by | Ask the Doctor

Q: I have never been to a chiropractor. What is the “adjustment” that chiropractors use to treat back problems? Is it safe? Does it work?

A: Many people are beginning to look to chiropractors for help with their pain. Although well established as one of the most effective, safest, and least expensive approaches to back and neck pain, it has been largely overlooked by many. This is commonly due to the fact that chiropractors are not part of your typical medical model, many healthcare providers are not aware of what chiropractors do, and some chiropractors have created a bad public image of the profession. I am not surprised you have not been to a chiropractor, am pleased you are considering it, and I hope you find a chiropractor that offers good care and a good impression of our profession.

Doctors of Chiropractic use manipulation or adjustments when applying body leverage and a physical thrust to joints. This method is used to eliminate subluxations or misalignments in spinal vertebrae and related tissue function. Through their non-invasive techniques, chiropractors seek to provide relief from symptoms, improve joint and muscle function and speed recovery. Joint manipulation that uses a high velocity thrust should not be confused with massage that focuses on the body’s soft tissues. It is now well understood that the adjustment is ideally a PART of a full scope approach to all of the tissues affected – muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, etc. The adjustment should be accompanied by muscle work, stretching, and strengthening.

Multiple recent studies show that chiropractic adjustments are “very effective” (the highest level of effectiveness), especially with acute and chronic lower back problems, acute and chronic neck pain, and headaches. During an adjustment, the vertebra is freed from misalignment and returned to the proper position in the spinal column. Once performed, the adjustment allows the body to heal and maintain homeostasis, or the ability to self regulate muscle tone and nervous system function, thereby allowing a better healing response.

Chiropractors use varying amounts of force in manipulation from fast and brief to very light and sustained. The former may result in a harmless “pop” sound as joint surfaces separate. Special diagnostics are used to determine where adjustments are needed – such as xray. Based on your initial discussion with a chiropractor, they know what is safe and how to best adjust you. Most manipulation is done with the hands, though there are also methods that involve instruments or sophisticated tables.

Safety? Well I can address this in many ways statistically, but I think I will stick to a real life explanation that most of us can relate to… insurance. If anyone were to look to make profit from chiropractors hurting people, it would certainly be the insurance industry, right? They can find profit in insuring homes in a flood plain. If chiropractors were hurting people more commonly than other types of providers then surely the insurance premiums for coverage would be very high. In fact, they are extremely low because the rate of adverse event is so rare. The yearly malpractice insurance for a chiropractor is slightly more than for a massage therapist. A full year of coverage for a chiropractor would be less than it would be to insure some types of providers or services for a week. It is safe, it is effective, and more each year we are seeing that studies support what we have known. Pick a good chiropractor and give it a try.

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Voted Best Morgantown Chiropractic Office 2018, 2019, and 2021!

Voted Best Morgantown Chiropractic Office 2018, 2019, and 2021!