BuckMD Readers – We received a couple comments on this earlier post. Take a look, and add your own comments!
I don’t know a lot about chiropractors. I’ve never worked with any, didn’t learn much about them in my medical training, and don’t refer a lot of patients to them since a lot of insurances don’t cover chiropractic treatment.
But a lot of people swear by them. And I have a few medical colleagues who recommend them for certain patients. And our very own medical center has a Center for Integrative Medicine that provides chiropractic treatment (you can see their take on what a chiropractor does here).
There’s obviously something to it, so I have scoured the medical literature to provide you with the most objective information I can find. Here goes…
Do people suffering from chronic neck or back pain benefit from chiropractic treatment?
Spinal manipulation has been shown to be mildly beneficial in the treatment of uncomplicated low back pain. Uncomplicated means that there is nothing more serious going on, like severe arthritis, pinched nerves or slipped discs.
There’s just not enough good information about whether or not spinal manipulation is beneficial in the treatment of neck pain. Some studies showed it might be; others showed it was only helpful if used in conjunction with exercise, and others showed no benefit.
There is no evidence that spinal manipulation is beneficial in the treatment of headaches.
Is the cure temporary or permanent?
That’s hard to say. Most problems that cause back or neck pain are chronic and recurrent so the treatments don’t “cure” the condition but rather relieve the symptoms of an acute flare-up. If the symptoms come back, it’s not necessarily that the treatment didn’t do what it was supposed to.
Are there any adverse effects of chiropractic treatment?
Minor complaints are fairly common after spinal manipulation, occurring in a third to a little over half of patients. They include headache, fatigue, and pain at the site of manipulation. Some people report dizziness and nausea, but these are less common.
Serious adverse effects from spinal manipulation (slipped disc, stroke or torn blood vessels in the spinal column) are pretty rare. Since the cervical spine (i.e. neck) is so much more mobile than the lumbar spine, it may be at higher risk for these problems. Because of this – and because spinal manipulation doesn’t have any proven benefit in treating neck pain – you should probably avoid seeing chiropractors for neck pain.
If you’re having back or neck pain, come in and see us at Student Health. We have a full-service Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Department right here in the building and we will be happy to discuss all of your treatment options with you after we figure out what the problem is.
John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)