A health care profession that dates back to ancient Greece, chiropractic is a hands-on, drug-free therapy that is intended to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal complaints such as back pain, joint pain, sports injuries and headaches. Chiropractic treatment puts special emphasis on the spine under the hypothesis that musculoskeletal disorders affect the body via the nervous system. A chiropractic physician’s primary tools are their hands, which are used to improve joint mobility by applying controlled force. In addition, chiropractors are trained to counsel patients on various aspects of everyday health and lifestyle decisions, including diet and exercise.

The Short Answer:
So is chiropractic a legitimate medical science? Does it work?? The short answer is yes, chiropractic can be an effective, and cost-effective, way to treat certain ailments, as long as you’re being treated by a qualified chiropractor.

The Long Answer:
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), “chiropractic treatment is both safe and effective” for certain musculoskeletal ailments, including neck pain, headaches, and in particular, back pain. In a study reported in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, patients with chronic lower back pain who went to see chiropractors had quadruple the satisfaction scores of those who were treated by family physicians.

Although chiropractic is becoming more and more accepted in mainstream medicine, it remains a controversial topic. Medical doctors consider chiropractors to be practitioners of Complementary and Alternative Care (CAM), a label chiropractors reject. One of the main reasons chiropractic is so controversial is that some of its practitioners, most notably its founder, D.D. Palmer, believed that all illnesses can be cured through chiropractic treatment. Unfortunately, the science on this just doesn’t pan out. If you come across a chiropractor making similar claims, such as having the ability to treat diabetes solely through chiropractic care, run the other way! According to the National Institute of Health, “the effects of chiropractic treatment on nonspinal conditions, such as high blood pressure or ear infections, have not been scientifically proven.”

Is it Safe?
For the most part, the answer is yes, but any risks depend on the specific type of chiropractic treatment used. For example, side effects from chiropractic adjustments can include temporary headaches, tiredness, or discomfort in parts of the body that were treated. The likelihood of serious complications, such as stroke, appears to be extremely low and related to the type of adjustment performed and the part of the body treated. The risk of complications increases in cervical-spine or neck manipulations and affects 1 out of every 500,000 people.

If you are considering seeing a chiropractor, inform your current health care provider of any treatments you are getting or considering.

When Should I See a Chiropractor?
If you experience unexplained pain or chronic pain (pain that lasts longer than it should) in your joints or muscles, you should see a chiropractor. As a general rule, you should not see a chiropractor if you are not experiencing pain or if you are concerned with an aesthetic flaw, such as abnormal curvature in your neck. Many people do not have a “normal” neck curve, according to Dr. Homola, author of Inside Chiropractic: A Patient’s Guide, and that doesn’t mean they require treatment or that they will develop a problem.

To sum up, chiropractic can be a safe, affordable and effective alternative to conventional medicine for many ailments. However, chiropractic care should ideally be accompanied by medical care to ensure that chiropractic treatment is the best treatment. When you’re being cared for by a chiropractor and an MD, you get the best of both worlds.

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