Are chiropractic adjustments safe?
Yes, all the evidence is that chiropractic is a safe and effective form of care when provided by qualified chiropractors. The approach to care that chiropractors take is recommended in the relevant European guidelines. Chiropractic care carries less risk than the medications commonly prescribed for neuro-musculo-skeletal symptoms (eg. painkillers and anti-inflammatories) and is far safer than spinal surgery.
Chiropractic has the added benefit of helping to address the cause of many problems rather than just masking the symptoms. In fact, the most dangerous part of chiropractic is driving to and from the practice. Patients may experience some side affects such as feeling more uncomfortable, stiff or tired for a day or so – these affects are normally minor and do not last for very long.
That’s changing. Years of prejudice and bias are giving way to research showing the benefits of chiropractic care. Attitudes are slow to change. However, as the public demands alternatives to drugs and surgery, more and more medical practitioners are referring their patients to chiropractors.
In Ireland we have the added problem that there is no legislation protecting the public, allowing a number of unqualified persons to pass themselves off as chiropractors. Many CAI chiropractors enjoy good relations with local doctors, to their patients’ benefit.
Will my doctor approve?
Increasingly, GPs are recognising chiropractic as an effective complementary treatment, particularly for back pain. However, some are less keen to refer patients to chiropractors. You do not need a GP’s referral to visit a chiropractor.
Why do some Chiropractors call themselves Doctors?
The courtesy title ‘Dr’ is used by medical doctors, dentists, vets and chiropractors. The title ‘Dr’ is not protected in law, and may be used by chiropractors providing they make it clear that:
- they are qualified chiropractors
- they are not registered medical practitioners
Is there scientific proof that chiropractic works?
Particularly for low back pain, yes. The Clinical Standards Advisory Group recommended in 1994 that there should be earlier access to the manipulative therapies and a redistribution of resources within the NHS to make this happen. In September 1996 the Royal College of General Practitioners issued guidelines for GPs which recommend manipulative treatment within the first six weeks for patients with low back pain. They also state that the risks of manipulation are very low in skilled hands.
Now research is beginning to concentrate on how chiropractic affects other areas of the musculo-skeletal system, including a trial at the University of Odense in Denmark 1 on the effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of neck-related headache and a Canadian patient satisfaction study 2 which shows chiropractic as an effective means of resolving or improving back and/or neck pain.
Many chiropractors regularly report success in treating babies with colic, cases of asthma and high blood pressure, digestive complaints, period pain and many other conditions which are not directly related to the spine and joints. As a result, researchers all over the world, including the Anglo European College of Chiropractic and the British College of Chiropractic are also investigating the effect chiropractic has on pain and disease in the organs of the body.
1. Nilsson N, Christensen HW, Hartvigsen J, The Effect of Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache, J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1997; 20:326-330
2. Verhoef MJ, Page SA, Waddell SC, The Chiropractic Outcome Study: Pain, Functional Ability and Satisfaction with Care, J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1997, 20(4):235-240
Have I got a “trapped nerve” or “slipped disc”?
These are common, general layman’s terms used to describe a multitude of conditions. Your chiropractor will make a more specific diagnosis and explain your condition to you.
Your chiropractor will begin your first consultation by taking a full case history. Then you will be given standard orthopaedic and neurological tests and the movement of your spine and joints will be checked. If X-rays are necessary to assist the diagnosis, you will be referred to a local unit.
If we identify an underlying condition for which other treatment is appropriate, you will be referred to your GP or another specialist without delay. Chiropractic can, however, be very helpful in providing additional relief even for conditions such as these.
As well as using manipulation, your chiropractor may use ice or heat treatment, as well as other techniques, having explained exactly how they work.
How long does treatment take?
The first consultation takes, on average, an hour, and a treatment session about 20 minutes, but this will vary according to your condition and your needs.
Will treatment hurt?
Manipulation, when carried out correctly by a qualified practitioner, is not painful. If you have acute muscle spasm, when even the lightest touch hurts, there may be some discomfort. Sometimes, if you have had a problem for some time, you may feel sore whilst your body starts to adjust. Your chiropractor will tell you if this is likely to happen.
How long will it take to get better?
Your recovery is dependent on many factors – the problem, the length of time you have had it, your lifestyle and your own commitment to any rehabilitative exercises and advice which your chiropractor may recommend.
What’s an adjustment?
Chiropractic adjustments (manipulation) usually involve a quick thrust that helps add motion to spinal joints that aren’t moving right. Some methods use the doctor’s hands, an instrument, a special table, the force of gravity, or extremely light contacts. There are many ways to adjust the spine, each adapted to an individual’s needs and comfort levels..
What makes the sound during the adjustment?
Lubricating fluids separate the bones of each spinal joint. Some adjusting methods can produce a sound when the gas and fluids in the joint shift. The sound is interesting, but isn’t a guide to the quality or value of the adjustment.
Are all patients adjusted in the same way?
No. Your treatment programme will be tailored to your specific needs.
Can I adjust myself?
No. Some people can make their joints “pop” but that’s not an adjustment! Worse, damage can occur by mobilising a joint with weakened muscles and ligaments. Adjustments are specific and take years to master. Even your chiropractic doctor must consult a colleague to benefit from chiropractic care.
How long will I need chiropractic care?
After patients get the relief they want, many choose to continue with some type of periodic care. These patients show up for their visits feeling great. These visits can help support the final stages of healing and help detect and resolve new problems before they become serious. Our job is to offer the very best care and your job is to decide how much of it you want.
Should I bring my family for chiropractic checks?
Yes. The strength of chiropractic is that it can help prevent discomfort, pain and even disease, and is suitable for everyone. It is entirely appropriate to visit a chiropractor even if you have no pain, as restrictions in movement can often be detected before symptoms appear.
What is the difference between chiropractic and osteopathy?
There are differences in technique and approach, as well as some similarities. The important factor is that the practitioner is well-qualified. Both professions now have statutory regulation.
Is chiropractic treatment safe, even if I’ve already had surgery?
Chiropractic is remarkably safe when treatment is carried out by a properly qualified practitioner. Your chiropractor is trained to recognise conditions which require referral elsewhere, and can treat you even after surgery.
Why should I return if I’m feeling fine?
Your chiropractor has treated you, so allowing your body to heal, but if you continue the lifestyle which caused the original condition, regular treatment should also continue.
For whom is chiropractic suitable?
Chiropractic treatment is suitable for almost everyone, including newborn babies, the elderly, pregnant women and sports enthusiasts, those with osteoporosis and those who have had previous back surgery. Your Chiropractor is trained to know for which conditions treatment is contraindicated. Once you are better, your chiropractor will help you to maintain your own health, and keep your body working as it should, by offering exercise and lifestyle advice for you to follow in the future.
Will I receive any medication for my pain?
No. Chiropractic doctors don’t dispense drugs. Because we rely on natural methods, we can show you how to use ice to control painful symptoms. When properly applied, ice can have an analgesic effect without the side effects of pain medications.
What if chiropractic doesn’t work?
If we’re unable to find and correct the cause of your particular health problem, we will refer to other specialists who may be able to help. Your health is our only goal.