Chiropractic is a manual therapy which is primarily used to treat disorders of the muscoskeletal system including bones, muscles, joints and tendons). This is often carried out by chiropractors through physical adjustments of the spine or joints called manipulations. These adjustments are in the form of quick thrusts on the vertebrae or limbs with the aim of correcting the position and movement.
Chiropractic treatment can also include stretches and muscle therapy.
The theory behind chiropractic is that the soft tissue damage throughout our life from day to day activities such as sitting/slouching for long periods of time, incorrect posture and injuries from dynamic sports causes can damage the spine and lead to nerve pressure that causes pain. Chiropractors claim to work through the nervous system to fix the misalignment and relieve the pain.
Subluxation theory, a common subscribed hypothesis for many chiropractors follows that the spine, being the direct route to the nervous system can potentially fix a whole host of more serious diseases. When there is discomfort, inflammation of pain in the back, claims suggest its a symptoms of an incorrectly functioning nervous system due to bones and other tissue being out of place.
Therefore alleviating the pain through adjustment will boost the nervous system and improve general health. Chiropractors claim manipulations have successfully treated problems such as IBS, skin and ear infections and even broken bones!
Does Chiropractic Treatment Work?
Of course these are very strong claims that some chiropractors make, however does chiropractic treatment work for anything? What is the evidence and where are its limitations in treatment?
From a purely empirical/research based perspective, chiropractic has shown little objective evidence to work.
Subluxation theory of the spine and bones being out of place as a cause of disease or pain has not shown any evidence to be true since its creation. The subluxation has not been shown to cause disease or interfere with the nervous system which questions the whole practice. Before, the cracking and popping of bones was thought to be pushing the bones back into position however we now know this is simply gases being released at low pressure, albeit provides relief.
Another major criticism is that there is very little education in the field of chiropractic. There isn’t much medical knowledge required to practise what is essentially a very delicate area of the body. The spinal cord holds the most important nerves in the body with various arteries passing through.
The regulation still does not cover the risks of chiropractic as chiropractors can still cause significant damage; for example, a 32-year old woman in Jakarta was killed after being treated by an American chiropractor following an over-streched artery to the brain in the upper back, causing a stroke.
Nonetheless, whilst peer-reviewed papers and empirical evidence is not clear yet, it is not to stay there are no benefits to chiropractic treatment or that it is unequivocally false. The chiropractic profession is continually growing since its conception with an estimated 80,000 chiropractors in the United States alone by 2020. The growing popularity may suggest that it has been effective for many though whether this may just be a placebo is debatable. If you are considering chiropractic treatment, here are some of the popular ailments it is said to help.
Chiropractic Adjustment for Lower Back Pain
General back pain can often be due to incorrect posture, bad habits of slouching or sitting for long hours. Chiropractic treatment would include advise on lifestyle changes that can improve chronic back pain.
The adjustment some patients have said provide relief from the pressure building up whilst others claim longer term effects. As already mentioned, as there are no known effects of this treatment and bones are not ‘out of place’ to begin with, the mental effect of the cracking and sessions may improve the condition.
Chiropractic adjustment is also said to help with neck, shoulder and other joint pain however many medical professionals have advised against adjustment with the neck as it can be a very sensitive area for harsh thrusts with important arteries passing through.
Side Effect of Chiropractic Therapy and Adjustment
Common side effects of chiropractic therapy are localised pain, dizziness and fatigue following a treatment. There have also been reports of worsening chronic back pain, headaches and tingling in the limbs.Some case study literature suggests there may potentially be more serious side effects such as:
“cervicothoracic epidural hematoma, vertebrobasilar stroke, neuropraxic injury of radicular nerves, cervical hematoma, cervical disc herniation, Boerhaave’s syndrome, cranial nerve palsy, vertebral fracture, subclavian artery occlusion…”