Chiropractic Myths and Facts

MYTH #1: Chiropractic adjustments are not safe.

FACT: Chiropractic treatments are much less invasive than many medical treatments. Since chiropractic care is drug-free and surgery-free, it avoids many potential ill effects. Risks associated with chiropractic care are extremely small, far less than the risks associated with taking prescription painkillers or even over-the-counter medications like aspirin. The risk of serious complications from chiropractic treatment is estimated to be less than one in 1 million treatments—less than the odds of being struck by lightning—and the adverse effects reported generally stemmed from a pre-existing medical condition.

MYTH #2: Chiropractors are less educated than “real” doctors.

FACT: Chiropractors are considered physicians under federal law. The number of post-graduate education hours required to become a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) are comparable to those needed to become a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO). In addition to completing a minimum of 4,200 classroom, laboratory and clinical practice hours, chiropractors must also pass national board examinations and complete requirements for state licensing. Doctors of Chiropractic receive training in most of the basic health care functions performed by primary care physicians, such as examining, diagnosing and treating patients; analyzing results of lab and imaging tests; referring patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate; and counseling patients about preventive care. One major difference between DCs and MDs is that chiropractors do not prescribe medicine.

MYTH #3: If I can get my own back to “crack,” I don’t have to go to a chiropractor.

FACT: While it’s true that one very common chiropractic technique is spinal adjustment, the sole purpose is not to “crack” the spine. Spinal adjustment (also called spinal manipulation) may sometimes result in a popping sound as gases are released, but your back will not always crack during chiropractic treatment, and there are many chiropractic techniques besides spinal adjustment. You definitely do not want to attempt to perform your own spinal adjustment without the benefit of the years of education and training that a licensed chiropractor has. Keep in mind that chiropractors have extensive knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and its biomechanics, and use very precise movements to help restore proper joint function. Getting a nonprofessional or friend to adjust your spine at home is not recommended. Chiropractors often get phone calls from people who need to come in immediately because they are in serious pain after trying to adjust themselves.

MYTH #4: Chiropractors treat only back and neck pain.

FACT: While chiropractors may be best known for treating back and neck pain, their goal is to preserve and restore overall health. Chiropractors are also trained in clinical examination and diagnosis of the entire human body. Chiropractors focus on the relationship between the skeletal structure, muscles and nerves, and how these affect an individual’s health, which goes beyond the backaches and neck aches. Other ailments that have been treated by chiropractors include headaches, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, tennis elbow, TMJ disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, ear pain, vertigo, fibromyalgia and other conditions. Many chiropractors are also trained in overall nutrition, lifestyle recommendations, and fitness goals and training as well—so besides treating painful conditions, chiropractic care can help maintain wellness and keep you on track for a healthy, pain-free life.

MYTH #5: Chiropractic adjustments are painful.

FACT: Chiropractic adjustments typically relieve pain, not cause pain. Some patients experience slight soreness or stiffness after chiropractic treatment, but this usually subsides in a few hours or days and is similar to the soreness felt after certain exercises. Patients may feel some pressure during adjustments to certain joints, but the majority feel relief from pain following the adjustment. If the area being treated has sustained an injury in the past, this could affect how the adjustment feels. However, the amount of soreness felt during an adjustment often decreases with further treatments as the injured area improves.

MYTH #6: Once you start going to a chiropractor, you have to keep going forever.

FACT: A chiropractic treatment plan is designed around each patient’s needs. For example, if you’ve been suffering from a painful condition for many years before seeking chiropractic care, it may be unrealistic to expect to get better in a week or two—but if new symptoms motivate you to see a chiropractor promptly, relief may come much earlier. It’s important to note that chiropractic care is not just for reacting to symptoms, but for prevention and maintenance. Thus, even after recovering from an injury, many people continue to schedule regular chiropractic visits as part of a wellness lifestyle. Similar to why we regularly get dental cleanings or change the oil in our car, chiropractic maintenance care can help keep our body tuned up so it functions at 100%. A body of research has shown that a regimen of chiropractic maintenance with monthly visits for up to 9 months appears to improve the outcomes of chronic back pain patients.

MYTH #7: Chiropractors don’t believe in drugs or surgery.

FACT: Chiropractors believe strongly in natural and alternative healing. However, in their extensive education, chiropractors are trained to make proper referrals to other health care practitioners when drugs and surgery are needed. Chiropractors often work hand in hand with other health care practitioners such as medical doctors, orthopedic surgeons and neurologists.

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