Is It Safe To See A Chiropractor?
With any treatment, there are risks and side effects and chiropractic care is no different. It then comes down to what is the chance that something will happen and if it does, how significant could it be.
Chiropractic care is very safe and effective in helping people deal with a variety of injuries and health issues. While most people respond well to care, sometimes patients may experience some discomfort after a visit including:
- increase in pain
While uncomfortable, these sensations typically will pass and do not need to be worrisome. Similar to having done an exercise for the first time, you may experience some discomfort for a few days afterwards. This also applies to chiropractic care. One reason is that after your adjustment, your body, joints and muscles are moving in directions and ranges they have not moved in for awhile, hence the post-adjustment discomfort.
Two of the more serious issues include stroke and disc injuries.
When it comes to stroke, the research has shown time and time again that there is no scientific basis for an adjustment to cause a stroke. Instead, the association between strokes and adjustments is more of a temporal one, meaning there a time-relationship. Oftentimes, patients with neck pain and headache will visit their chiropractor. Usually, the cause of their discomfort is due to joint and muscle problems in their neck and upper back. There is little concern in these cases. On rare occasions though, the cause of their neck pain and headache is due to an impending stroke or a stroke in progress. It is in these cases that it is important to recognize the difference and be referred to the proper healthcare facility.
A study published in a well-respected medical journal compared a person’s risk of stroke after visiting a chiropractor versus visiting their family doctor. Most family doctors do not perform adjustments. The rates were virtually the same. What this means is that adjustments have nothing to do with it. Rather, it was the patient’s presenting condition that predicted if they were at risk of having a stroke. (Spine. 2008;33(45):S176-S183)
When it comes to disc injuries, there is a very tiny chance that an adjustment can exacerbate an existing disc problem. Whenever a patient presents with either back pain with leg symptoms, or neck pain with arm symptoms, we have to consider whether or not they have a disc or nerve injury. If there is no issue with the nerves and discs, there is no risk from getting adjusted.
However, if there is a pre-existing nerve or disc problem which simply has not surfaced yet or exposed itself as oftentimes is the case, then there is a small chance that an adjustment can speed up the breakdown of that disc and research has that risk to be about 1:3,700,000. In addition, the disc itself could breakdown from everyday activities such as picking up a towel or washing your hair. (JMPT 2004; 27(3):197-210)
Relative to other health professionals, chiropractors enjoy some of the lowest malpractice insurance rates due to the overall safety and effectiveness of chiropractic care