Chiropractic Care: Does the benefit outweigh the risks?

Are there risks to chiropractic treatment?  Well, some, but most of the adverse events (side effects) that can occur with chiropractic care of the neck and low back are benign and self-limiting.  This means they are mild, do not affect a person’s activities of daily living and typically go away on their own after a few days.  This generally means post-adjustment soreness, nausea, that sort of thing.

A study recently published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physical Therapeutics (Rubenstein SM. JMPT 2008;31:461-464) asked the question “Do the benefits of chiropractic care outweigh the risks.”  I’ll save you some reading….YES.

The author examined the minor and occasionally serious events associated with chiropractic care and found that the best evidence suggests that chiropractic care is a useful treatment for patients with low back or neck pain and the risks of serious adverse events should be considered negligible.

I once heard it described that if you drive more than a mile or so to your chiropractor’s office, the chances of having a serious injury are much greater on your drive to the office than during any time actually spent in the office.  And any link between chiropractic treatment and stroke has not been without flaws.  In fact, a recent study showed that the risk of stroke following a chiropractic visit was equal to the risk of stroke following a medical doctor visit.  It seems that patients who are about to have a stroke tend to self-refer to chiropractors and medical doctors.  Go figure.

Risks with any treatment shouldn’t be taken lightly but certainly we should use a rational and intelligent approach to them.  As far as chiropractors peforming spinal manipulation, we should keep studying the risks but I believe that no sleep should be lost worrying them.

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