How safe is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is recognized as one of
the safest types of health care in the world. Numerous studies,
including those funded by governments, universities and nonprofit
research institutions, have proven it to be a successful primary therapy
for neuromusculoskeletal conditions -- a therapy that is safer, in fact,
than most medical procedures used to treat the same conditions.
Chiropractic is also widely used as a complementary mode of care for a
variety of other conditions and diseases and to promote overall health
Is there a connection between stroke and chiropractic
Would you think twice about cradling the phone on your
shoulder, checking your blind spot while backing into a parking space or
getting your hair shampooed at a salon? The risk of stroke from
chiropractic care is no greater than it is from any of these everyday
The source of public concern in this regard is a condition known as
vertebral artery syndrome (VAS), which occurs when sudden head movements
disrupt the blood flow in the vertebral artery, possibly leading to
stroke. As the above examples illustrate, the risk of this complication
arising from upper cervical (or neck) manipulation by a chiropractor is
extremely remote. According to the 1996 RAND report, "The
Appropriateness of Manipulation and Mobilization of the Cervical
Spine," only one out of every one million chiropractic patients
experiences VAS. To put it another way, you are five times more likely
to get hit by lightning than to suffer VAS at the hands of a
Up to 75% of chiropractic patients receive cervical manipulation as part
of their individual chiropractic care. It may be performed as part of
your care for total spinal health and wellness, or for specific causes
such as muscle tension and stiffness, headache or injury. After a
detailed history and examination, if there is any indication that you
would be at risk, your chiropractor will not include a neck adjustment
in your treatment.
How does the safety of chiropractic compare to other
In comparison to allopathic medicine, which uses drugs
and surgery as an integral part of treatment, chiropractic presents far
less risk. Consider, for example, that in the United States an estimated
140,000 people die each year from drug-related reactions. And the risk
of death due to gastrointestinal complications from taking nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen is 400 times
greater that the complication rate for people who receive cervical
manipulation, while the mortality rate for people who undergo cervical
spine surgery is 7,000 times higher.
Human error is another factor that tilts the safety balance in
chiropractic's favor. In the United States, it is estimated that up to
98,000 Americans die yearly from medical errors -- a doctor accidentally
making the wrong incision, a nurse administering the wrong medication,
and so on.
But with all forms of treatment, whether allopathic or alternative, any
risks, however slight, should not be ignored. While the methods used by
chiropractors have proven to be safe in almost all cases, it is a
constant concern for chiropractors to evaluate their patients to
determine if treatment will cause an adverse reaction.
Can chiropractic adjustment damage your joints?
The answer is no. What's more, most chiropractic
adjustments are painless. Often, the adjustment may feel good and can
provide immediate relief from stiffness or tension.
While some people may get nervous about the "pop" that an
adjustment can produce, the sound is not coming from the bones
themselves. It's coming from a lubricant called synovial fluid that's
found in every joint. That fluid contains dissolved gases. Separating
joints creates pressure, which forces the gases to rapidly escape,
creating the "pop."
You may have some discomfort during an adjustment, however, if you've
had a recent injury, as adjustments can irritate inflamed tissue. As
your body heals this should stop. Some people also experience odd
sensations in their extremities after adjustments. This is a normal
reaction to the relieving of pressure on nerves and is usually no cause
Can chiropractic adjustment lead to arthritis?
There is no evidence to suggest that chiropractic care
and manipulation of the spine can lead to arthritis. On the contrary,
chiropractors often care for people with arthritis by maintaining joint
health. However, concern has been raised over the safety of people who
try to adjust themselves, by cracking their own knuckles, for example.
While people might have the right idea by trying to relieve pressure on
the joints, only chiropractors can ensure an adjustment is performed
safely, without possibly weakening or causing harmful friction to
surrounding joint structures. The best advice: Don't try to do it
yourself. Seek the expertise of your chiropractor.
Do chiropractors refer patients to other specialists?
Like other doctors, chiropractors belong to a large
and growing network of health-care professionals and make referrals for
patients when necessary. Chiropractors are well educated to recognize
risk factors and signs of disease and will not hesitate to make a
referral when it's in a patient's best interest.
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