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Is Chiropractic Safe? Features, Benefits, Rare Complications, and Side Effects

Chiropractic for pain management


Is chiropractic safe? A frequent question, especially for those who have not yet worked with a chiropractor. Simply put, chiropractic is a treatment that includes experts using their hands to alleviate issues with the bones, muscles, and joints.

You may have accidentally come across a neck-cracking video with popping noises on the internet, or you may have heard horror stories from a colleague that made you consider this procedure risky. You have every right to be afraid of what you don't know, and the best way to overcome that fear is to get informed. This summary addresses your concerns, breaks down some of the rare risks of chiropractic adjustment, and eventually guides you to the right path.

What Is Chiropractic?

The word chiropractic is Greek, meaning “done by hand.” while no cutting and no harsh chemicals are used, the treatments involve one human applying hands to another's body.

It is categorized as a non-conventional medical treatment as "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM). It has plenty of benefits in relieving back, neck, shoulders, elbows, and osteoarthritis pain. Some less researched evidence claims it to help in more severe conditions unrelated to the muscles or joints, for example, mental health problems, allergies, and asthma.

How Does Chiropractic Work?

Chiropractors are specifically trained to use their hands and instruments well enough to apply controlled pressure, aka “spinal manipulation," to troubled areas of your body, including the muscles, bones, and joints of the spine and neck. They aim to improve the spine’s alignment and range of motion. It all leads to regaining optimal performance by opening up the channels for nerve energy to flow through the body.

This practice creates a less risky method to mitigate pain with physical manipulation. They use different techniques to treat problems, including applying intense pressure or not, based on the patient's needs. This artistry combined with scientific knowledge requires years of study and training, and only licensed chiropractors are trustworthy to work with the general public.

It is interesting to know that chiropractic doctors must undergo 4,620 total educational hours before getting their degrees which is almost 1,000 hours more than physical therapists and only 200 hours less than a medical doctor.

Chiropractic Treatment Procedure

There are steps to chiropractic therapy; at the first session, the chiropractor doctor examines you while assessing your symptoms to verify the benefits you can get from chiropractic practice or whether it is suitable for your health or not.

Several methods and techniques address the problems with the muscles, bones, and joints. Here are the most common chiropractic treatments:

  • Spinal Manipulation (with hands to exert force on the muscles, bones, and joints of the spine and neck)

  • Pulling o Stretching Muscles in Opposite Directions

  • Moving Joints into Different Positions

  • Applying Fast and Sharp Thrusting Movements

Chiropractic Rare Complications

It is not like surgery or taking chemical drugs are completely devoided of risks. Chiropractic manipulation is also not risk-free, including compression of spinal nerves, a slipped or herniated disc aggravation, and, in rare cases, vertebral artery dissection (a specific type of stroke that can happen after neck manipulation).

Patients with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible to rare risks associated with chiropractic. And if you have serious problems such as spine cancer, bone structure abnormalities, severe osteoporosis, and stroke risk factors, you should consult your physician before going through this procedure.

Chiropractic Adjustment Side Effects

When performed correctly by trained and licensed experts, the possibility of unwanted side effects is usually minor and temporary and fades away after a day or two. The most common reported side effects are pains, stiffness, tiredness, and minor troubles in the manipulated areas (for example, the lumbar spine or the neck), which might lead to other short-lived discomforts such as fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

Once again, these side effects are more reported in people who already suffer some underlying health conditions. Also, it is more likely to suffer the issues in the early sessions. The side effects are generally mild and pass in a few days.

Is Chiropractic Risker Than other Treatments?

Numerous reports and evidence confirm that chiropractic is "definitely" no more risky than other medical treatments and practices. Therefore, what is sometimes promoted about it are exaggerated myths that probably have been spread around to differentiate this method from other traditional medicine.

For example, if you suffer from back pain, here are different treatments compared to the chiropractic option:

  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers: Ibuprofen, naproxen, and celecoxib are widely available over the counter. These are generally safe but not as harmless as the public believes, especially for people with health issues. They can cause allergic reactions, upset stomachs, kidney damage, and ulcers.

  • Prescribed narcotic painkillers: It is not like if you take narcotic analgesics with the doctor’s permission, no side effects await you. Chemical drugs that contain codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone (Vicodin), and oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan) can immediately kill your pains. However, as you can see on the label, plenty of side effects are possible, too, such as stomach issues, sleepiness, impaired judgment, itchy skin, and constipation, not to mention the high risk of addiction.

  • Steroid injections: They can be epidural steroids or inject steroid medications directly into the spine. It is an almost safe approach, yet side effects can include “dural puncture” headaches, spinal headaches, excessive bleeding, infection at the injection site, and nerve damage.

  • Back surgery: It might be the last resort for the pain and the most invasive, disruptive, and expensive one of that too. Going under the knife is risky because of anesthesia, several drugs, and the possibility of infections, internal bleeding, blood clots, strokes, permanent nerve damage, and even death.

Final Words

It is, in fact, an advanced scientific approach and helps with a wide range of issues. With chiropractic care, like conventional medicine, there are some rare risks and side effects, but the advantages of pain relief and adjustments to the body can trump the possible discomforts.

So is chiropractic safe and worth it? Absolutely "Yes"! Don't get scared of the rumors and find out for yourself. To know more about chiropractic, you can check some related articles here.


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