The popularity of chiropractic healthcare continues to grow, not only in the United States but also the entire world. Yet, some wonder about the safety of chiropractic adjustments and manipulation. Although no healthcare procedure is 100% safe, chiropractic has been shown by numerous studies to be one of the safest of all forms of treatment. This article will discuss the topic of chiropractic safety.
We are all aware of the reports that over 100,000 deaths per year occur in the United States from medical errors. Everyone involved in providing healthcare should be doing everything possible to reduce and eliminate this problem.
The chiropractic profession has been acutely aware that we must first do no harm when it comes to the care and treatment of our patients.
For instance, the federal government accredits chiropractic schools (just as it does medical and dental schools) through the federally-recognized Council on Chiropractic Education. Chiropractic colleges require 10 semesters or five years of education beyond that taken in undergraduate college. Chiropractic students study anatomy, physiology, pathology, and all the basic health sciences that any licensed health practitioner learns. Also, each state has a Board of Chiropractic that administers examinations for those doctors wishing to practice in that particular state and is responsible for the guidance and quality of chiropractic health care delivered by their state’s practicing Doctors of Chiropractic.
A number of research studies have investigated the safety of chiropractic in the United States and in other countries. The good news here is that chiropractic has been shown to be one of the safest of all forms of treatment.
The Agency on Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services released guidelines for management of acute lower back pain. The AHCPR panel was made up of 23 members consisting of medical doctors, chiropractic doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other experts on spinal research. The guidelines developed provided doctors and therapists with information and strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of lower back problems. Their findings included:
- The risk of serious complications from lumbar spinal manipulation is rare;
- Conservative treatment such as spinal manipulation should be pursued in most cases before considering surgical intervention;
- Prescription drugs such as oral steroids, antidepressant medications, and colchine are not recommended for acute lower back problems.
In Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health commissioned a study called the Manga Report. The report is one of the largest analyses is of scientific literature ever undertaken to determine effective treatment for lower back pain. Lead investigator Pran Manga Ph.D found the treatments provided by Doctors of Chiropractic were exceptionally safe–much safer than the standard medical treatments of similar conditions. The Manga Report concluded:
- “There is no clinical or case-controlled study that demonstrates or even implies that chiropractic spinal manipulation is unsafe in the treatment of low back pain. Our reading of the literature suggests that chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low back pain.”
- “Chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low back pain. Chiropractic management is greatly superior to medical management in terms of scientific validity, safety, cost effectiveness and patient satisfaction.”
Some patients as well as non-chiropractic doctors and therapists have heard stories questioning the safety of having adjustments and manipulations of the neck (called cervical spine). In 2007, Spine Research Journal published a study undertaken in the United Kingdom on the “Safety of Chiropractic Manipulation of the Cervical Spine”.
19,722 chiropractic patients were treated. 50,276 manipulations of the cervical spine were performed. The study looked to see if there were any serious side effects. The final analysis reported “The risk of a serious adverse event, immediately or up to seven days after treatment, was low to very low”.
When giving healthcare all practitioners are very concerned with not only providing the best, most current quality of health care, but should be equally vigilant about the safest ways to help patients with relief of pain and maintenance of health. Fortunately, studies give chiropractic care high marks in these efforts.