Is Chiropractic Treatment Safe

Chiropractic care, a holistic approach to treating various ailments, has been the subject of debate regarding its safety and efficacy. Let’s delve into the topic, referencing insights from Medical News Today, Healthline, and Verywell Health.

Historical Context

The roots of chiropractic care can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where spinal adjustments were used to alleviate pain and improve overall well-being. Ancient Egyptian and Greek texts mention spinal manipulation techniques that bear a resemblance to modern chiropractic practices. However, it was not until the late 19th century that the foundations of the chiropractic profession were firmly laid.

In 1895, D.D. Palmer, an educator and magnetic healer from Iowa, performed the first official chiropractic adjustment on a janitor named Harvey Lillard. Lillard had been partially deaf for 17 years, and after the adjustment, he claimed his hearing was restored. While the scientific community was skeptical, this event marked the birth of chiropractic care as a distinct form of health care.

D.D. Palmer’s son, B.J. Palmer, played a pivotal role in advancing the profession. He established the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, which became the epicenter for chiropractic education. The school emphasized the importance of spinal adjustments and introduced the concept of subluxations, misalignments in the spine that can cause various health issues.

Over the decades, chiropractic care faced its share of challenges, including skepticism from the medical community and legal battles over licensure. However, by the mid-20th century, the profession had gained significant recognition and legitimacy. Today, chiropractors are an integral part of the healthcare system. In the U.S., they rank as the third-largest group of primary healthcare professionals, following physicians and dentists. Their practices are regulated in all 50 states, ensuring standardized care for patients.

The influence of chiropractic care has also expanded globally. With its practices now extending to over 90 countries worldwide, it’s evident that the principles of chiropractic care resonate with people seeking holistic, non-invasive treatments for various ailments.

Understanding Chiropractic Care

A chiropractic adjustment, at its core, is a therapeutic intervention that has been practiced for over a century. Also referred to as spinal manipulation, this procedure is the cornerstone of chiropractic care. It involves a trained chiropractor using their hands or specialized instruments to apply a controlled force to a specific spinal joint. This force, while precise, can vary in its intensity and angle, depending on the patient’s needs and the chiropractor’s assessment.

The primary objective behind this manipulation is twofold. Firstly, it aims to enhance spinal motion, restoring or improving the joint’s function. Over time, factors like poor posture, injuries, or repetitive stress can lead to restricted movement in these joints. By adjusting them, chiropractors can help restore their natural range of motion.

Secondly, the adjustment seeks to alleviate symptoms associated with various conditions. This includes not only musculoskeletal complaints like back or neck pain but also other symptoms that might be indirectly related to spinal health. The belief is that by optimizing spinal function, the nervous system can operate more efficiently, potentially benefiting overall health.

Now, there are some misconceptions surrounding chiropractic care, with skeptics questioning its efficacy or safety. However, it’s essential to understand the depth of training chiropractors undergo. Their education is extensive, often paralleling that of medical doctors in terms of hours spent. Prospective chiropractors typically complete undergraduate coursework followed by a four-year chiropractic program. This program delves deep into anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and, of course, chiropractic techniques.

Upon completing their education, they earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. But the journey doesn’t end there. Before they can practice, they must pass rigorous national board exams and obtain licensure in the state they wish to practice in. This ensures that when you visit a chiropractor, you’re in the hands of a well-trained professional dedicated to holistic health and well-being.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care

  • Low Back Pain: Research suggests chiropractic care can offer relief from mild to moderate low back pain. Some studies even indicate its efficacy might be on par with other treatments like exercise or pain-relief medications.
  • Neck Pain: Chiropractic care has shown promise in treating neck pain, potentially due to its ability to increase levels of natural pain-relieving hormones.
  • Headaches: Chiropractic adjustments can be beneficial for certain types of headaches, including migraines and cervicogenic headaches.
  • Sciatica: Active chiropractic manipulations have been linked to reduced pain intensity and improved function in patients with sciatica.

Safety Concerns

While chiropractic adjustments are generally deemed safe when performed by trained professionals, there are potential risks. Some patients might experience temporary side effects like soreness, stiffness, or increased pain. More serious complications, although rare, can include stroke, cauda equina syndrome, worsening of herniated disks, and cervical arterial strokes.


Chiropractic care, when administered by trained and licensed practitioners, is generally considered safe for specific conditions. However, it’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals and conduct thorough research before undergoing any treatment. If chiropractic care isn’t suitable, patients might consider alternatives like osteopathic doctors who offer similar manual readjustments.

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