What is chiropractic?
According to the American Chiropractic Association: Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic services are used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches
According to the National Institute of Health: Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure – mainly the spine – and it’s functioning. Although practitioners may use a variety of treatment approaches, they primarily perform adjustments (manipulations) to the spine or other parts of the body with the goal of correcting alignment problems, alleviating pain, improving function, and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Does chiropractic work?
The short answer, yes. The long answer, it depends on what you define as “works”? Does it work for reducing lower back pain? Does it work for “fixing” the lower back conditions that led to the pain? Do you mean does it make a change to the spine and body, versus being just a placebo effect?
For back pain, it looks like it works pretty well. In a 2003 study published in the highly acclaimed orthopedic journal SPINE, chiropractic was proven to be over five times as effective as medication, and over twice as effective acupuncture in the treatment of chronic spine pain.
In 2017, the American College of Physicians rewrote their guidelines to recommend non-drug therapies such as spinal manipulation and massage to be the approach of choice for people experiencing acute to subacute lower back pain.
A study of 283 patients with low back and leg pain were given 2 to 3 weeks of chiropractic adjustments. 81% of patients with referred pain achieved a “good” result, defined as symptom-free to mild intermittent symptoms but with “no restrictions for work or other activities”. (note: these patients were selected due to the fact that they had previously experienced failed results with conservative and/or operative procedures, and in most cases, considered completely disabled).
For managing chronic pain, a 2011 study printed in SPINE, showed that maintenance adjustments to the spine provided better long-term results for managing pain and functional ability in those with chronic lower back conditions. ()
For better brain function, there are studies showing great promise. Research published in the coveted journal Neural Plasticity showed that adjusting the spine changes brain function by almost 20%. It improves activity of the prefrontal cortex which can impact functions such as behavior, decision making, memory attention, intelligence, autonomic function, motor control, eye movements and spatial awareness.
How effective are chiropractic adjustments?
Depending on the issue being treated, the results and effectiveness of chiropractic vary. If being treated for pain, both acute and chronic, relief from the condition can be seen immediately in many cases. Sustained relief is accomplished over an extended period of treatment. For other issues that are treatable with chiropractic, the effectiveness often varies based on the doctor’s skills and chosen technique in administering care.
What does a chiropractic adjustment do?
A chiropractic adjustment corrects a subluxation of a vertebral joint. A subluxation is a partial dislocation, and a partial dislocation of vertebral joints interferes with the flow of the nervous system. It is removing this obstacle that allows the nervous system to function at its maximum natural capacity. It is through perfect operation of the nervous system, that the body is able to heal itself.
Are chiropractic adjustments safe?
The short answer is yes, they are safe. The easiest way to tell is to look at malpractice insurance premiums. Insurance companies don’t mess with risk. They charge an arm and a leg if they think you are a risk. The average premiums for difference professions will tell you who has risk of problems, and who does not. Let’s take a look.
All amounts are dollar/year.
OB/GYN - $120,000
General Surgeon - $75,000
Internal Medicine - $20,000
Family Practice - $15,000
Chiropractors - $2,000-$4,000
In fact, throughout many studies, proper chiropractic treatment has not been proven to cause anything more than short term soreness at the site of treatment.
What is the “popping” of a chiropractic adjustment, and what if I don’t hear it?
Chiropractic manipulation is not just “popping your back”, and in fact the sound heard is simply a byproduct of the manipulation. The sound is the release of air, or liquid bubbles, that are built up inside of the joint itself during times of stress, such as when a subluxation is present. In fact, the audible pop doesn’t even need to occur for a manipulation to be successful. Research has shown that pop or not, the benefits are the same. Not to mention, repeated attempts at manipulation to achieve a “pop” can actually cause damage.
How is chiropractic care important?
Chiropractic care is important for restoring and maintaining spinal health and integrity. It is important for treatment of many chronic and acute injuries. Chiropractic care is important as it improves muscle function, nervous system health, posture and gait, all of which result in minimized well-being when they are in a state of dysfunction. Chiropractic provides a solution to many common health issues without the use of drugs or physical invasion of the body.
Is chiropractic care safe for pregnant women?
Not only is chiropractic care safe for pregnant women, it is often beneficial, as pregnancy is an uncomfortable time that places forces on the spine and muscles in your back. It is absolutely safe to get chiropractic care throughout pregnancy, as all chiropractors are trained to work with pregnant women. Primarily due to the weight gain, many seek chiropractic care to relieve back or neck pain. More importantly, chiropractic care helps maintain or improve the balance and alignment in your spine and pelvis.
Chiropractic care can help avoid having a breech baby, as it helps the baby assume/resume the optimal birthing position. Most babies settle head down, but as they keep moving in the uterus, it becomes even tougher during birth to control their safety.
Chiropractic adjustments reduce the interference of the nervous system and help in balance the pelvis, muscles and ligaments that are utilized during labor. Maintaining proper function of these units allows the body to proceed through delivery smoothly.
Chiropractic adjustments are also massively beneficial to new moms in the recovery from delivery. During pregnancy and labor, ligaments and tendons become looser than normal. In the weeks after delivery, these ligaments and tendons tighten back to normal positions. But if the accompanying joints aren’t in proper place, there are often chronic misalignments that lead to headaches and back pain.
Pregnancy is often a highly stressful period, and many patients are fearful that chiropractic care will be harmful to their baby. In truth, it is helpful to both mother and child.
Is chiropractic care safe for children?
Absolutely chiropractic is safe for children. In most cases, chiropractic is actually highly recommended for children. As their young bodies are growing and developing, keeping proper alignment and spinal integrity allows their bodies to grow properly. A routine standard of chiropractic care can often help various issues seen regularly with infants and children alike such as: colic (study one, (study two) asthma and back pain, and many others.
Do normal people need chiropractic care?
It depends what is implied by “normal” and “need”. Relatively few people (and I mean very few) have ever been checked and had zero segments that were out of place or dysfunctional. On the other hand, aside from a few infants whose apnea episodes were resolved after adjustments, and patients who were suicidal due to the pain that was then removed from the adjustment, no one would have ever died without chiropractic care.
What do spinal surgeons think of chiropractic adjustments?
It varies. As chiropractic becomes more mainstream and as research continues in the field of chiropractic safety, efficacy and cost effectiveness, chiropractic is becoming more widely accepted by physicians of all disciplines. There are surgeons who believe in the preventative and restorative measures of chiropractic and will refer patients with mild to moderate conditions to chiropractors before putting them under the knife, and there are also doctors who won’t really consider it as viable. This may be due to old and outdated rhetoric, or due to counterproductive competitiveness. Sometimes ignorance of chiropractic is at play.
What is chiropractic viewed as an alternative therapy, but physical therapy isn't?
Without divulging too deep into the history of chiropractic medicine (as that is a blog post of information in and of itself) and its relationship with allopathic medicine (what we now refer to as modern western medicine, drugs & surgery), it can be summed up as simply as this. Physical therapy was born under the wing of medicine and still remains nominally under its control. Whereas chiropractic grew up in competition with, and opposition to, allopathic medicine, and the biased prejudices of that era still survive.
Are chiropractors legitimate?
By the definition of legitimate (allowed according to rules or laws - real, accepted or official – fair or reasonable), yes, chiropractors are legitimate. Chiropractors are licensed by law in all 50 states, and most countries around the world that have that kind of governmental regulation in medical licensing.
Chiropractic, as a field, covers everything from diet and nutrition, to physiotherapy and spinal adjustments, and everything in between. Doctors of Chiropractic use many treatment modalities to treat many different conditions, with variable success (similar in that regard to medical doctors).
When most people ask this question, they are really referring to the chiropractic adjustment and want to know if popping your back can really cure you of anything. The answer to that is also complicated. The “popping noise” doesn’t actually do anything, the motion does, and there is no actual cure to anything. What the adjustment does is remove interference so that your body can cure itself. Similar to how your body can’t heal a splinter, you have to remove the wood that is interfering, then the healing process works just fine. Chiropractors try to remove the obstacle to your health so that your body can function the way that it was designed.