Is chiropractic care safe?
This is a common question I hear from patients that have never visited a Chiropractor before.
My opinion as a practicing Chiropractor for over 10 years is that yes chiropractic care is safe.
According to WedMD.com over 22 million people a year visit a Chiropractor and “Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care are generally considered safe”.
The American Chiropractic Association states that Chiropractic care is widely recognized as the safest drug-free non-invasive treatment for musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain, TMJD, headaches, or car accident injuries.
Each year in the United States 250,000 people die each year from a medical mistake such as taking the wrong prescription medicine or on the operating table after an error. Even with the low risk of having a serious issue after a chiropractic adjustment, it is also important to recognize that there are risks and benefits to every treatment.
I would like to answer some of the top questions I have been asked by patients in my office who were nervous or scared about receiving chiropractic care.
Can a Chiropractor paralyze you and is chiropractic safe for neck pain?
It is possible but it would be extremely rare. I have never heard of a patient being paralyzed by a Chiropractic adjustment. Americans visit chiropractors more than 250,000,000 times per year and 30 percent of these visits involve cervical manipulation. Estimates of having a serious complication after a cervical manipulation are around 1 in 6 million.
Can a Chiropractor hurt your back?
Yes. This does happen and there are a host of conditions that need to be ruled out by your Chiropractor to determine if you are a candidate for chiropractic care. Some contraindications to chiropractic adjustments include certain arthritic conditions, on an area with a broken bone, dislocated vertebrae, cancer, or infection of the spine.
Can a Chiropractor break your neck?
While this is rare and unusual it can and happen. Chiropractors are well trained in determining pre-existing medical conditions that are not safe for performing cervical manipulations. Estimates of having a serious complication after a cervical manipulation are around 1 in 6 million. People with an existing fracture in the cervical spine, with a prior history of stroke or advanced osteopenia, should not receive manual chiropractic adjustments to the neck.
It is important to note that recent studies suggest that there is little risk of suffering a stroke from a chiropractic adjustment to the neck.
According to Spine-Health.com, “The alleged association between and chiropractic visits were recently compared and contrasted with primary care physician (PCP) visits and vertebrobasilar artery stroke. According to the authors of this particular study:
- There was “no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated with chiropractic care compared to primary care.”2
- The alleged correlation more likely had to do with patients seeking chiropractic treatment of already-existing VBA symptoms (headache and neck pain) before the stroke took place.2“
What are chiropractic side effects?
Some have concerns that seeing a chiropractor may cause more damage. While it is rare to have serious complications like a fracture, stroke or herniated disc after a spinal manipulation, some common milder side effects can occur. These include headache, fatigue, soreness or discomfort.
Chiropractic adjustments work by restoring the spine’s natural mobility in the vertebral column in the neck, mid-lower back, sacrum and pelvis.
What is the cracking and popping sound during a chiropractic adjustment?
The cracking and popping heard during a chiropractic adjustment are caused by the capsules around the vertebral facet joints when they are being reset. The vertebral capsules contain synovial joint fluid and gases. Adjusting the spinal vertebrae restores the synovial fluid pressure and releases a build-up in gases that may cause pressure, pain, inflammation and tightness in and around the spine and muscles.
As the synovial joint pressure decreases during a chiropractic adjustment gas is released. This causes cavitation. The cavitation is what you hear when there is a cracking or popping in the neck or back during a chiropractic adjustment.
Why does back cracking feel so good?
Back cracking causes the body to release endorphins called Epinephrine and Norepinephrine. These endorphins are responsible for blocking pain and when released produce a euphoric feeling. These are the same chemicals responsible for the euphoric feeling runners experience, often referred to as a “joggers high”. These Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and when released block pain and produce a euphoria similar to the feeling one gets while running. The release of pressure and gasses in the spine also produces a positive feeling of relief.
Chiropractors are well trained in determining risk factors associated with the chiropractic adjustment. A detailed examination and health history will be performed upon your first chiropractic visit to determine if you are a candidate for chiropractic treatment. Diagnostic studies such as X-ray or MRI may be ordered to determine your need for care.
If you have any additional questions please feel free to get in touch here.
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Dr. Jeffrey Gerdes, D.C.