Hot Topic: Is Chiropractic Safe?

As a chiropractor, I am constantly bombarded with questions:

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What technique do you use?
What’s the difference from your technique vs. this other chiropractor I saw?
Can you cure my _____ (insert ailment)?
Does insurance cover chiropractic care?
How long do you think it will take for me to get well?
When do you think the 15th Land Before Time film will come out?

These are all great questions, but my all-time favorite question is this:

      Is chiropractic safe?

Out of all these questions, this is my favorite because it is the easiest one to answer!

It’s not very easy to explain to a layperson what separates one technique from the next. It’s equally difficult explaining how long it will take for your particular ailment to heal, considering one person is very different from the next. In regards to insurance covering chiropractic care, the answer could be yes, no, or maybe… depending on how insurance is feeling that day. It’s a no-brainer that a 15th Land Before Time film will come out, but pinpointing the year has become awfully difficult, considering their 9-year lapse before the latest one.

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Meanwhile, it takes next to nothing from me to answer the question, “Is chiropractic safe?”

YES!

Now believe me, I get it. It’s easy to have that question if you’ve never been to a chiropractor before. In this age where the media runs the show, every headline is being exaggerated 100-fold. I can’t even check out the weather on my phone without being captured by a headline that leaves me thinking the world is going to end any minute. But let’s put this conversation to rest, once and for all.

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In regards to healthcare, any and every treatment is going to carry with it the possibility of adverse effect. Even some of the healthiest habits, like nutrition, supplementation, exercise, & yoga carry risks. I would never consider any one of those health habits unsafe as a whole. There may be specific populations or cases who would be better off avoiding a certain aspect of those habits.

As an example, a gentleman in his late 60s who has suffered 3 previous heart attacks should avoid high-intensity cardiovascular exercise at all costs. I know this, yet I do not question whether exercise is safe. Compare this to chiropractic... a 75-year-old female with severe osteoporosis should not be receiving high-velocity adjustments of the spine. This does not mean that chiropractic as a whole is unsafe.

Of late, the majority of the conversation around chiropractic and safety has to do with the risk of stroke that has been interestingly associated. This association has been primarily targeted at high-velocity upper neck manipulations with a rotational component and the potential of causing a rare kind of stroke by means of dissection of the vertebral artery. To date, no study has been able to conclude that a chiropractic adjustment caused a vertebral artery dissection. There have been studies that showed correlation between the two, but causation is much different from correlation.

The correlation has been shown in a 2013 survey that looked at 43 studies between 2001-2011 that unveiled a total of 707 cases of ischemic stroke (not even vertebral artery dissection) after high-velocity upper neck manipulation with a rotational component. Considering on average 20 million people visit the chiropractor in a given year, if you took that out over the course of the 11-year period, that would mean 220 million people visited a chiropractor in that span. 707 cases of ischemic stroke were reported out of 220 million people. If causation had actually been linked, this would mean that you have less than a 1 in 311,000 chance of experiencing a stroke after high-velocity upper neck manipulation with a rotational component. BUT… there still has not been a single study that proves any kind of causation between the two, meaning your odds are even much lower than that.

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The reason why it has become somewhat easy to make the case for correlation between the two is because of the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. What are two of the most common symptoms experienced by someone who is suffering from a stroke?

      Headache & neck pain/stiffness.

What are two of the most common symptoms that walk through a chiropractic office on a regular basis?

      Headache & neck pain/stiffness.

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Vertebral artery dissections are known to occur primarily in patients who have pre-existing arterial disease. As a matter of fact, oftentimes these dissections occur from daily activities such as looking over the shoulder to change lanes on the road, turning the head when swimming, or leaning the head back for a shampoo in the hair salon. So it is commonly thought that it was only just a matter of time before these individuals suffered arterial dissection from normal daily activities.

Just in case you’re still a little uncertain as to whether or not you believe chiropractic care to be safe, let’s put it into perspective. In 2014, a study was done by the National Center for Health Statistics  looking at the “Odds of Death in the United States by Selected Cause of Injury.” This study showed your chances of dying in a car accident are 1 in 645. Now I want you to compare that to the 1 in 311,000 chance of suffering from a stroke after a high velocity upper neck manipulation. This means you are 482 times more likely to die in a car accident than suffer from a stroke after seeing a chiropractor. So if you are hesitant to visit a chiropractor to help with your headaches, migraines, or neck pain due to your belief that it is unsafe, just remember that you are in far more danger driving to and from work or the grocery store.

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Another statistic that jumped out from the aforementioned 2014 study was the fact that you have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from a drug or medication overdose. Drug poisoning was the leading cause of death by injury in the United States in 2014. Considering some of the most commonly used treatments for ailments such as neck pain and headaches are NSAIDs and opioids, the risk that comes with chiropractic care is downright minuscule in comparison to the risk that comes with these medications and prescription drugs.

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So what’s the moral of the story? Keep in mind that for the most part, only bad events make the news headlines. They’re not going to make a big deal about all of the positive effects chiropractic care has on the body. That doesn’t attract viewers. At the end of the day, that’s all the media cares about.

Many chiropractors, Amplify Chiropractic included, do not use any twisting when adjusting the neck. The adjustments may be done through the assistance of mechanical drop tables, instruments, or a myriad of other ways that are low-force and do not involve a rotational component. These types of techniques make vertebral artery dissection almost virtually impossible, because they don’t include rotation.

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What you need to do is find a local chiropractic office that is going to be detailed and thorough in their approach. I don’t recommend searching for “chiropractor near me” or “Littleton chiropractor” and going in to see the first chiropractor that pops up, no questions asked. Check out their website. Do some research. Find a chiropractic practice that is going to perform thorough consultations, health assessments, & x-rays before you commit. Ask the provider questions if you are nervous. A chiropractor should be able to answer your questions and help you feel comfortable if they are to win your trust.

If you are someone who has been fearful of going to a chiropractor, but after reading this blog post would like to find a trusted local chiropractor for a consultation and assessments, please feel free to reach out to us on our website. We are a part of a very large network of trusted chiropractors and would be happy to help you find one in your area.