Is chiropractic care safe

One question we get a lot in the clinic is, is chiropractic care safe?

First of all, what is Chiropractic?

‘A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation.’  World Federation of Chiropractic

Chiropractic care can involve a range of treatments to help reduce pain and improve function through your area of concern. These can include:

  • Adjustments and mobilisations of the spine.
  • Soft tissue techniques, including massage, dry needling, stretching and TENs.
  • Rehab exercises to improve mobility and strength
  • Functional exercises to get you back to your chosen activity or sport as soon as possible.
  • Advice on activities to change or avoid to help resolve your pain quickly.

Our chiropractors have more than 20 years combined experience, and ensure they keep up with current evidence-based guidelines. 

So, is it safe?

Spinal manipulation (or adjustment) is generally quite safe when performed by a trained chiropractor.  Many research studies have shown the benefits and safety of chiropractic care. In many musculoskeletal conditions, chiropractic care is recommended as a treatment option before more invasive procedures are considered. 

However, as with any medical intervention, there are always some potential risks and side effects.

What are the risks?

Common side effects range from mild muscle aches/pains (similar to after exercises) to mild headaches, dizziness, fatigue and nausea that generally resolve within 24 hours. These are experienced by approximately 1 in 3 people. 

Rare side effects can include potential injuries to the discs in the neck or low back which can bring on nerve pain. The risks for these range between 1 in 62,000, to 1 in 188,000. 

There are other extremely rare, potentially severe risks that may be associated with chiropractic care, such as stroke and cauda-equina syndrome. These are extremely rare, about 1 in 1 million to 1 in 5.8 million, but have certain risk factors associated with them. This is why a full history and physical examination is performed before any treatment is administered. It enables your chiropractor to assess what treatments are suitable for your specific case, and discuss any potential risks/side effects with you. For more details on what to expect in your first appointment, click here.

Is chiropractic care safe during pregnancy?

Yes, chiropractic care is considered safe and effective during pregnancy. For more info, check out our blog post here.

If you are experiencing severe headaches, new onset of numbness, or stroke-like symptoms following a chiropractic appointment,  please speak to your health care practitioner or consider going to the emergency department. 

References. 

  1. Cagnie, B. et al. (2004). How common are side effects of spinal manipulation and can these side effects be predicted? Manual Therapy 9: 151-156

  2. Rubinstein, S.M. et al. (2008). Predictors of adverse events following Chiropractic care for patients with neck pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 31(2): 94-103. 

  3. Rubinstein, S.M. et al. (2019) Benefits and harms of spinal manipulative therapy for the treatment of chronic low back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ 2019;364:l689

  4. Lin, I, et al. (2019). What does best practice care for musculoskeletal pain look like? Eleven consistent recommendations from high-quality clinical practice guidelines: systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 0:1-10.

  5. Stuber, K., Wynd, S., & Weis, C. (2012). Adverse events from spinal manipulation in the pregnant and postpartum periods: a critical review of the literature. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies20(1), 8. doi: 10.1186/2045-709x-20-8