Are Chiropractic Adjustments Safe?
Are Chiropractic Adjustments Safe?
Safety of chiropractic adjustments is often a concern for people who have never been to a chiropractor before. Myths and rumors swirl around and can influence your decision. Rather than taking a chiropractor’s word for it, here are some scientific studies proving the safety of chiropractic.
Myths and Rumors about Chiropractic
You may have heard that chiropractors are “unscientific” or that the treatments are unsafe. You might have heard something as severe as “don’t let a chiropractor crack your neck because it could cause a stroke or kill you.” The basis of these myths lies in the antagonistic relationship between organized medicine and chiropractic. This relationship dates back to the early 1900’s when no health care providers had regulated education. When organized medicine sought to change requirements, they set standards that were designed for “medical doctors” not those studying “chiropractic.”
Medicine sought to destroy chiropractic through education regulation. When that failed a campaign of slander was initiated and pressure was put on medical doctors to not work with chiropractors for fear of being ostracized. The AMA went so far as to create an entire division to thwart the advancement of chiropractic.
In 1976 a group of chiropractors filed a lawsuit against the AMA for anti-trust. The matter took 15 years to resolve and went all the way to the US Court of
Appeals in which the judge found the AMA, “… intended to “destroy a competitor,” and that there was evidence “showing that the AMA was motivated by economic concerns” and that they had destroyed documents in a cover-up and were “guilty of systematic, long term wrong doing and has not acknowledged its lawlessness”.
Today, there are lingering groups of medical doctors who continue to paint chiropractic as unscientific and dangerous, but as the US Court of Appeals found, these slurs are economically motivated. Some medical doctors simply do not want to compete in the health care market with chiropractors who have earned a reputation to be more effective at relieving many painful conditions. Most of the bias comes from doctors who have never taken a class in chiropractic theory, have never personally been to a chiropractor as a patient or even sat down with one to learn what they know. Luckily, in this more enlightened time, for the most part, medical doctors and chiropractors cross refer patients and work cooperatively as health care partners for the benefit of their patients.
Chiropractic Is Safe—Here’s Proof
The single most damaging myth is the relationship between chiropractic and strokes. There are groups of people who have sought to distort scientific studies to demean the entire chiropractic profession. Many of the anecdotal stories of stroke caused by chiropractors did not even involve chiropractors, but poorly trained medical doctors, physical therapists or lay people trying to manipulate the spine. More cases involved a person presenting with a stroke and when their medical records were examined it was found they had been adjusted by a chiropractor… 30 days prior. The fact of the matter is recent studies show no more correlation between chiropractic and stroke than a patient seeing a medical doctor and soon after having a stroke.
Here’s the scientific proof:
“Not a single case of vertebral artery stroke was found during a study which involved approximately 5 million cervical manipulations from 1965 to 1980 at the National College of Chiropractic Clinic in Chicago”
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1980; 3: 213-19
“A review of more than a half-million treatments over a nine-year period at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College outpatient clinic found no incidents of strokes.”
Upper Cervical Syndrome, Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1988 195-222
NIH reports “An analysis of Medicare claims data from older Americans who sought care for neck pain from chiropractors suggests that cervical spine manipulation is unlikely to cause stroke.”
Whedon JM, Song Y, Mackenzie TA, et al. Risk of stroke after chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare B beneficiaries aged 66 to 99 years with neck pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2015;38(2):93-101.
“Although minor side effects following cervical spine manipulation were relatively common, the risk of a serious adverse event, immediately or up to 7 days after treatment, was low to very low.”
Thiel H W, Bolton J E, Docherty S, et al. Safety of chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine. Spine 2007;32:2375-8.
“There is no clinical or case-control study that demonstrates or even implies that chiropractic spinal manipulation is unsafe in the treatment of low-back pain.” “Chiropractic should be the treatment of choice for low back pain – excluding traditional medical care altogether…”
A Study to Examine the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Low-Back Pain, Ministry of Health, Government of Ontario Canada 1993
Yes, ALL health care interventions involve some risk of side effects. With chiropractic the most common side effect is muscle or joint soreness afterwards that can last 1-3 days and is managed by conservative means. Rib strains from being twisted too vigorously are a fairly common side effect usually in thin women, but usually resolve quickly. Things like fractures particularly ribs can occur, but are rare. The majority of chiropractic patients enjoy their care without side effects.
Serious complications and side effects from chiropractic are very rare and have been estimated to be 1 in every 5.5 million adjustments.
In the real world, there is an easy way to determine the relative risk of an activity or procedure–insurance rates. If you are a young driver, or unsafe driver, your insurance rates will be higher because you put the insurance company at greater risk. Doctors pay for malpractice insurance just in case a problem arises. A general practicing medical physician or internist can expect to pay $5,000 in California to $30,000 in New York or Florida. Ob/Gyn doctors will pay at least $15,000 in CA and over $200,000 in FL. Surgeons are about the same. The risk between a general doctor and one who delivers babies or does surgery is great so they are charged more, much more.
Chiropractors enjoy malpractice premiums often much lower than their car insurance. A chiropractor may pay between $600 and $2,000 a year for good coverage. This low rate reflects the relative low risk for having an adverse event occur during treatment. Just one more piece of data in support of the safety of chiropractic care.
The benefits of chiropractic treatment far exceed the risk.
Chiropractic care is among the safest health care interventions you can experience. You are safer being adjusted than you are taking Tylenol (100,000 hospitalizations and 10,000+ deaths each year) or driving your car (37,000 deaths each year). With minimal side effects of muscle soreness and virtually no risk of major complications compared with the outstanding results patient’s receive, Chiropractic care is definitely worth any negligible risk.
The Verdict: Chiropractic Proven to be Safe
Questions about chiropractic treatment and if it’s appropriate for your condition? Call Dr Marks at (714) 938-0575
You will be evaluated to see if you are a good candidate for chiropractic care. He does not take very case, but for those he does accept, they are happy he did.