Chiropractic care has been an integral part of conservative medicine for over a century. Chiropractors are highly trained healthcare providers dedicated to enhancing overall wellbeing by focusing on the spine and musculoskeletal system. Millions of people worldwide have received incredible, life-enhancing benefits from chiropractic care.
Although people are reaping the benefits of chiropractic care worldwide, there are still stories about Chiropractors not being a safe means of medical treatment. Let’s take a look at the safety of chiropractic care and what signs to look for to know if it is the right option for you.
Let’s Look at The Research
Every intervention, whether in chiropractic, family medicine, or internal medicine, carries both risks and rewards. One of the largest reviews published in Spine Journal emphasized that adverse effects from various interventions are observed across all medical fields. This has most often been identified when providers don’t take the initial assessments and medical history seriously. The crux is not in the intervention but in the approach and recognition of signs and symptoms before the treatment.
For example, in many circumstances where a patient received chiropractic care and experienced a stroke or other severe symptoms following that care, the origin was found to be with the provider’s lack of attention to pre-stroke symptoms noted or displayed in the patient, not the care or intervention.
In fact, studies have also shown that there is no link to causation between chiropractic care and stroke outcomes. However, there is a causation between pre-stroke symptoms not being properly evaluated, missed. This has caused the person, regardless of intervention (drugs, surgery, massage, chiro treatment), to have a serious medical event occurring.
It is every provider’s duty to properly perform evaluations and be trained in recognizing potential pre-stroke symptoms or warning signs.
Chiropractors are highly qualified healthcare providers who can treat almost all musculoskeletal conditions across the body. Study after study has shown that chiropractic adjustments are safe and the most effective form of conservative treatment for musculoskeletal conditions without contraindications present.
One study showed that compared to family physician-directed usual care, full clinical practice guideline (CPG)-based treatment including chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy (CSMT) is associated with significantly greater improvement in condition-specific functioning.
Another study used a doppler ultrasound to track the movement of arteries within the neck during an adjustment. The study concluded that high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) cervical adjustments “consistently show minimal effect of cranio-cervical movement extra and intra-cranial blood flow”. In other words, with patients who experience stroke or health problems related to the arteries in the neck, there is no causation with any prior chiropractic neck adjustments.
A Chiropractor is Not For You If You Have…
1. Stroke Symptoms
One of the most critical conditions that require immediate medical attention is the signs of a stroke.
Symptoms include (but are not limited to)
- Sudden numbness or weakness in one side of the body
- Trouble Speaking or understanding speech
- Blurred or darkened vision
- Severe headache with no known cause should prompt an immediate visit to the ER
There have been a few rare stories that have raised concerns about chiropractic adjustments, especially in the neck region, causing vertebral artery dissection – a type of stroke. However, a comprehensive study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Medicine found that the incidence rate is not only extremely low but has also been found in other healthcare fields, not just chiropractic. This shows us that it is incredibly vital that all practitioners, no matter the field, recognize these symptoms and act promptly.
2. Severe Migraines
While many people seek chiropractic care for tension headaches and mild migraines with successful outcomes, those with severe, chronic migraines might need a neurologist’s assessment. The underlying causes of migraines can be multifaceted, and while spinal adjustments might offer relief for some, it’s essential to get a comprehensive diagnosis and rule out any potential serious underlying causes.
Symptoms to look for with Severe Migraines:
- Aura, or a recurring headache that strikes after or at the same time as sensory disturbances
- Speech disturbances
- Motor deficits
- Ringing in the ears
- Mood changes
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise
3. Infectious Diseases Affecting the Spine
Conditions such as osteomyelitis (an infection in the bone) or spinal epidural abscess are severe and require immediate medical intervention. Chiropractic adjustments are not suitable here and can exacerbate the problem, but a great Chiropractor will do a thorough evaluation, consult, and comprehensive tests to rule this out before proceeding with any type of chiropractic treatment.
4. Advanced Osteoporosis
While chiropractic care can be beneficial for bone health, those with advanced osteoporosis – a condition where bones become brittle and fragile – would not be candidates for Chiropractic adjustments. However, there may be rehabilitative exercises or other assistance that a Chiropractor can provide or at least recommendations for other providers or care to seek out.
5. History of Spinal Surgery
If you’ve had extensive spinal surgery, it’s crucial to consult with your surgeon before seeking chiropractic care. The integrity of the post-surgical spine might be compromised, making it not appropriate for you to have chiropractic adjustments. Again, a great Chiropractor will always take a thorough history and, if a spinal surgery is discovered or revealed, they will do appropriate tests and reach out to coordinate care with your surgeon before starting on any treatment for you.
If you are not showing any of the above signs or symptoms, chiropractic care is scientifically shown to be the best form of conservative care for musculoskeletal injuries and conditions.
A Chiropractor is For You If You Have…
1. Back Pain
Perhaps the most widely recognized condition treated by chiropractors, various studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments are safe and can be significantly effective for both acute and chronic back pain. By adjusting the spine and prescribing the appropriate rehab care for mobilizing and strengthening the area, chiropractors alleviate pain sources and promote better movement patterns.
Chiropractors can also do soft tissue treatment as well as prescribing and performing rehabilitative exercises and stretches to treat the cause and source of the issues to prevent the pain from worsening or returning.
2. Neck Pain
Whether it’s from poor posture, a sudden jerk, or chronic stress, neck pain can be debilitating. Chiropractic care offers non-invasive relief, helping to restore normal motion and alleviating muscle tension.
3. Tension Headaches
While severe migraines might require a more comprehensive approach, tension headaches, or cervicogenic headaches, which often stem from tight traps and neck muscles (hello computers and cell phones!), can be effectively managed with chiropractic adjustments and the appropriately prescribed rehab exercises and treatments.
4. Whiplash and Accident Injuries
Injuries from car accidents, sports, or sudden falls can cause problems like whiplash, muscle sprains or strains, and joint issues. Chiropractors excel in providing relief from such traumatic injuries, with multiple treatment options to facilitate faster natural healing and recovery. In fact, studies show that for accident-related musculoskeletal injuries the best outcomes were found among patients who sought the care of a Chiropractor as their first provider after any treatment that was needed for traumatic or internal injuries.
Sciatica is a debilitating condition caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower back or gluteal region. This condition can cause sharp pain that radiates from the lower back down to the legs, feet or even toes. Chiropractic adjustments and rehab exercises have shown efficacy in reducing this nerve pressure and relieving symptoms. Chiropractic can also provide the foundation for preventing sciatica from returning or worsening.
6. Joint and Muscle Pain
Beyond the spine, chiropractors are trained to understand the body’s biomechanics. Whether it’s hip pain, shoulder tension, or knee issues, targeted care can restore joint mobility and reduce inflammation across the body.
7. Pregnancy or Postpartum Care
Chiropractors are an excellent resource for new or expecting mothers. During pregnancy, the body takes on many changes with a growing baby. A chiropractor can safely help to make the process more comfortable for every stage of the pregnancy. For postpartum care, a chiropractor can provider postpartum recovery care to help strengthen the body. More specifically, chiropractors can help with diastasis recti, pelvic floor concerns and more.
8. Preventative or Maintenance Care
Many people opt for regular chiropractic adjustments, not for treating an existing ailment, but as a preventative measure. By ensuring the spine and musculoskeletal system are functioning and moving properly, they aim to prevent injuries and maintain overall wellness. In other words, they move better and feel better in their daily lives!
The unfortunate reality is that there are good and bad chiropractors just as there are good and bad primary care providers, dentists, plumbers, contractors, etc. It is always best to do your research when choosing a healthcare provider. Ensure the healthcare provider you choose has extensive training and a great reputation. It is also important to make sure your chiropractor takes safety very seriously. Paperwork at the doctor’s office may not be fun, but it’s the key part a doctor needs to give you proper diagnosis and treatment. Be sure your doctor is very thorough in their initial exam, inspection, consultation and history. A great doctor will also always be willing to refer you elsewhere if there is a better course of treatment.
At Kaizo Health, our chiropractors undergo rigorous training to recognize symptoms that fall outside our treatment scope. They also to look for potential red flags that could indicate an impending or serious medical condition or episode. In 30 years of practice, we have never had a patient leave our office with worsened/severe symptoms or side effects. We pride ourselves on our dedication to holistic patient care, which means always putting the patient’s overall health first. If chiropractic care is not suitable, we ensure our patients are directed to the best and most appropriate specialist. If necessary, we have them sent to emergency care.
Empowerment comes from knowledge. Understand your symptoms, know your options, and always ensure you’re getting the best care possible.
Wondering If Chiropractic is Right For You?
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