Frequently Asked Questions About Chiropractic Care
What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a health care profession concerned with the neuro-musculoskeletal system and how disorders of the spine, muscles and nerves affect overall health. Chiropractors treat and help prevent problems of the spine as well as restore joint function and support optimal nervous system function. Chiropractic care uses natural treatments that do not involve medication or surgery to achieve optimal health and function.
Are chiropractic treatments safe?
Yes. Chiropractic care offers one of the safest types of treatment for many disorders of the neuro-musculoskeletal system (that is, the way the spine, nerves and muscles work together for proper functioning of the body). Chiropractic care involves drug-free, non-invasive therapies, thus avoiding many of the potential problems associated with surgery or medication use. Although there are some risks with any type of treatment, the risks associated with chiropractic care are extremely small. The risk of serious complications from chiropractic treatment is estimated to be less than one in 1 million treatments—less than the chance of being killed by a lightning strike—and these adverse effects are generally related to a pre-existing condition. Always give your chiropractor your complete health history, as this information affects the type of treatment you receive.
What is a chiropractic adjustment?
The most common chiropractic treatment is spinal manipulation therapy (SMT), also called chiropractic adjustment. The goal of spinal manipulation is to restore the body to its proper function and mobility. In a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor applies a carefully controlled force in a precise direction to a specific joint of the spine that is not moving properly. This helps the joint regain proper motion, enabling the vertebrae to return to a normal position. Chiropractors specialize in a variety of spinal manipulation techniques. Adjustments may be made by the chiropractor's hand or with the aid of a specialized instrument, and they may consist of very quick, accurate thrusts or slow, constant pressure. Spinal manipulation therapy has been shown to improve spinal and nervous system function as well as overall health.
Do chiropractic adjustments hurt?
Chiropractic adjustments do not typically cause discomfort. Patients may feel some pressure during adjustments to certain joints, but this should not be painful. Most patients will feel less pain and more movement, and state that they can “stand up straighter” after a chiropractic adjustment. Some patients experience minor aches, soreness or stiffness in muscles or joints after treatment. These will most likely disappear within a few hours or days. If the area of treatment was injured in the past, this could affect how an adjustment feels, and you may be more likely to be sore. However, the soreness often decreases with further treatments.
Why is there a popping sound during an adjustment?
Sometimes, but not always, there is a popping or cracking sound during an adjustment. This is nothing to worry about. It's just the release of pockets of air that have become trapped in the joints. When the spine is stretched or pushed during an adjustment, it's not unusual for gases to escape from the joints with an audible “pop”—the same effect when you crack your knuckles.
Is it bad to “crack” your own back?
It's not wise to “crack”, or adjust, your own spine, and it's definitely not okay to have a friend or other nonprofessional do it for you. Chiropractors are licensed professionals who are carefully trained to perform spinal adjustments safely. They apply pressure to specific joints in a very precise way. Without training, you cannot adjust yourself accurately or safely. You could cause your spine to become less stable, and you risk injury to joints, ligaments, discs, muscles and nerves. So leave spinal manipulation to the experts!
What type of education and training do chiropractors receive?
In the U.S., Chiropractors are educated in nationally accredited four-year graduate school programs that require a minimum of 4,200 classroom, laboratory and clinical practice hours. Chiropractors receive extensive training in anatomy, physiology, neurology, microbiology, endocrinology, the biomechanics of the body (how joints and muscles move the skeletal system), diagnostic imaging, nutrition, exercise and rehabilitation. They must pass four national board examinations and complete state licensing requirements. The classroom 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).
Do chiropractors take x-rays?
Chiropractors may use imaging such as x-rays, CT scans and MRIs to aid in diagnosis. It is important to see the internal structure and condition of the spine because certain disorders such as arthritis, bone spurs, disc problems and abnormal development or curvature of the spine (as in scoliosis) can only be properly seen with imaging.
Do chiropractors prescribe medication?
Chiropractors are not licensed to prescribe medication in most U.S. states. The philosophy of chiropractic is to promote wellness through natural techniques that do not require pharmaceuticals. The profession positions itself as a “drug-free, non-surgical science.” Chiropractic aims to avoid the side effects of medications and believes that the human body has the innate ability to heal itself in most instances. The goal of chiropractic care is to target the underlying cause of a problem rather than just medicating the symptoms. Of course, if medication or surgery is necessary in a particular instance, such as for severe pain, chiropractors will work in conjunction with other health care providers to develop the necessary plan of action needed for the well-being of their patients.
Is it okay to see a chiropractor if I'm pregnant? Yes, chiropractic care during pregnancy can benefit both you and your baby. Loosening ligaments and changes to a pregnant woman's posture can put pressure on the pelvis and back, which can result in pain in the lower back, hips and knees. Changes in posture may also lead to a painful inflammation of the sciatic nerve and water retention in the ankles. Regular chiropractic treatment during pregnancy can alleviate the added stress on your spine that comes with pregnancy and weight gain. It can relieve pain in the back, hips and joints, and maintain pelvic balance for an easier pregnancy. Chiropractors are trained to treat pregnant women, and they use special techniques and tables that avoid placing pressure on the abdomen; they can also recommend exercises and stretches that are safe and beneficial during pregnancy.