The Benefits and Risks of Going to the Chiropractor

January 03, 2019

Chiropractor adjusts male patient's neck
You may be afraid of the risks of chiropractic adjustment, but seeing a chiropra

Female chiropractor doing an adjustment on a male patient in a medical office.

Renée Bacher

Millions of people visit a chiropractor for back pain each year. If you aren't among them, you may be curious about what to consider before going to see a chiropractor. And what, exactly, are the benefits and risks of chiropractic adjustment?

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the U.S. You may have tweaked something opening a window, or picking up your child or pet. Your back pain may be due to cumulative bad habits, such as sitting hunched over a desk at work or texting all day. Should the risks of chiropractic adjustment keep you away from seeing a chiropractor for back pain?

If your pain is manageable, consider easy fixes first: Cardiovascular exercise can improve blood flow to areas that may be constricted from sitting or poor posture. Yoga and swimming can strengthen the muscles supporting your spine. Investing in a standing desk can improve posture, making you feel better while you work whether you have back pain or you just want to prevent it. The good news is that most back pain resolves on its own over time.

Consider This First

Historically, many doctors have been suspect of chiropractic treatment. But according to a recent article in The New York Times, 15 randomized controlled trials involving more than 1,700 patients showed that spinal manipulation did improve back pain and function in some patients. And any adverse affects from chiropractic treatment in these studies were considered minor, rare and almost never occurred when treating low back pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, chiropractic care can be very safe for neck and back pain due to osteoarthritis, but be careful if you have an inflammatory disease, as chiropractic care is not recommended for actively inflamed joints. U.S. News & World Report says there is an increased risk, albeit low, of stroke from getting a chiropractic neck adjustment. Overall though, the risk of chiropractic adjustment is now considered low, so seeing a chiropractor for back pain may be a good option.

What Does a Chiropractor Do?

Just as with any visit to a doctor, if you see a chiropractor for back pain, they will take your medical history and perform a physical exam, as well as any tests necessary to give you an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. One of the most common procedures chiropractors perform is spinal manipulation or a chiropractic "adjustment." After a tissue injury, which can occur from repetitive movements or lifting something heavy while using poor posture, spinal manipulation can make joints mobile again, allowing you to heal while easing pain and tightness in your muscles. After assessing areas of concern, chiropractic adjustments are performed in a variety of ways that may include pressing on tissues alongside the spine, or twisting the body with quick motions that may make a popping sound.

How Can I Expect To Feel Afterwards?

Many patients feel relief after a chiropractic adjustment as well as the ability to move more freely. They may also feel a mild aching or sore feeling that generally goes away in 12 to 48 hours. Studies show that the benefits of chiropractic care can include relief from low back pain and other forms of back pain, neck pain and headaches.

Chiropractic care is about more than spinal manipulation. It can also involve massage, exercise therapy and counseling on how to modify physical activities that may be causing you pain.

To find a licensed chiropractor in your area, visit The American Chiropractic Association.

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