Chiropractic care is among the safest, non-invasive, drug-free therapies available for people suffering from joint pains, neck pain, back pain, headaches, and many other neuromusculoskeletal issues. Although chiropractic has a great safety record, every health treatment does have a few potential negative effects. However, in chiropractic care, these risks are practically negligible. Though most people experience instant relief after commencing their treatment, some of them may have mild aches or soreness – something that also happens after a good exercise session. Current studies show that any minor soreness or discomfort after a session of spinal manipulation usually goes away within 1 day.
How safe is chiropractic care?
Apart from being safe, spinal manipulation also happens to be incredibly effective since it allows patients to recover faster compared to traditional care options.
A study published by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics in March 2004 concluded that chiropractic treatment was more effective compared to traditional options at treating cases of chronic pain in the lower back region. Additionally, a July 2003 study in Spine also revealed that manual spinal manipulation was much better at offering short-term respite for patients with chronic spinal pain compared to traditional medications.
Safety of Chiropractic Neck Adjustments
Some kinds of headaches and neck pain are typically treated with neck adjustment therapy. Also known as cervical manipulation, it improves joint mobility near the neck region, reduces muscle spasm levels, and restores range of motion to normal, thus relieving the tension and pressure on that area. It’s a procedure that’s usually done manually to the joints of the neck region. It reduces stiffness, soreness, pain, and improves one’s ability to rotate and move the neck freely.
Neck manipulation also happens to be remarkably safe. Although certain reports claim that upper high-velocity neck manipulation is associated with vertebral artery dissection or strokes, a conclusive study is yet to be done on this topic, because it occurs so rarely. Although there are no reports specifically studying the incidence of strokes in the population undergoing high-velocity upper neck manipulation, it’s a rare occurrence – around 1 in 5.85 million manipulations – which is based on scientific studies and clinical reports that have been made to date.
The odds of any real danger is so low that you’re far likelier to get hurt from an accident while driving to the chiropractor’s office than from the treatment itself. It’s been theorized that a severe sudden headache and/or upper neck pain is an indicator of pre-stroke conditions, which many people mistakenly dismiss as a mechanical issue with their joints and seek treatment with their chiropractor. Additionally, certain activities like stargazing, shampooing at a salon, and rapid head movements while driving are all known to cause aneurysms spontaneously and result in a stroke. However, it’s next to impossible to predict such occurrences accurately.
If you’re consulting a chiropractic doctor for your headaches or upper-neck pain troubles, be clear about all your symptoms, which will help them recommend the most effective and safest treatment for your condition, even if that requires another healthcare provider’s expertise. If you’re worried about stroke, don’t forget to air your concerns with your Doctor of Chiropractic. They will review your medical condition and recommend alternative therapies such as soft-tissue techniques, therapeutic exercise, or joint mobilization, depending on the severity of your condition.
Click here to download a paper about chiropractic safety titled Chiropractic- A Safe and Cost Effective Approach to Health.
Multiple Safe Treatment Options Available
One thing to remember is that chiropractic care is more than just chiropractic adjustments. Doctors of Chiropractic are musculoskeletal experts licensed to use a host of treatments with spinal manipulation being one of the tools to treat the entire neuromusculoskeletal system. This means that there are other ways to ensure your safety when visiting a chiropractic physician. There are a variety of techniques available to achieve similar goals but it does matter how many tools are in your toolbox. Extremity adjustments are often helpful for arm and lower body issues. Chiropractors can provide soft tissue treatments like Graston Technique and dry needling, as well as using cold laser therapy, electric muscle stimulation, foot orthotics, kinesio taping and corrective exercises. Chiropractic offices often employ massage therapists as well.
Regarding chiropractic adjustments, many chiropractors have learned a variety of techniques to perform adjustments other than using the quick movement that produces the characteristic “pop” or “crack” of a joint. Some use instruments called an Activator device and others use a special table that raises and drops down to produce a “gentler” adjustment. Chiropractors use these techniques because the fast movement is not always appropriate for all patient populations or conditions and some patients dislike the cracking sound or are too anxious to be adjusted that way. Other mobilization techniques can also be used to increase the movements. The point is that there should be multiple tools in your healthcare provider’s toolbox to get you the right treatment to get you back on the road to health.
Risks of Traditional Medical Treatments
People have the right to be aware of the risks and dangers associated with the treatments that they choose, including injections, medications, surgeries, chiropractic therapy. Cortisone shots can be helpful in certain situations, but there are reasons that the number of steroid shots in a joint are limited to about 3 per year with about 6 weeks between shots. Ironically, cartilage damage can occur as well as thinning or death of nearby bone with larger or repetitive doses.
Surgical options are recommended to many patients in the conventional healthcare system for conditions that could have been easily treated with manipulation. Surgery, in general, carries more risks than any non-invasive practice such as chiropractic treatment. Prolonged bed rest also carries certain risks such as blood clots, bone mineral loss, cardiopulmonary deconditioning, and muscular atrophy.
Most people have heard about the stomach and ulcer issues that can be associated with prolonged use but are not aware of the fact that around 33% of hospitalizations and deaths linked to acute gastrointestinal bleeding are the result of the usage of NSAID painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin, according to a study published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Most do not know that there is an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke as well as kidney problems associated with chronic use. Most do not realize that there is a possibility of liver failure and death associated with acetaminophen use.
Talk to your medical doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about your medication usage. For all pain medications, they should be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time.
Ongoing Research on Chiropractic Safety
There is a saying among chiropractors that headaches are not the result of an aspirin deficiency. Safe and effective chiropractic treatment is a good conservative option.
Chiropractic researchers have been studying the risks and benefits of manual spinal adjustment therapy for treating back and neck pain for years. Numerous literature reviews, research papers, and clinical trials are already underway to provide a balanced view of the complications and risks of chiropractic neck adjustment.
As of now, the evidence strongly suggests that chiropractic treatment options carry negligible risk but we do take precautions and identify people with high-risk factors and guide them accordingly, thus rendering treatment effectively and responsibly.
Multiple medical organizations and governmental agencies recognize the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic. The FDA, CDC, IOM, Joint Commission (some commentary), Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, and the American College of Physicians have recommended the use of non-drug treatment, like chiropractic, for pain before other treatments, including opioids. Look here for even more information on the topic.