Is Chiropractic Safe?

This is a controversial question, though I’m not sure why. The short answer is, yes, it is safe. The easiest way to tell is to look at malpractice insurance premiums. Insurance companies don’t mess with risk. They charge an arm and a leg if they think you are a risk. Can anyone say preexisting condition? The average premiums for different professions will tell you who has risk of problems, and does not. Here let me show you some numbers (source):

Approximate Malpractice Insurance Premiums

General Surgeon
Internal Medicine
Family Practice

In fact through out many studies proper chiropractic treatment has not been shown to cause anything more than short term soreness at the site of treatment.

Now here’s where it gets controversial. And people may say, wait a minute studies have shown more than that. It’s true there have been rare serious problems seen after chiropractic treatments. The problem is that they are so rare that research has not been able to prove a causal link to chiropractic, or to rule it out. In fact the most recent and complete study showed that the biggest risk is no greater visiting a chiropractor than visiting a medical doctor (second source). These problems are so rare that it is nearly impossible to prove one way or the other.The big one that you’ll hear about is stroke, and the risk is estimated (due to lack of concrete evidence) to be somewhere between 1 in a million to 1 in 5 million. You can see how difficult it would be to do a study with 1 million chiropractic neck pain patients, let alone 5 million. In contrast, the mechanism of treatment seems like it could cause stroke in a predisposed patient, because in those predisposed people, simply turning your head to look at something could cause a stroke. Unfortunately there are no known tests to determine if a patient is at risk.

OK, so let’s put them out there. The possible risks of chiropractic treatment include, bruising, muscle strain, undefined soreness, headache, bone fracture, stroke. Now let’s put them in perspective. You are at least 5 times more likely to be killed by a freak asteroid falling on you than you are to have a stroke after seeing a chiropractor. Now how many people do you know that have been hit by asteroids? Bone fracture is another one of those rare things, and again will probably only happen when someone is predisposed. A person with osteoporosis, or suspected to possibly have osteoporosis, should not be adjusted with a full force method. This is why I usually leave this side effect out of the list when talking about proper chiropractic treatment. As for the headaches, soreness, and bruising, this kind of stuff will usually occur when a patient is unable to relax and the doctor uses a lot of force to get by that problem. It can occur in probably 30% of patients, because sometimes it is necessary to get the joint moving even knowing that the patient is unable to relax. This is something that should be discussed with the patient, and normally the soreness is less than 24 hours.

The last thing that I will say is that you should always bring negative effects to the attention of your chiropractor. Even if they are not caused by the doctor himself he should be aware of them, so that if they are serious he can take care of them or get you to an ER if needed. Some of the serious things to report are; intense pain, dizziness, vertigo, slurring of speech, vision changes, weakness, tingling, or numbness. They may be nothing, but you should let your doctor determine that.


3 thoughts on “Is Chiropractic Safe?

  1. sabrina

    5 days ago I had an upper thoracic adjustment done ( where the adjustment is performed at exhalation in a supine position), however my chiropractor was a bit slow on the mark and as i ran out of breathe, she performed the adjustment on my inhalation causing me strong sharp radiating pain along my ribs and chest.
    I now feel very stiff with a sore and tight upper sternum and corresponding upper thoracic area. I am worried and feeling pain and do not feel confident to return to the practioner who performed this.
    any advise is greatly appreciated, thankyou.

    1. cmnacnud Post author

      First of all this is your body we are discussing and you should do what you feel comfortable with.
      To put you at ease, what you are likely feeling is a sprain/strain of the ribs or intercostal muscles. There is the possibility, though unlikely, that something more significant is wrong such as a fracture of a rib; so I would recommend seeking professional assistance.
      You have two options. First, return to the same chiropractor and explain the situation. Second, seek out a new relationship with another provider that you will feel comfortable with. I am a firm believer that you should be comfortable enough with you provider to tell these kinds of things to them. If you are not comfortable enough to voice your embarrassing mistakes, or when you feel they have made a mistake then how will you react when your surgeon is ready to operate on the wrong leg and you don’t want to offend him or make him look bad.
      You are in charge of your health care, but the physician that you choose to trust with something as important as your health should be trusted enough to have open dialogue with for better or worse. I think physicians deserve the chance to fix their own mistakes. She may even be able to handle the situation in a way that builds more confidence in her. If after a candid and polite conversation you still don’t trust her, then by all means do not let her treat you.
      Good luck and I hope you end up with the right physician for you.


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