Is chiropractic care safe?
Chiropractic is one of the safest forms of non-invasive treatments for nerve, muscle, soft tissue and bone related problems. Chiropractic care has a great safety record but is only safe when administered by an experienced Doctor of Chiropractic. Chiropractic adjustments should not be attempted by untrained individuals or medical professionals with expertise in other areas.
Generally speaking, when it comes to matters regarding chiropractic care and safety, chiropractic care is indeed deemed to be very safe. However, like all medical and preventative treatments, it is not without its risks.
As with most medical treatment, chiropractic care does have side effects. Though in general safe, some patients have experienced mild pain and discomfort following their first few treatments. As treatments became more frequent; however, the pain began to subside. Other side effects may include a stiff neck or a minor headache. Again, with time and regular treatments, these will subside.
How do chiropractors become licensed?
Nobody would doubt that chiropractors are skilled and trained professionals. They graduate from specialist health colleges with degrees as Doctors of Chiropractic (once they have sat the exams and obtained all licenses and certificates needed). However, chiropractors are not medical doctors. That is not their remit, and none will argue that they are in fact M.Ds.
However, a student chiropractor studies for thousands of hours as part of the requirements to gain a license. They study the same number of hours (in the classroom) required of any aspiring M.D.
They spend eight years at college studying to get their licenses. Many study four years as undergraduates, most majoring in pre-med, then four years on chiropractic graduate programs. These are devoted people who genuinely want to help aid sufferers.
Now, that is cleared up, let’s get on to the subject of chiropractic treatment itself and its many health benefits.
Is chiropractic care good for you?
There is a great deal of scientific research out there, which supports the fact that chiropractic adjustments can be very beneficial for the human body. Despite this, some people are still skeptical as to whether chiropractic care is actually good for you or not. Here is a look at several benefits backed up with credible research, associated with chiropractic care:
Treat pain at the source?
If you are suffering from headaches, neck pain, back pain, sciatic pain, or anything else, how do you manage it? For many people, they rely on painkilling drugs and medications. While these drugs and medications do indeed help to get rid of the pain temporarily, they only mask it instead of treating it at its source. As soon as they wear off, the pain returns.
Too many of these drugs and medications can be actually end up being bad for your health leading to further side effects and health issues.
Chiropractic adjustments, however, can help to treat the pain at the source. Many people experience various forms of pain and discomfort due to something as trivial as a trapped or pinched nerve. A chiropractic adjustment will have said nerve freed, providing instant pain relief. As long as the sufferer follows the advice of the chiropractor, the problem should not return.
Another key benefit of chiropractic care is the fact that it is very personalized. Chiropractic care does not utilize a ‘one size fits all’ model. Each case is different, and subsequently, each treatment is different.
Great for the joints and posture
Many people suffering from poor posture and/or bad joints often experience a great deal of relief from receiving a chiropractic adjustment. Poor posture and joint issues are often related to misalignment of the spine. Chiropractic adjustments are designed to realign the spine, which in turn will improve posture and help alleviate joint pain and discomfort.
Is chiropractic care preventive?
When people tend to think of chiropractic treatments, they see them as just that ‘treatments’ rather than preventative measures. Think about it, if your neck, back, shoulders, and joints, in general, are feeling fine, why would you book in to visit a chiropractor?
Many people would only book an appointment with a chiropractor if they were experiencing pain and/or discomfort. It turns out, however, that chiropractic treatments could potentially be classed as preventive. As we grow older, joint issues become more frequent, and we experience more pain and discomfort. We become less mobile, and misalignment of the spine is more common.
Visiting a chiropractor earlier on in life, can potentially help you avoid these issues as you begin to age. Chiropractors know precisely what signs to look out for when it comes to helping you achieve healthy spine and healthy joints. Visiting a chiropractor could potentially allow them to diagnose an issue that could cause problems later in life and nip it in the bud before issues arise. Not only that, but they can also offer help and advice on how to look after the spine and how to practice good posture.
To summarize, chiropractic care can indeed be seen as a preventative measure, rather than just a treatment for pre-existing conditions.
How long does chiropractic care take to get results?
If you are dealing with a misaligned spine, as well as the various symptoms that go with it, you have probably considered booking an appointment with a chiropractor. Now, there can be a certain degree of unrealistic expectation when it comes to chiropractic care, which we are going to address now.
Often, you will find that patients will book an appointment for an adjustment to help address only an extreme ailment. They will receive one treatment, and depending on the condition they will likely experience no real improvement after just one session.
Often, patients will deem the treatment to be unsuccessful and may not bother to return for their next session. Chiropractic care is ongoing and it can take weeks before a patient begins to notice full improvement of their symptoms.
Generally, it can take anything between one and four weeks before a vast improvement is noticeable. For less-severe cases, patients will often experience a pain reduction of anything from 40% to 60% after their first visit.
With regular visits, the pain can potentially subside completely. Generally, experts recommend programs lasting 2 – 4 weeks, requiring adjustments 2 or 3 times each week. Again, this all depends on the severity of your issues.
When should you seek chiropractic care?
In adults, back pain is incredibly common. So common in fact, that around 85% of all adults will experience some form of back pain in their life. Back pain and back issues relating to the spine are some of the more common reasons why people visit chiropractors. But when should you seek chiropractic care?
Here are six common signs that you may need to visit a chiropractor:
1. You often suffer from persistent headaches or migraines
While we all suffer from headaches from time to time, if you experience frequent headaches or migraines, you may wish to book an appointment to see a chiropractor. Muscle tension in the back, or pinched nerves, could be causing these issues, and chiropractic adjustments would soon set things right.
2. You suffer from persistent neck pain
If you find that your neck often hurts you, a chiropractor could help to literally ‘straighten’ things out. Neck pain is not something that should be ignored. Even if it is just a dull ache, it is still recommended that you visit a chiropractor.
3. Lower back pain
If you experience lower back pain, especially persistent pain, this could be due to nerve issues or misalignment of the spine. A chiropractor will easily be able to diagnose the cause of your back issues, and carry out the necessary adjustments, helping to get you pain free.
4. You work a sedentary job
Because we are becoming ever more reliant on computers and modern technology, more and more of us now work sedentary jobs.
In general, people working office jobs, or sedentary jobs (where they spend a lot of time sitting down) will be more likely to require chiropractic adjustment than people with fairly active work lives.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, hunched forward over a keyboard, you will probably suffer from bad posture. The increased rates of pressure being placed upon the neck, shoulders, and back, result in misaligned neck and spine. Over time, this could result in the bones and discs slipping slightly. These slipped disks and bones could knock your spine out of alignment.
A chiropractor will align your spine for you in no time at a relatively short course of treatments.
5. Your shoe soles wear out differently
This may sound odd but, bear with us here. The next time you take your shoes off, turn them over, and examine the soles. Are the soles evenly worn, or is one worn out significantly more than the other? If it’s the latter, this could be a result of subluxation in the spine, which is a clear-cut sign that your body is out of alignment. You need an adjustment.
A chiropractic adjustment will help you to realign your spine and prevent further issues arising.
6. You suffer from a limited range of motion
We know that some people are more flexible than others, but if you notice that you are struggling with a reduced range of motion, a chiropractic adjustment could be on the horizon.
If your neck, arms, legs, and joints aren’t as flexible as they once were, a chiropractor will help to realign your joints and bones, helping to relieve pain and discomfort, and improving your body’s natural range of motion.
Why are return visits necessary?
As mentioned, chiropractic adjustments are carried out over the course of several weeks, and it can be days, even weeks before noticeable improvements are recorded. Once your pain and discomfort have subsided, it is essential to continue to visit your chiropractor for the full course of treatments, even if you feel alignment is fine.
This is very much a preventative measure and is a great way of ensuring that your previous symptoms do not return to plague you. The body has an excellent knack for shifting back to its old patterns.
Even if your spine is realigned to your satisfaction after several weeks, if you then stop receiving adjustments, over time your spine could slip out of alignment once again. You would soon find yourself right back at square one especially if you have made no real changes in your daily routine.
Now, if you visit the chiropractor once or twice a month, this would help to ensure that everything was in alignment and where it needed to be. This would help to relieve and prevent pain and discomfort, and it would substantially improve your overall quality of life.
What does research about chiropractic care show?
Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in the amounts of individuals, young and old, seeking chiropractic care. There are many reasons for this and some can be attributed to fashion and other peer pressure influences on individuals. However, there is undoubtedly a large amount of scientific evidence based research available that shows Spinal Manipulative Therapy is indeed beneficial for sufferers of varied physical ailments.
Now, as with all forms of preventative care, when it comes to matters regarding effectiveness, there will always be skeptics. This skepticism is usually based on opinions from others. Because of the wonders of modern technology, people can now pass opinion off as fact, and share said ‘facts’ with the tap of a thumb or the click of a mouse.
For this article, we want solid evidence-based facts regarding chiropractic treatment. We have scoured the web and found some of the latest, most relevant studies and pieces of research regarding chiropractic.
Generally speaking: Some noteworthy mentions about chiropractic
Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is one of the practices that chiropractic uses in their day to day treatments. SMT, as its name suggests, is a “hands-on” treatment and manipulation of the spine. Using slow, small ranging movements at first and then gradually increase the range further throughout the procedure.
SMT is practiced by professionals from all corners of the world and is widely regarded as a positive effect on lower back pain. However, some doubters sometimes have strong opinions on the subject and have tried to claim its inefficiency rather than its many benefits (don’t just take out word for it: read on). So, we have put together some evidence-based research to help the fight back
The American College of Physicians, for example, noted that chiropractic care for acute back pain was particularly effective. They stated that, amongst other treatments, chiropractic treatment in the form of spinal manipulation, was indeed a viable treatment option.
From the ‘Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.’ Patients suffering with chronic lower back pain showed greater rates of improvement, and overall satisfaction after one month, than patients that received no chiropractic treatment from family physicians.
The same journal also noted that chiropractic care offered patients a cost-effective treatment for lower back pain.
It was also noted by Haas et al. (2005) that spinal manipulation therapy was deemed just as effective, if not better, than more traditional forms of treatment.
Even if one was to take a dim and negative view of spinal manipulation (a large portion of a chiropractors work) such as that of Cochrane Reviews, This review sees SMT maximum effects as being ‘only as effective as standard medical care’, then is that not a very positive outcome on its own? To have a treatment that gives the same value as traditional treatments but without any of their side effects?
We have found far more positive evidence-based research that shows the benefits of chiropractic to be of a much higher value than this dim view. The studies below were under all carried out under scientific conditions.
What are the top research studies that show chiropractic care is evidence-based?
We are going to be taking a look at some of the top research studies conducted with regards to chiropractic care and just how effective a treatment it is.
No health professional worth their salt will ever be convinced with anecdotal evidence, opinion or patient reviews alone. So let’s take a look at some of the most renowned and far-reaching studies based on fact, not fiction.
Top research studies that undoubtedly add value to chiropractic work include:
Chiropractic Research: Effectiveness of Manual Therapies
A two-part review by Bronfort et al. which was published in the UK based journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy in 2010.
Using robust randomized controlled trial (RCT) evidence, the first report showed that chiropractic care is efficacious for a variety of physical ailments. Those ailments included neck pain, pain associated with hip and knee, back pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches (a very general term).
In 2011, the Royal College of Chiropractors not wanting to appear overly biased then commissioned Warwick University to hold an independent review dubbed ‘the Warwick Review.’ Warwick University used non-randomized studies, among others and confirmed the findings of the first report.
This independent review found evidence for additional benefits. They subsequently upgraded findings from the previous report from non-conclusive to moderate evidence that chiropractic treatment [along with traditional exercise] was beneficial for the treatment of spinal mobilization, headache caused by disorder of the cervical spine, and rotator cuff disorder.
Chiropractic Research: Chiropractic Adjustment Has The Same Effect as Two Blood Pressure Reducing Medications.
This research study was published back in 2007 in the Journal of Human Hypertension.
The study found strong evidence to support what many physicians have ‘known’ for over a century: that gentle chiropractic adjustment could indeed reduce patient’s blood pressure. This controlled study featured a double-blind placebo and looked at 50 individuals affected with stage 1 hypertension who received no blood pressure-lowering medication. Next, they were split into two groups.
One group received a chiropractic adjustment, whereas the other group received a placebo procedure. After eight weeks, it was found that those receiving the chiropractic adjustment, were able to note a 17-point reduction in blood pressure. This margin can be life-saving.
Chiropractic Research: Chiropractic Adjustments Can Help Children With Autism
This next case study was published in 2013 in the Annals of Vertebral Subluxation. Here, the review was able to outline surprising results, which strongly indicated that chiropractic adjustments could assist with dealing with and reducing the common symptoms associated with autism.
The case looked at a 3-year old female child who suffered from a myriad of autism-related side effects and symptoms. The study noted that after several chiropractic treatments, each of her symptoms began to ease. Her verbal communication improved, her headaches went away, she was able to keep and maintain eye contact, and her quality of life improved drastically.
The parents of this child heard her say “Mama” for the first time and could see a better future and quality of life for both the child and her family.
Chiropractic Research: Chiropractic Treatment Boosts Immune Activity
This research study looks at how chiropractic care could potentially help to boost immunity. There is strong evidence to suggest that chiropractic treatment can possibly help to treat HIV/Aids patients.
Experts believe that it could help to improve the immune system overall and protect an individual from growing sick in a variety of different ways. Firstly, chiropractic treatment has been found to help increase white blood cell counts.
Chiropractic treatment has also been found to increase the production of immunoglobulins and immunoregulatory cytokine IL-2. Cytokines are similar to hormones and assist in wound healing and boosting the neuroimmune network.
Furthermore, studies have found evidence to suggest that chiropractic treatment could also help to reduce the production and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Chiropractic Research: Chiropractic Boosts Antioxidants
From the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics – Many chiropractics have known that form many years that spinal manipulation through chiropractic treatment boost antioxidants in the blood. However, we are on the lookout for only evidence-based studies, so we were happy to find this study from February 2015.
Antioxidants help heal the body of many ailments and so anything that boosts their levels in your body is, of course, welcome news.
The study sample consisted of twenty three individuals who suffered from back pain, neck pain or both. Ten chiropractic treatments were administered in a 5-week timeframe. Blood samples were taken before the adjustments and then straight after.
The study was looking specifically at three antioxidants; Catalase, SOD (superoxide dismutase), and GPx (glutathione peroxidize).
The results were a little underwhelming with Catalase levels, which showed no significant change. However, when the results of levels of SOD (superoxide dismutase), and GPx (glutathione peroxidase were released, it was found that there was indeed a substantial increase.
This study was a small sample it has to be pointed out. However, the research is ongoing, and so we will keep a close eye on these trials and report their findings shortly.
Chiropractic research: Mechanical Neck Pain In Seniors
Maiers M1, Bronfort G2, et al. This was an extensive study given that the number of sufferers participating in the trial was 241. The subjects were all seniors aged 65 and above who has suffered from mechanical neck pain for 12 weeks or more.
The trial split the subjects into three groups; the first group treated with spinal manipulative therapy with home exercise, the second with supervised rehabilitative exercise and home exercise, and the last with home exercise only.
The results were that the first group showed a 10% decrease in pain, the second group showed a 5% decrease, and the last group showed no measurable change.
Now you may be thinking that 10% s not a significant reduction in pain, but I know that sufferers will tell you that 10% less pain in their life is a wonderful achievement.
Chiropractic research: Degenerative Disk Disease
Vieira-Pellenz F, Oliva-Pascual-Vaca A, Rodriquez-Blanco C, et al. Short-term effect of spinal manipulation on pain perception, spinal mobility, and full height recovery in male subjects with degenerative disk disease: a randomized controlled trial (PDF).
In this study, 40 male sufferers of degenerative lumbar disease between the age of 30 to 40 were studied in two groups. The first group receiving a spinal manipulation and the second a placebo procedure (what are these placebos? we can only imagine).
The study was testing for three distinct results; self-perceived pain, testing the patient’s full height, spinal mobility, and hip flexion. With just ONE chiropractic treatment, immediate and clear improvements were noticeable.
Though this is a small and randomized study, the fact that the results were positive after only one session is amazing. Imagine how the subjects would fair with a continued course of chiropractic treatments?
What are the risks of getting chiropractic care?
As beneficial as chiropractic care is, it is not without its own risks (like any medical treatment), and we’d be remiss if we did not highlight some of the associated risks involved.
Pain and discomfort
One of the most commonly reported side effects associated with chiropractic adjustment is pain and discomfort following treatment. Serious adverse side effects are incredibly rare, but according to new research, between 33% and 60% of patients will experience temporary mild pain and discomfort, mainly in the neck and shoulders.
Another reported side effect associated with chiropractic adjustment is a dull headache. Following their first few initial treatments, between 3 and 6 out of 10 patients reported a dull headache. It should be noted that, as treatments became more frequent, the headaches became less and less severe until they eventually wholly dissipated.
Now, in terms of evidence to back up these claims, research is still ongoing. Nevertheless, another commonly reported (yet unproven) side effect associated with receiving chiropractic treatment for the very first time is to experience flu-like symptoms.
Patients noted how they felt nauseous, they ached, suffered from digestive issues, experienced hot and cold flushes, and simply felt ‘out of sorts.’ Some claim that this is because chiropractic treatment assists the release of toxins within the body. It should be noted that this claim has been met with a lot of skepticism in the chiropractic community. So far, there is no solid proof to suggest that chiropractic adjustments do cause flu-like symptoms as a result of toxins being released within the body.
How does chiropractic care work?
Finally, we are going to wrap things up with a quick overview of how chiropractic care works. Chiropractic treatments require a licensed and fully qualified chiropractor to adjust the alignment of the spine.
Chiropractic treatment is effective for several reasons, including:
- Pain management
- To free trapped nerves
- To improve physiological functions in the body
- To facilitate the optimal function of the central nervous system
With optimal spinal alignment, it has been found that vital nerve signals can be transmitted correctly, without any outside interference or disruption. A spine which is out of alignment will result in nerve signals which struggle to be carried optimally.
Your nervous system is in control of each cell in your body. Now you can see why optimal spinal alignment is considered so essential for general health and well-being.
Chiropractic care can help address a number of ailments and health issues, including sciatica. Sciatica is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve. When this occurs, the patient experiences great levels of pain and discomfort from the lower back, all the way down to the leg where the sciatic nerve runs. A chiropractic adjustment could help free up the sciatic nerve, which would provide instant relief from the pain and discomfort caused by compression of the sciatic nerve.
What are the benefits of chiropractic adjustments?
Improved mobility – If you find yourself suffering from reduced mobility, a chiropractic adjustment could be exactly what is needed. Chiropractic treatments will help to loosen up stiff joints and boost mobility in a number of ways. Chiropractic adjustments will significantly enhance your mobility and range of motion, treating everything from a stiff neck to arthritic knees.
Relief from sciatica
If you have ever experienced sciatica, you certainly do not need reminding about how painful and debilitating it can be.
Sciatica is being in a great deal of pain and discomfort caused by compression of, or damage to, the sciatic nerve. It can cause lower back and leg pain and can result in a considerable reduction in leg mobility.
According to medical research, chiropractic adjustments can do wonders when it comes to the treatment and prevention of sciatica. For sciatica sufferers, studies have found that chiropractic adjustments can yield as much as a 72% success rate for relieving sciatica-related discomfort. Physical therapy alone produced a success rate of just 20%.
Great results treating tension headaches
For people that suffer from tension headaches, chiropractic adjustments are very beneficial. In one group trial, it was found that 20% of individuals that suffered from regular tension headaches/migraines, noticed a considerable reduction in the frequency and strength of headaches they experienced. In fact, it was noted how they saw the rate of attacks drop by 90%. On top of that, 49% of individuals in the trial noted how chiropractic treatment helped yielded a dramatic reduction in pain intensity when suffering from a tension headache/migraine.
Drug-free pain relief
Chiropractic treatments and adjustments work effectively for pain management ideal for anybody suffering from pain and discomfort related to the bones, nerves, muscles, and joints.
Typically, when people suffer from a headache, they are often forced to use drugs and medications to relieve the pain. These drugs mask the pain; they do not treat the cause directly. Not only that, but they can also cause unpleasant side effects and can potentially damage your organs and lead to further problems and complications.
Chiropractic adjustments, however, offer a drug-free option for pain relief and pain management, and that is surely the goal here.
Summary: Evidence-based Studies do Exist to Support Benefits
Though this article is over 4000 words long we have barely touched the surface of the full amount of evidence-based studies justifying chiropractic treatment.
Please do more research of your own, and you will also find great resources that back up our findings.
FYI, there were nearly 48,000 chiropractors practicing in America alone (2016 statistics).
So many professionals would not waste their time as chiropractors if they did not believe in their value as health providers. Thankfully the above mentioned studies show that they are indeed a valued part of holistic healthcare programs all over the world.