There are millions of people in the U.S.A. alone that head to their chiropractors in search of relief from foot, shoulder, back, and neck pain. They also seek help in dealing with headaches in addition to weakening, numbness, and tingling in their hands, legs, and arms.

Looked at in full, approximately 62% of the American population has, in their lifetime, experienced neck or upper and middle back pain that was severe enough to warrant a visit to health professionals. This data is revealed in the Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Report of 2018. Among those seeking help for back and neck pain, 63% visited medical doctors while 53% sought the assistance of chiropractors.

It is estimated that the number of people seeking chiropractic assistance numbers in the tens of millions. An earlier Gallup poll conducted on behalf of the Davenport based Palmer College of Chiropractic found that over 62 million Americans had been to see a chiropractor since the year 2011.

Since 2007, the number of chiropractic patients has held somewhat steady, according to the September 2017 National Health Interview Survey released by the federal government.

Chiropractors make the claim that their interventions are the safest and least invasive option for numerous ailments, but it has to be noted that chiropractic measures are not entirely risk-free.

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the pros and cons related to chiropractic treatments and give some viable suggestions on how to obtain the best care possible.

Chiropractors: What Exactly Do They Do?

Chiropractors are healthcare professionals that treat their patients by means of the application of various manipulations and adjustments to align their spine.

During your first visit to a chiropractor, they will usually carry out a physical examination and take a look at your medical history, with a special focus on any spine-related issues and the patient’s bone density (checking to see if it falls within normal bounds).

In cases where the patient is found to possess less than normal bone density, which is often the case for those suffering from osteoporosis, the chiropractor will utilize less strenuous or gentler treatment methods. Chiropractors will usually make use of their hands to apply a rapid yet controlled force to the affected joint in order to make it possible for the joint to regain its regular range of motion and reduce any inflammation or pain. This is according to Ray Truck, who is a past American Chiropractic Association board chairman, and currently president of the Virginia Board of Medicine.

A common chiropractic technique is known as a high-velocity cervical adjustment and entails the patient laying their head in the chiropractor’s hands, who then thrust it quickly in one direction. This maneuver often results in a sharp cracking sound. It is also possible for them to perform low-velocity, gentler cervical adjustments, depending on the patient’s particular situation.

Chiropractors also have the expertise to take care of headaches their patients may be suffering from. These are often caused by nerve irritations that translate to pains in the heads of the patients. There are chiropractic techniques that effectively negate or eliminate any nerve irritations and thus give relief from the headaches.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care

There is researched evidence pointing to significant benefits to be had from chiropractic care.

The Spine Journal published, back in 2008, a study where researchers looked over the experiences of 192 patients in the care of chiropractors due to sciatica and other back-related complaints and ailments. Sciatica refers to a condition whereby leg pain is brought about as a result of a pinched nerve in a person’s lower spine region. In 87% of the subjects, chiropractic care was reported to have had a beneficial effect on the condition.

The British Medical Journal published yet another study in 2003 whereby 183 patients reporting neck pain were assigned at random to receive treatments that either involved physiotherapy (mostly exercise), spinal manipulations, or care by a general practitioner which would primarily involve education, counseling, and prescription drugs. The subjects of the study were instructed to maintain cost diaries throughout a year of their treatment. The study results came to show that those who were assigned spinal manipulation spent less money and enjoyed greater relief from their condition than those who were placed under general practitioner care or physiotherapy.

Seeing a chiropractor after an auto injury or car accident has been rising upward for the last decade.  The reason for this trend is because many people prefer natural healing, alternative, and non invasive treatments compared to your standard going under the knife and Big Pharma. With the proper chiropractic care by a good chiropractor, many patients won’t require surgery or taking prescription pain medications or even over the counter pain meds like Tylenol. They want a term solution and not a bandaid quick fix. More people are opting to see an auto injury chiropractor versus an orthopaedic for these various reasons stated above.

Potential Risks Associated with Chiropractic Care

Though chiropractors will claim that their methods are the safest and least invasive therapy option for various maladies, the reality is that the practice is not entirely free from risk.

Medscape published a study in 2010 where two dozen published deaths occurring after chiropractic treatment were analyzed, taking note that there may have been unreported deaths not in the study. The study showed that in a separate 1997 review focusing on complications arising after neck manipulations there were 177 instances where the patients suffered an injury. Of these injuries, 32 turned out to be fatal. A significant majority of these cases were to be associated with chiropractic care, the study went on to conclude.

It is important for potential patients to note that such cases and outcomes are very rare, especially considering the fact that there are millions of people undergoing chiropractic care each year, according to Keith Overland, a Norwalk, Connecticut based chiropractor who has in the past served as president of the American Chiropractic Association. He tells us that we should weigh our available options when it comes to potential treatments in order to select the most effective and safest treatment possible.

October 2016 saw us witness a high-profile death with a link to chiropractic care. Playboy model Katie May saw her death ruled by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office to have been as a result of a stroke caused by an artery rupturing during a chiropractic treatment (neck manipulation). She died at the age of 34, having gone to a chiropractor after suffering a fall.

The American Heart Association released a scientific statement in 2014 where they stated that having an osteopathic doctor or chiropractor adjusts your neck in the course of treatment might be linked to an increase in the risk of experiencing a stroke.

As chiropractors on the one hand say that the risks of injury possible as a result of chiropractic methods are extremely low, some physicians, on the other hand, state that even low risks should not be tolerated. They state that they would advise patients to avoid high-velocity neck manipulations.

Dr. Vernon Williams, who is an eminent sports neurologist, tells us that just as with other medical specializations, chiropractors are not all created equal. He says that there are great chiropractors out there, some of whom prefer not to employ high-velocity manipulation in their treatments. He is of the opinion that chiropractic manipulations in combination with active stabilization and strengthening exercises are favorable in most scenarios. He goes on to say that in cases where the patient displays significant neurological symptoms or signs or abnormalities in imaging, medical management and evaluation would be the most prudent course of action.

Chiropractic Safety

According to the American Chiropractic Association, neck manipulation treatment procedures are safe for the patient. New York City chiropractor and author Todd Sinett tell us that he has carried out cervical manipulations on his patients for over 20 years now without any negative results. He avers that chiropractic manipulation is safe, even allowing for the fact that it is not entirely without risk. In his opinion, comparing the risk associated with cervical manipulation against the risks of allergies, negative drug interactions, and surgery shows us that chiropractic methods are ultimately safer.

He points to a study by the Rand Corporation, a Santa Monica, California based non-profit research group conducted in 1996 that determined that the negative risks that come with cervical manipulation stand at less than one in a million. The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study in 2001 that found the risk of suffering a stroke after cervical manipulation treatment to stand at one to 5.85 million procedures.

He also tells us that the important thing is to carefully weigh the available options, looking at the potential risks and rewards involved. He reiterates that even though much has been said about the dangers presented by cervical manipulation techniques, the chiropractic method is quite safe.

What Makes a Good Chiropractor?

The chiropractic profession differs from many in that there is a wide spread of approaches, techniques and philosophies that will differ from one practitioner to the next. As a patient, you will want one who best suits your particular needs. With all the options available to you, it might be difficult for you to figure out what exactly to look for in a good chiropractor, so here are some expert tips to help you select the right practitioner for you. These are particularly relevant for first-time chiropractic patients:

• Positive referrals and recommendations

You can learn about candidate chiropractors to visit by checking out their websites, paying attention to patient reviews available there. Nowadays, there’s plenty of information to be found online to help you make your decision on sites such as Yelp! and other review sites. If you know anybody that has had chiropractic work done, you can ask them what their experience was like, or you could ask your primary care physician to suggest someone they have confidence in. Although physicians might not have much regular interaction with the chiropractic profession, they will definitely be able to guide you in the right direction. Generally speaking, any chiropractor in Austin, L.A, New York, or any other city, who has a good name from more than one source will be reliable.

Professional qualifications and experience

Good training plus experience is always preferable to good training on its own. Especially for those seeking chiropractic care for the first time, seeking a chiropractor with at least a few years of practical experience under their belt will be of great benefit to them. An experienced chiropractor will be able to fill in details you might not know how to explain and answer questions you might not even know to ask. An experienced practitioner can make your experience a lot simpler.

As things stand, chiropractors in the U.S.A. are licensed to operate within all 50 states but there are plenty of chiropractors who have attained post-graduate certifications. Inquire if your chiropractor has any such specialties or certifications. These specializations include, for example, sports medicine, physical rehabilitation, nutrition, and more.

Good pre-therapy interview

An initial interview will allow you to answer some important questions before you make your final decision. How comfortable are you with them? Are they courteous and friendly? Do they answer your questions thoroughly? Do they listen well to your complaints and descriptions? These measures will indicate how well suited the practitioner is to your individual requirements.

Any respectable chiropractor will have no problem seeing you for a consultation before you decide to trust them with your care. Conducting a pre-therapy interview will allow you to measure how well your rapport is, which is important in such personalized types of treatment. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions you might have and put any concerns you harbor on the table. This will allow you to go into treatment relaxed and confident in the outcome. It makes a difference.

Schedule a meeting with the chiropractor in order to discuss and go over the treatment options available for your particular situation. Have them give you a detailed analysis of the potential risks and rewards regarding these potential courses of action.

Final Thoughts

You should always bear in mind that the purpose of an initial interview is for you to figure out what the best fit for you is, before you make your decision. You should never feel pressured to sign on with a chiropractor you don’t feel completely comfortable with and have confidence in. Even if you end up scheduling a dozen initial interviews, finding the best practitioner for your needs is your right. You want to have a positive experience leading to a positive outcome, so take your time in choosing the chiropractor to make this a reality for you.