Is Chiropractic really effective for relieving back pain?

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is Chiropractic ?

Chiropractic is a complementary medical therapy that deals with the musculoskeletal system and is commonly used to relieve for back pain. The term is derived from the two Greek words cheir and praxis which means hands and practice respectively. It uses manual therapy to enhance the body’s ability to heal itself and also takes help of nutritional counselling along with various exercise forms.

The practitioner uses the hand techniques on the muscles around the back and other body parts along with the help of heat, ice and other relaxation techniques. The focus of chiropractic care is on the close relationship between the nervous system and the structure of the spine. Consequently, any biomechanical issue with the spinal structure can affect the overall health of the patient.

So chiropractic aims to restore the health of the spinal structure and reduce any stress on the connected neurological elements.

How does chiropractic work?

Chiropractic uses the usual methods used in any medical practice by noting the overall history of the patient followed by an examination. After a study of these, a comprehensive treatment plan is developed for the case. 

The use of chiropractic manipulation can reduce pain, improve mobility and also help in providing a better performance for specific activities. While the primary focus of any chiropractic treatment is on the spine, other body parts are also given due importance as required for the treatment.

The method focuses on improving the health of the patient without the use of drugs or surgery of any kind. Chiropractic care is most helpful for the following medical conditions.

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headache
  • Strains and sprains
  • Repetitive stress-related injury
  • Work and sports injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Limited range of motion in the back, shoulder, neck or limbs

The origin of chiropractic

Chiropractic treatment started becoming popular in the late 19th century and Daniel David Palmer is said to be the founder of this practice. He claimed that he used specific movements on some selected contact points to deliver the best results through key spinal adjustments.

However, he was not the first person to treat the spine through manual therapy. Records of such practices date back to 400 BC during the period of Hippocrates, who is termed as the father of Greek medicine.

Records of spinal manipulation were also found in ancient Buddhist practices. The Palmer School of Chiropractic was formed in 1897 and in the initial years there developed significant friction between the users of chiropractic medicine and traditional allopathic practitioners.

Presently, the two branches exist in harmony and are used in a conjoined manner for the benefit of the patient. In the following decades after the school was established, the chiropractors were gradually given legal recognition throughout the USA.

A chiropractic practitioner in the USA must clear the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam and earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. The study includes various basic sciences related to medicine, along with anatomy and physiology. Presently, the USA has around 70000, licenced chiropractors in various chiropractic clinics. Chiropractic is also popular in various other countries like Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Switzerland.

Previously, chiropractic theory was based on a concept called “vertebral subluxation complex” but present practitioners have discarded this theory due to lack of proper evidence. The present-day practices are based on a modern outlook and have left behind some age-old concepts such as anti-drug and anti-vaccination propaganda. 

The new objectives are based on research and evidence-based and define chiropractic treatment as a “solely musculoskeletal practitioners with a special emphasis on spinal pain”.

When to seek chiropractic treatment

One of the most common ailments that make patients seek the best chiropractor is chronic and acute lower back pain. This is a painful condition that can hamper normal life and lead to depression. It is also helpful when any particular part of the body is stressed and in conditions like tendinitis or stress fractures.

In cases like a whiplash related injury that results from a car accident or a fall during a sports event, chiropractic care can lead to a speedy recovery along with the restoration of mobility. The practice is also used to improve flexibility and overall spinal health so that minor problems do not escalate into bigger ones. It has also proven effective in relieving conditions like sciatica and headaches.

In addition, research has also indicated that spinal manipulation in a chiropractic clinic is effective in treating conditions like fibromyalgia, children’s ear infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and infant colic.

Patients seeking a chiropractor for lower back pain, often considers this method as the primary mode of treatment. In many other cases, chiropractic is used to supplement the other treatment procedures that are being followed. There is presently very little evidence that describes how chiropractic is helpful in treating these conditions.

The method has been found to be ineffective for conditions like asthma, hypertension or menstrual pain. Before visiting a chiropractic clinic, you need to take the following steps.

  • Ensure that the chiropractor has the necessary qualification and is a license holder.
  • Discuss the details of your condition with the chiropractor.
  • Enquire about any specific training or experience the chiropractor has in treating your condition.
  • Learn about the number of sessions that you will need along with the expenses. Also, enquire whether the same will be covered by your medical insurance.
  • If the chiropractor suggests any dietary supplements, discuss the effects of the same on any medication that you might be consuming.

The risk factors in Chiropractic

Chiropractic treatment is considered safe and non-invasive but it is not totally without risks. There have been some cases where death has resulted from the treatment. But considering the fact that millions of people take the help of chiropractic care annually, such cases are very rare. There have also been reports of patients receiving serious injuries from the practice.

In some cases, the neck manipulation done in chiropractic treatments may cause injury to some arteries, leading to a stroke. The practice can also lead to a herniated disc or can have adverse effects on patients with existing disk herniation. There is also a chance of the practice resulting in the compression of the nerves in the lower part of the spinal column.

In spite of these risk factors, some of the best chiropractors have stated that the practice involves lesser risks and adverse effects than other medical practices that are followed.

There have been no estimation of the risks that are involved with chiropractic treatments and more research is required to establish the facts. When spinal manipulation is performed on the area involving the upper spine, there can be some complications that can lead to serious issues. So some extent of caution is always advised before visiting the best chiropractor in your area.

The patients with the following conditions should avoid visiting a chiropractic clinic without taking medical advice.

– Those suffering from severe osteoporosis
– A feeling of numbness, tingling or loss of strength in an arm or leg
– Those diagnosed with cancer in the spine
– Individuals with an increased risk of stroke
– Any known bone abnormality in the upper neck region.

The benefits of Chiropractic

A recent study conducted on patients who visited a chiropractor for lower back pain has established the following advantages of the practice.

– They reported less pain intensity
– They experienced less disability and more improvement in functioning normally
– They also reported higher satisfaction with their treatment
– The need to consume pain medicine was reduced.

This study was performed on a group of people and it is hard to generalize the results. Overall benefits of chiropractic will vary depending on the specific conditions of the patient. Apart from these, chiropractic treatment also has a range of other benefits to offer.

A chiropractor takes a deeper look at the conditions that are adversely affecting the health of a patient. It allows the body to heal from within and enhances its ability to recover. So the treatment can lead to a betterment of the overall health conditions.

The process can help in activating the joints in the right manner and enhance their mobility. It also prevents degeneration of the connective tissue around a joint.

It relaxes the muscles and assists in improving the overall blood circulation in the body, thereby invigorating it. This also leads to the strengthening of the immune system.

Any chiropractic treatment is free from the use of drugs or surgery and it gently corrects any misalignments in the spine. It is a natural process which uses non-invasive techniques to promote healing.

Chiropractic care can work in conjunction with other branches of medicine and does not interfere in their functioning. This makes it an easy method to recommend to any patient undergoing other forms of treatment. It calms the mind and helps in improving sleep quality. Apart from helping the patient to overcome stress, it also helps in increasing the energy levels.

Chiropractic treatment also helps in improving the functioning of nerves which helps in overall performance in the field of sports and other activity. A study has also pointed out that the practice is free from any serious side effects that can impact the body.

Frequently asked questions about Chiropractic

How does the chiropractic practice take place?

Chiropractic is a hands-on approach and the practitioner usually asks the patient to lie down in a particular position as he manipulates a particular area associated with the issue.

What is a chiropractic adjustment?

In this process, calculated amount of force is used on a specific spinal joint that has been locked up for some reason. The method corrects the structural alignment of the spine and also removes any unnecessary interference with the nerves.

Is the treatment painful?

The process uses minimum force and gentle movement in a controlled environment that should not cause any pain to the patient. In many cases, the process can provide immediate relief to the otherwise painful parts of the body. In some cases, there can be some minor soreness after the practice resulting from muscle action. This usually goes away within a few days.

What is the direct thrust technique used by chiropractors?

This technique is used on the spine and the practitioner uses fast hand movements to align the spine. This helps in realigning the bones that might have restricted spinal movements.

Why is a popping sound heard at times during the treatment?

This sound may be heard during the process but it is nor painful and does not have any adverse effects either. It is generally heard when a joint is being worked on. The sound can be from the release of a gas bubble in the joint as the internal in it pressure changes.

How do I find the best chiropractor near me?

Before choosing a chiropractor you can look for recommendations from families and friends. In many cases, the review websites are also a good source of information about a practitioner. In addition, check with your insurance provider for the list of chiropractors who are covered by the service.

What is the general cost of a chiropractic treatment?

Chiropractic treatments can lead to lower costs in the long run for patients with back and joint pains. It has also been shown that the process can reduce the need to visit medical practitioners and result is significant annual savings.


A whole lot of researches, both within and outside the practitioners have established the effectiveness of chiropractic in relieving certain painful conditions. At the same time, there is some element of risk involved with the practice. So before looking for a chiropractor to relieve your back, pain it is best to check with your regular doctor and ensure that you will benefit from the treatment.

Chiropractic treatment takes into account various factors of your health and hence you may also be asked to undergo certain changes in lifestyle along with diet and weight as a part of the treatment. As chiropractic treatments keep delivering cost-efficiency as well as patient satisfaction, their demand will definitely remain on the higher side in the coming days.

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