is one, a chiropractor may be one of the best people to look after that for you.”—Professor Rod Bonello, Director, Chiropractic Australia

Key points

  • A chiropractor (or chiro) treats “mechanical” issues relating to your physical health, focusing on bones, joints, muscles and ligaments.
  • At your first chiropractic appointment, your chiro will make a diagnosis based on your history and a physical examination. They’ll suggest a recommended treatment plan, but they’ll also provide alternative options.
  • Private health insurance can help to offset the cost of a chiro visit, with eligible Australian Unity health insurance customers able to claim between $100 and $300 per person per year depending on their level of cover.

Take a minute to imagine your body as a Formula 1 car, with each bone, muscle and joint part of that shiny red vehicle. What happens when a rogue vertebra throws off the alignment, and you start to feel pain or discomfort?

That’s where a chiropractor steps in as head mechanic. Through gentle adjustments and personalised care, they aim to re-align your physical health. It’s not just about back pain either—from headaches or neck tension to old sports injuries, there’s a whole range of physical issues that can benefit from chiropractic treatment.

Read on to learn how chiropractors can help you improve your health and wellbeing, what you can expect from an appointment, and how health insurance can help you access chiropractic care.

Treating your “mechanical health”

Physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors all work with the human body. So, when should we visit a chiropractor?

In a nutshell, a chiropractor (or chiro for short) treats a range of conditions relating to our bones, joints, muscles and ligaments. It’s what Professor Rod Bonello, Director of Chiropractic Australia, calls the “physical aspects of health”.

“Chiros are interested in mechanical health. It doesn’t matter what causes the mechanical problem—if there is one, a chiropractor may be one of the best people to look after that for you.”

Take a headache, says Rod. A lot of people think headaches are just neurological, but there are some simple mechanical problems that may be causing that throbbing or dull pain in your head.

“Say you went to the hairdresser and had your hair washed and your neck was held in a terrible position in one of those uncomfortable chairs. That can cause a problem in the neck that needs mechanical attention. And the headache can easily disappear once you’ve given it that attention.”

While chiropractors are best known for treating back problems, these registered healthcare practitioners—who need to have an accredited university degree, and must complete ongoing professional development—also treat many other conditions relating to the spine, neck, arms and legs. One not-so-obvious example? Asthma.

“Asthma is a respiratory problem. But people with asthma sometimes have chronic coughing and it adversely affects their ribcage, the muscles around their ribs and their chest. Chiropractors don’t try to cure asthma, but we help look after patients with asthma to make their breathing much more comfortable.”

Knowing when to book an appointment

If your wellbeing is starting to suffer because of neck or back pain, it’s time to visit a chiropractor, says Rod. Niggling discomfort from a car accident or pain from a sports injury—whether new or old—could be other reasons to make an appointment.

A good rule of thumb, Rod suggests, is to see whether your pain disappears after a day or two. If not—and it feels like it’s a physical problem—that’s your cue to book in time with a chiro.

But it’s also worth being proactive. “We believe that chiropractic should be like dentistry. Rather than wait for something to go wrong, and then probably needing a lot of treatment, the ideal situation is for a person to visit a chiropractor maybe twice a year,” explains Rod. “There’s always something that needs attention.”

If you need to book an appointment, here’s a list of Australian Unity—recognised chiropractors. The good news? You can access this specialised care without a GP referral.

What to expect from your appointment

Your first appointment with a chiro will usually start with some fact-finding. The chiropractor will ask you a series of questions, then perform a physical examination.

After that, says Rod, the chiropractor will make a diagnosis. “We’ll say something like: ‘From the history and the testing, this is what we expect is going on here.’ And then there’s an information process where the condition is described to you.”

The chiro will recommend a treatment option, but they’ll outline alternatives too. “It's important to give patients the choice,” says Rod. “And often that choice is: you could have medication, or you could have chiropractic, or you could choose to do nothing. And depending on the patient, any of those possibilities might be correct.”

Your chiro will then go on to discuss the risks and benefits of the treatment options, time frames and likely outcomes.

Get better sooner with private health insurance

“You might need three visits with a chiro or, if it’s a long-standing issue, you might need 10. But there ought to be progress,” says Rod. That’s where private health insurance kicks in, helping you offset the cost—after all, every bit helps.

“Almost all of our Extras and Combination products cover chiropractic visits” says Shelby Dale, Product Manager of Retail (Health) at Australian Unity. “Depending on your level of cover, you can either receive a set benefit or 60 percent back of your consultation fee.” Members can claim from $100 to $300 per person each year, and most products also cover a yearly chiropractic X-ray.

“Health insurance is an important strategy in caring for our families and ourselves,” says Rod. Without health insurance, he adds, “people are less likely seek healthcare, putting them at risk of allowing problems to get worse before they can be improved.”

Beyond the back pain

You might not know it, says Rod, but chiropractors take a holistic approach to your health.

“We know from research that things like diet, exercise, avoiding excessive alcohol use, getting rid of smoking, those sorts of things have a positive effect on our health,” says Rod. So don’t be surprised if you also get “advice on lifestyle activities, things that you shouldn't do, and things that you should increase or stop doing.”

A chiropractor can help keep your body working like a well-oiled machine, which makes them an important part of your healthcare team. Don’t wait till you can’t stand that nagging twinge any longer, though. A visit now could save you months or even years of pain—and that’s worth it.


Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest. All names and titles are correct at the time of interview.