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Myth: Chiropractic care is not safe or effective

by | November 17, 2016

Chiropractic care has been showed in multiple different studies to be effective for the treatment of acute and chronic pain in the low back and neck. Many people think of chiropractors as back doctors or spine specialists and this is very true. This is where the majority of the evidence lives in our effectiveness. There is also a good deal of evidence that shows the chiropractic care is effective for treating many different types of headaches. There are all kinds of studies that show improvement in outcomes like pain and function. In many cases, chiropractic care shown to be superior to traditional medical care in achieving a sustained therapeutic benefit.

Some of this information is shown on my website, found here. You can also look on this site under the heading “Chiropractic Works and Saves Money” to see the numerous studies on how effective chiropractic is. Even more information can be found on the following site. http://www.chiro.org/research/

When it comes to safety, chiropractic care is one of the most conservative types of treatment available for neuro-musculoskeletal problems. Just like any kind of intervention, there is some risk with seeking treatment but the risk with chiropractic care is minimal. The most common side effect of chiropractic care is muscle soreness after being treated, which is similar to the muscle soreness after doing a new exercise. Occasionally, soft tissue injuries, rib fractures or burns may occur from some treatments. We list some of the other possible but very rare complications that have been associated with chiropractic treatment on our Informed Consent form.

Stroke is the most serious thing that has been associated with chiropractic adjustments and risk is possibly one stroke per 5 million adjustments. Some studies put it as high as one stroke per 10 million adjustments. A single chiropractor would need to be in practice for 1430 years before having a patient who had a stroke shortly after being treated. If you were to take the entire careers of 48 chiropractors, only one of those chiropractors would have had a patient who had had a stroke.

Chiropractic opponents promote the idea that chiropractors cause strokes even though numerous studies of cadavers showed that normal vascular anatomy is not affected nor damaged during a neck adjustment. Comparisons between visits to a chiropractic physician and visits to a family doctor showed no difference in the rate of strokes. This is to say that if a chiropractor caused strokes, there would be way more strokes after visiting a chiropractor than after visiting a family doctor, but this is not the case. These events are extremely rare and typically result from the fact that neck pain and headaches are frequent complaints of people who have the type of strokes attributed to chiropractors. People like to say that correlation doesn’t lead to causation when it comes to statistics. In the case of stroke, chiropractic adjustments are no more correlated to having a stroke than sleeping or working with your hands over your head.  http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/stroke.shtml

Now when talking about chiropractic and stroke, the data is clear that stroke is extremely rare when it comes to chiropractic treatment. Independent of this concept, there is the risks of other medical procedures. Just because another procedure is dangerous, it doesn’t effect the safety of chiropractic treatment. In other words, just because spinal surgery is risky, it doesn’t mean that chiropractic manipulation is safe. That being said, I think you should have a comparison to what the risk of traditional medical treatments are for things like headache and neck pain. As I said chiropractic care is one of the most conservative forms of care possible for these conditions, so it should be less risky when you look at the numbers. So let’s go on the higher end of the spectrum and if we said that one out of every three million neck adjustments resulted in a complication, the frequency would be 0.3 per million. In comparison, the death rate for the following activities would be:

  • Soccer: 39 deaths per million
  • Driving a Car: 169 deaths per million
  • Using over the counter pain medication: 400 deaths per million
  • Spinal Surgery: 700 deaths per million
  • Appendix Removal: 13,300 deaths per million
  • Total Hip Replacements: 4,900 – 15,300 deaths per million
  • Cervical Manipulation: 0.3 complications per million

http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/CVA/Cerebrovascular_Accidents.shtml#Table_2

So as you can see, chiropractic care is not only safe, but it is also effective at treating a wide variety of problems.  In comparison to other available treatments, it is much safer.

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