The American College of Physicians (ACP) states that more than 35 million Americans seek medical help from chiropractors every year to relieve pain, and muscle spasms, increase flexibility and improve their range of motion. According to SnapCrack Chiropractic, chiropractors manipulate the joints to help realign bones that have moved out of place due to an injury or repetitive activity.
Are chiropractors safe?
Chiropractors are licensed healthcare practitioners who spend three to five years training for their profession. Moreover, chiropractic care is one of the safest therapies one can use in treating back and neck pain, headaches, joint pain, or any other conditions.
When performing a chiropractic adjustment, a chiropractor typically follows these steps:
- They will first discuss the patient’s health history (medical conditions and past surgeries included)
- Will physically examine the spine by analyzing posture
- Order an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography scan (CT)
- Check reflexes and explore the range of motion
However, as there is no therapy completely free of potential side effects, it may be possible for some adverse effects to occur once in a while.
Chiropractic adjustment side effects
While chiropractic care is considered low risk, some potential side effects may appear. The most common side effects include:
- Temporary increase in joint pain
- Muscle soreness after a chiropractic adjustment (resolved in about 24 hours)
Most patients experience relief immediately following a chiropractic adjustment, but some can still feel mild aches or soreness. Similar to muscle soreness after exercise, it typically occurs within the first few hours after treatment. It is recommended to use an ice pack to reduce the symptoms.
If you want help with your neck pain, neck manipulation is known to be a safe procedure. However, some patients may experience side effects such as headache, fatigue, or continuing pain.
In rare cases, chiropractic adjustments can cause:
- Stroke due to neck manipulation
- Pinched nerves due to compression of nerves in the lower spinal column
- Herniated discs in your spine or worsening of an existing disk herniation
All side effects are extremely rare and are more likely to occur if you seek medical care from an unlicensed practitioner. Reports show that a stroke associated with neck adjustments is extremely rare, about 1 case in 5.85 million chiropractic adjustments. You are more likely to suffer such an injury from everyday activity than chiropractic manipulation.
Separately, under no circumstance should you seek chiropractic adjustment if you suffer from:
- Cancer in your spine
- Severe osteoporosis
- An increased risk of stroke
- A known bone abnormality in the upper neck
- Numbness or loss of strength in your leg or arm
What to seek help from a chiropractor?
Before visiting a chiropractor, you should check whether they are licensed and trained to deliver chiropractic care. The chiropractor must ensure that they will offer the safest and most effective treatment for your medical condition. At your first consultation, be very specific about your symptoms and ask about any concerns you may have.
Based on your condition and the problems that need to be treated, a chiropractor may forego manipulation but recommend therapeutic exercise, soft-tissue techniques, or a treatment regimen of joint mobilization.
On the other hand, you should know that not everyone responds to chiropractic treatments. More than 60% of patients see improvements and feel relief after their first visit, while about 30% may need more than two or three chiropractic adjustments.
How soon you will notice results depends entirely on the extent of your injury and how your body responds to the treatment. Additionally, other factors that play a significant role in how quickly the chiropractic adjustments show results are your age, daily activity, and mobility levels. If your symptoms do not improve after a few weeks of chiropractic care, it might not be the best option for you and your medical condition.
Chiropractic care is generally effective and safe. The primary goal is to improve symptoms, relieve pain, and improve physical movement. Consider discussing your symptoms with your primary doctor and then seek medical care. Don’t let your pain keep you from doing the things you love.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.