Chiropractic services are some of the safest drug-free, noninvasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, joint pain of the arms or legs, headaches and other neuromusculoskeletal ailments. Although chiropractic has a satisfactory safety record, no health treatment is completely free of potential adverse effects. The risks connected with chiropractic, however, are very minimal.

chiropractors working with a patient

A lot of patients feel quick relief after working with chiropractors, but some may experience mild soreness or aching, headaches and tiredness. Present literature shows that minimal discomfort or soreness after spinal manipulation usually fades within 24 hours.

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To add to being a safe form of treatment, spinal manipulation is extremely effective, in some cases having patients back on their feet quicker than traditional medical care.

A clinical comparative trial written by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that chiropractic care along with usual medical care for low back pain gives greater pain relief and a greater reduction in disability than medical care alone. In addition, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that spinal manipulative therapy and exercise are more effective at relieving neck pain than medication.

Neck Manipulation

Neck pain and some types of headaches are treated through proper cervical manipulation. Cervical manipulation, often called a neck adjustment or neck manipulation works to improve joint mobility in the neck, brings back range of motion and eliminate muscle spasm, which aids relieve pressure and tension. Patients typically notice reduced pain, soreness and stiffness, along with greatly improved ability to move the neck.

Neck manipulation is a genuinely safe procedure. While some reports have connected high-velocity, upper-neck manipulation with a certain type of stroke, or vertebral artery dissection, research suggests that patients are no more likely to suffer a stroke after a chiropractic neck session than they are after consulting their primary care medical doctor’s office.

It was also stated that vertebrobasilar artery (VBA) stroke is a very rare event and that this kind of arterial injury usually takes place spontaneously or after everyday activities such as turning the head while driving, swimming or having a shampoo in a hair salon.

Patients with this condition may experience neck pain and headache that leads them to seek professional care—usually at the chiropractors’ or medical doctors’ office—but that care is not the reason for the injury. The best evidence demonstrates that the incidence of artery injuries connected with high-velocity, upper-neck manipulation is extremely rare – about 1 case in 5.85 million manipulations.

To put this risk into perspective, if you drive more than a mile to get to your chiropractic session, you are at far more greater risk of possible injury from a car accident than from your chiropractic visit.

It is important for patients to know the risks associated with some of the most common treatments for neck and back pain—prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or prescription opioid pain medications—as these options may provide risks significantly greater than those of manipulation.

According to a study from the American Journal of Gastroenterology, approximately one-third of all hospitalizations and deaths in relation to gastrointestinal bleeding can be connected to the use of aspirin or NSAID painkillers such as ibuprofen. In addition, as many as one in four people who had prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care situations struggle with addiction.

Furthermore, surgery for conditions for which manipulation may also be used carries risks far greater than those of chiropractic treatment. Even prolonged bed rest have some risks, including muscle atrophy, cardiopulmonary deconditioning, bone mineral loss and thromboembolism.

An intensive review of scientific evidence in relation to neck pain treatments found at least as much evidence connected to the safety and effectiveness of common chiropractic treatments, including manipulation, as for other treatments such as prescription and non-prescription drugs and surgery.

chiropractor working on a patient

If you are seeing chiropractors for neck pain or headache, be very specific about the symptoms. This will aid your doctor to determine the safest and most effective treatment, even if it includes referring you to another healthcare provider. If the issue of stroke worries you, do not hesitate to talk about it with your chiropractors. Depending on your clinical condition, he or she can discontinue manipulation and can instead recommend joint mobilization, therapeutic exercise, soft-tissue techniques or other types of therapies.

Ongoing Chiropractors Research

The American Chiropractic Association believes that patients have the right to know about the health risks connected with any kind of treatment, including chiropractic. Today, chiropractic researchers are involved in studying the benefits and risks of spinal adjustment in the cure of neck and back pain through clinical test, literature reviews and publishing papers reviewing the risks and complications of neck adjustment.

All available evidence states that chiropractic treatment holds an extremely small risk. Chiropractors take the issue of stroke and the safety of patients very seriously and committed in training and postgraduate education courses to fully understand risk factors in patients and to continue providing treatment in the most effective and responsible way.

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