Is Chiropractic Care Safe?

Demystifying Chiropractic Care: Is Chiropractic Care Safe


We’ve all heard this one before. We’ve seen these claims on the news, heard it from a friend or family member, or maybe even had a bad experience ourselves. Why do we think chiropractors are hurting people? And, is chiropractic care safe?

First, it is important to remember that chiropractic care is healthcare, and all healthcare options come with associated risks. Just listen to the laundry list of side effects associated with medications that are being advertised on television. Compared to the alternatives, such as pain medication, physical therapy rehabilitation, and surgery, chiropractic care is very safe.

Age, overall health, preexisting conditions, and functional ability are all factors to consider before undergoing spinal manipulation. The benefits and risks of spinal manipulation, also known as chiropractic adjustments, have been studied extensively. The risks associated with chiropractic care are as follows:

  1. Temporary Discomfort or Soreness

About half of all new chiropractic patients report some stiffness or soreness following an adjustment. This complaint is typically felt within the first 4 hours following a treatment and ranges from mild to moderate in severity. New patients that experience soreness following a treatment typically report that the symptoms subside in less than one day, and they report less soreness or no soreness following additional treatments.

  1. Headache

Headache pain has been recorded as an adverse event following cervical manipulation when the practitioner uses a high velocity rotational force. This is uncommon when lower force techniques are applied. Patients that do report headache following a treatment typically report the symptoms as mild and temporary, lasting less than one day. Many patients actually seek chiropractic care as a treatment option to decrease headache pain. Less than 10% of patients report increasing headache pain post treatment.

  1. Fracture

The risk of fracture is extremely rare for patients who are healthy. However, this risk increases when underlying issues exist that decrease the strength of the bone cortex. Examples of pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of fracture are osteoporosis, osteopenia, and bone tumors. A thorough review of your health history can help the provider determine if spinal manipulation is a safe option for you. For patients who are elderly or have a history of recent injury, radiographic studies (X-rays) may be necessary prior to undergoing spinal manipulation.

  1. Other Benign Side Effects

There are a few other side effects that are very benign in nature and occur somewhat infrequently following spinal manipulation. These include transient dizziness, nausea, and tiredness or fatigue.  These issues are reported by less than 5% of chiropractic patients. In most cases these symptoms subside within minutes or hours of the treatment.

Throughout the years, there have been claims that manipulating the neck can cause vascular accidents such as stroke. A recent review of medical literature suggests that a person is no more likely to suffer a stroke following a visit to a chiropractic office than they are to suffer a stroke following a visit to a medical provider’s office. The author of the review surmises that because neck pain and headache are often symptoms of stroke, it is possible that patients are presenting to chiropractic and medical offices while currently experiencing a vascular accident, and causation cannot be linked to the treatment provided.

Similar claims have been made that chiropractic care can cause injuries, such as disc herniation, to intervertebral discs. The evidence suggests that it is very rare for spinal manipulation to cause a disc herniation; however, there is a small likelihood of spinal manipulation increasing pain associated with these types of injuries. Although spinal manipulation can reduce pain for people who suffer from disc herniation and bulging, there is a risk of aggravating the symptoms with aggressive manual therapies such as spinal manipulation. In the case of disc injuries, other conservative treatment options such as massage therapy and physical therapy carry a similar risk.

To put the risks of chiropractic treatment in perspective, consider this: On average, chiropractors pay 10% or less in yearly malpractice insurance premiums than primary care medical doctors do.

Chiropractic care is very safe for most people. Patients who are at risk of injury due to certain health issues can be identified through a thorough evaluation. At Brummert Family Chiropractic we mitigate the risks by taking a thorough history of your health and performing a focused exam on your area of complaint. If we believe that you are at risk of injury from spinal manipulation, we will talk to you about other treatment options. In some cases, a referral to your primary care doctor or other specialist may be required.

Do you want to learn more about our evidence based approach to chiropractic care in State College, PA? Call today to schedule a new patient appointment or click here to book online.