Compared to most medical treatments, few interventions can initiate back pain relief and healing like chiropractic adjustments can. The European Spine Journal published findings from a clinical trial uncovering how chiropractic adjustments resulted in a 72 percent success rate in treating sciatica-related symptoms. This can be compared to a 20 percent success rate from treatment with physical therapy, and a 50 percent success rate from corticosteroid injections.
Another randomized, double-blind trial published in the Spine Journal comparing active versus simulated chiropractic manipulations on patients with sciatic nerve pain who were residing in rehabilitation medical centers found that active manipulations had more effect than simulated manipulations. Active manipulations reduced the number of days patients experienced moderate or severe back pain and other sciatica symptoms, and also caused no reported adverse effects.
One study involving chiropractic patients with neck pain found that 96 percent of respondents indicated that they were either “Very satisfied” or “Satisfied” with the chiropractic care they received, and that 98 percent said that they “Definitely would” or were “Very likely” to choose chiropractic care again if they experienced a similar problem.
In a 2003 study published in the British Medical Journal, 183 patients with neck pain were randomly allocated to receive either manual therapy (spinal mobilization), physiotherapy (mainly exercise) or general practitioner care (counseling, education and drugs) over the course of a 52-week period. The clinical outcome measures showed that chiropractic adjustments resulted in faster recovery than physiotherapy and general practitioner care. Moreover, total costs of the chiropractic-treated patients were about one-third of the costs of physiotherapy or general practitioner care.
Another study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction one month following treatment compared to patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients, as a higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent in the physician group) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better. Nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was actually worse or much worse following treatment. Other studies have shown similar results: majority of acute and chronic chiropractic patients experience better outcomes in pain, functional disability and patient satisfaction following treatment.
In a study funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, conducted to test the effectiveness of different approaches for treating neck pain, 272 participants were divided into three groups: those that received either spinal manipulative therapy from a doctor of chiropractic (DC), those who received pain medications (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants), and those only following at-home exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs, and about 48 percent of those who exercised, reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain. As a comparison, 33 percent of the people in the medication group reported decreased pain. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the two drug-free groups (chiropractic and exercise) continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to an average of just 38 percent pain reduction among those who only took medication.
Second only to back pain, headaches — both tension headaches and migraine headaches — are one of the most common conditions regularly managed by chiropractors. At the time I conducted this research, over 230 peer-reviewed articles referenced chiropractic’s ability to help cure, prevent and ease the burden of headaches and migraines in people all across the globe!
A group trial found that 22 percent of people who had chiropractic treatment saw the number of attacks drop by 90 percent. In that same study, 49 percent said they had a significant reduction in pain intensity. Compared to most medical treatments, few interventions can initiate headache relief naturally, without the risks of taking drugs long-term, like chiropractic adjustments can.
A 2011 systematic review published in the journal Explore — which included a review of 26 articles in total, including three clinical trials and four cohort studies — found that chiropractic adjustments helped greatly reduce colic symptoms. According to the authors of the review, “Our review revealed that chiropractic care is a viable alternative to the care of infantile colic and congruent with evidence-based practice, particularly when one considers that medical care options are no better than placebo or have been associated with adverse events.”
Although very few randomized control trials have been conducted describing other clinical effects of chiropractic care on children, many case studies have been documented that describe how children suffering from ailments including otitis media (or ear infections) or acid reflux have experienced complete to near-complete resolution after just a few visits with a chiropractor. One study found that in children with acid reflux, “Notable improvement in the patient’s symptoms was observed within four visits and total resolution of symptoms within three months of care.”
Why are chiropractic adjustments helpful in these situations? The reasons for this vary, but there is one common theme: nerves located in the gut and brain are quite sensitive to neurological insult caused by vertebral subluxations. By realigning the spine and reducing pressure on placed on certain nerves, the gut-brain connection is improved. This works the same way in both children and adults. A healthier, “happier” gut at any age can help increase immune function, reduce inflammation and reduce pain in various parts of the body.
Exciting research is currently being conducted via upright MRI scans showing how upper cervical adjustments affect various brain-based conditions. What we have seen so far is quite remarkable. Not only are MRI scans revealing that cerebral spinal fluid and blood flow are markedly increased after a chiropractic adjustment, researchers are observing that cerebellar invagination (when the cerebellum drops down below the skull line) is being reversed and brain plaquing (common in multiple sclerosis patients) is disappearing! One example is Montel Williams, the famous TV host, who was interviewed about his experience as a MS patient under chiropractic care. Check it out here to see how it changed his life.
Additionally, there’s evidence supporting the use of chiropractic treatment to help to correct vertebral subluxation that contributes to epilepsy and seizures. One study found that when 15 pediatric patients were treated with upper cervical care all reported positive outcomes as a result of chiropractic care. The conclusion of the study was that “Chiropractic care may represent a non-pharmaceutical health care approach for pediatric epileptic patients.”
In 2007, George Bakris, the world expert on hypertension, published a study with a team of researchers in the Human Journal of Hypertension showing that one upper cervical chiropractic adjustment had the same effect as two blood pressure-lowering drugs. Even more fascinating, the effects of just one adjustment lasted more than six months!
Compared to the placebo-treated patients, those who got the real procedure saw an average 14 mm Hg greater drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure count) and an average 8 mm Hg greater drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom blood pressure number).
Other studies have shown similar findings with hypotensive patients, and their low blood pressure was raised to normal levels after chiropractic care. This is exciting because it highlights the body’s ability to create a homeostatic balanced environment once vertebral subluxations are removed.
Chiropractic has long been heralded by natural health care providers as a natural method to prevent back surgery. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association just recently published its low back pain guidelines and suggested that people suffering from back pain first try chiropractic before resorting to surgery.
Last year a clinical trial was published describing how patients suffering from the debilitating condition frozen shoulder responded to chiropractic care. Of the 50 patients: 16 resolved completely; 25 showed 75 percent to 90 percent improvement; eight showed 50 percent to 75 percent improvement; and one showed 0 percent to 50 percent improvement. Before chiropractic treatment the patients reported a median initial pain score of 9 out of 10, with a range of 7 to 10. But after treatment the median score dropped down to 2, with a range of 0 to 10.
There’s evidence showing that specific chiropractic adjustments, coupled with muscular rehabilitation techniques, may help prevent the progression of scoliosis. Organizations like the nonprofit Clear Institute, founded by Dr. Dennis Woggon, have set out to empower healthcare professionals with an effective chiropractic system in order to help treat people with scoliosis.
Doctors at the Clear Institute have worked very hard to perfect a model for treating scoliosis and have discovered that it is possible to effectively manage the condition without the use of restrictive braces or dangerous surgeries. In many case studies, participants have seen a 10 to 30 percent decrease in their scoliosis curvatures. You can read about some of the cases here. If you or a family member suffer from scoliosis, I strongly recommend reaching out to a doctor certified by the Clear Institute to see if they can help you!
There’s good reason why for years professional athletes — including Michael Phelps, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana — have made a point to regularly be treated by chiropractors. In fact, over 50 percent of NFL teams have a chiropractor on staff, this way the players always have access to adjustments, stretches and exercises when needed.
Because it is so effective at pain-based and pathological conditions, one of the most overlooked aspects of chiropractic care is that it enhances functionality in everyday life, and also athletic performance. Studies have shown that when it comes to supporting recovery and improving physical performance, chiropractic is helpful because it:
Meanwhile, chiropractic can address sports injuries to areas of the body referenced above, including the lower back, shoulder, hips and more. “Chiropractic care can help with a multitude of sports injuries such as tendonitis, sprains, strains, back and neck pain. The goal is to help reduce inflammation, enhance joint function and reduce pain. It will also help improve range of motion, minimize recovery time, and maximize athletic performance.”
Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure—mainly the spine—and its functioning. Although practitioners may use a variety of treatment approaches, they primarily perform adjustments (manipulations) to the spine or other parts of the body with the goal of correcting alignment problems, alleviating pain, improving function, and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Most research on chiropractic has focused on spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation appears to benefit some people with low-back pain and may also be helpful for headaches, neck pain, upper- and lower-extremity joint conditions, and whiplash-associated disorders.
Side effects from spinal manipulation can include temporary headaches, tiredness, or discomfort in the parts of the body that were treated. There have been rare reports of serious complications such as stroke, but whether spinal manipulation actually causes these complications is unclear. Safety remains an important focus of ongoing research. Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
The term “chiropractic” combines the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (practice) to describe a treatment done by hand. Hands-on therapy—especially adjustment of the spine—is central to chiropractic care. Chiropractic is based on the notion that the relationship between the body’s structure (primarily that of the spine) and its function (as coordinated by the nervous system) affects health.
Spinal adjustment/manipulation is a core treatment in chiropractic care, but it is not synonymous with chiropractic. Chiropractors commonly use other treatments in addition to spinal manipulation, and other health care providers (e.g., physical therapists or some osteopathic physicians) may use spinal manipulation.
In the United States, chiropractic is often considered a complementary health approach. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey of the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, about 8 percent of adults (more than 18 million) and nearly 3 percent of children (more than 2 million) had received chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation in the past 12 months. Additionally, an analysis of NHIS cost data found that adults in the United States spent approximately $11.9 billion out-of-pocket on visits to complementary health practitioners—$3.9 billion of which was spent on visits to practitioners for chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation.
Many people who seek chiropractic care have low-back pain. People also commonly seek chiropractic care for other kinds of musculoskeletal pain (e.g., neck, shoulder), headaches, and extremity (e.g., hand or foot) problems.
An analysis of the use of complementary health approaches for back pain, based on data from the 2002 NHIS, found that chiropractic was by far the most commonly used therapy. Among survey respondents who had used any of these therapies for their back pain, 74 percent (approximately 4 million Americans) had used chiropractic. Among those who had used chiropractic for back pain, 66 percent perceived “great benefit” from their treatments.
During the initial visit, chiropractors typically take a health history and perform a physical examination, with a special emphasis on the spine. Other examinations or tests such as x-rays may also be performed. If chiropractic treatment is considered appropriate, a treatment plan will be developed.
During followup visits, practitioners may perform one or more of the many different types of adjustments and other manual therapies used in chiropractic care. Given mainly to the spine, a chiropractic adjustment involves using the hands or a device to apply a controlled, rapid force to a joint. The goal is to increase the range and quality of motion in the area being treated and to aid in restoring health. Joint mobilization is another type of manual therapy that may be used.
Chiropractors may combine the use of spinal adjustments and other manual therapies with several other treatments and approaches such as:
Researchers have studied spinal manipulation for a number of conditions ranging from back, neck, and shoulder pain to asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and headaches. Much of the research has focused on low-back pain, and has shown that spinal manipulation appears to benefit some people with this condition. (For more information, see the Spinal Manipulation for Low-Back Pain fact sheet.)
A 2010 review of scientific evidence on manual therapies for a range of conditions concluded that spinal manipulation/mobilization may be helpful for several conditions in addition to back pain, including migraine and cervicogenic (neck-related) headaches, neck pain, upper- and lower-extremity joint conditions, and whiplash-associated disorders. The review also identified a number of conditions for which spinal manipulation/mobilization appears not to be helpful (including asthma, hypertension, and menstrual pain) or the evidence is inconclusive (e.g., fibromyalgia, mid-back pain, premenstrual syndrome, sciatica, and temporomandibular joint disorders).
Side effects from spinal manipulation can include temporary headaches, tiredness, or discomfort in the parts of the body that were treated.
There have been rare reports of serious complications such as stroke, cauda equina syndrome (a condition involving pinched nerves in the lower part of the spinal canal), and worsening of herniated discs, although cause and effect are unclear.
Safety remains an important focus of ongoing research:
A 2007 study of treatment outcomes for 19,722 chiropractic patients in the United Kingdom concluded that minor side effects (such as temporary soreness) after cervical spine manipulation were relatively common, but that the risk of a serious adverse event was “low to very low” immediately or up to 7 days after treatment.
A 2009 study that drew on 9 years of hospitalization records for the population of Ontario, Canada analyzed 818 cases of vertebrobasilar artery (VBA) stroke (involving the arteries that supply blood to the back of the brain). The study found an association between visits to a health care practitioner and subsequent VBA stroke, but there was no evidence that visiting a chiropractor put people at greater risk than visiting a primary care physician. The researchers attributed the association between health care visits and VBA stroke to the likelihood that people with VBA dissection (torn arteries) seek care for related headache and neck pain before their stroke.
Chiropractic colleges accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) offer Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree programs. (CCE is the agency certified by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit chiropractic colleges in the United States.) Admission to a chiropractic college requires a minimum of 90 semester hour credits of undergraduate study, mostly in the sciences.
Chiropractic training is a 4-year academic program that includes both classroom work and direct experience caring for patients. Coursework typically includes instruction in the biomedical sciences, as well as in public health and research methods. Some chiropractors pursue a 2- to 3-year residency for training in specialized fields.
Chiropractic is regulated individually by each state and the District of Columbia. All states require completion of a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program from a CCE-accredited college. Examinations administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners are required for licensing and include a mock patient encounter. Most states require chiropractors to earn annual continuing education credits to maintain their licenses. Chiropractors’ scope of practice varies by state in areas such as the dispensing or selling of dietary supplements and the use of other complementary health approaches such as acupuncture or homeopathy.
Ask about the chiropractor’s education and licensure.
Mention any medical conditions you have, and ask whether the chiropractor has specialized training or experience in the condition for which you are seeking care.
Ask about typical out-of-pocket costs and insurance coverage. (Chiropractic is covered by many health maintenance organizations and private health plans, Medicare, and state workers’ compensation systems.)
Tell the chiropractor about any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) and dietary supplements you take. If the chiropractor suggests a dietary supplement, ask about potential interactions with your medications or other supplements.
Tell all of your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
NCCIH-supported research on chiropractic care includes projects that have focused on:
Spinal manipulation for back pain, neck pain, and headache, as well as for other health conditions such as temporomandibular disorders
Development of a curriculum to increase the understanding of evidence-informed practice in chiropractic educational institutions
Influence of patients’ satisfaction with care on their response to treatment, in a study that compared chiropractic and medical care in a group of back-pain patients.
NCCIH also funded establishment of a developmental center for research in chiropractic at the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research. Investigators at Palmer and at other partnering institutions conduct basic and clinical research on chiropractic treatment approaches, how they might work, and diseases and conditions for which they may be most helpful.
Rocky Mount Chiropractic
546 Pell Avenue
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
P: (540) 483-7620
H: Mon, Wed, Fri: 9-12 then 2-6
Tue, Thur: 9-12 then 2-5