Q: What conditions do chiropractors treat?
Q: How do I select a doctor of chiropractic?
Q: Is chiropractic treatment safe?
Neck pain and some types of headaches are treated through precise cervical manipulation. Cervical manipulation, often called a neck adjustment, works to improve joint mobility in the neck, restoring range of motion and reducing muscle spasm, which helps relieve pressure and tension. Neck manipulation, when performed by a skilled and well-educated professional such as a doctor of chiropractic, is a remarkably safe procedure.
Some reports have associated high-velocity upper neck manipulation with a certain rare kind of stroke, or vertebral artery dissection. However, evidence suggests that this type of arterial injury often takes place spontaneously in patients who have pre-existing arterial disease. These dissections have been associated with everyday activities such as turning the head while driving, swimming, or having a shampoo in a hair salon. Patients with this condition may experience neck pain and headache that leads them to seek professional care—often at the office of a doctor of chiropractic or family physician—but that care is not the cause of the injury. The best evidence indicates that the incidence of artery injuries associated with high-velocity upper neck manipulation is extremely rare—about one to three cases in 100,000 patients who get treated with a course of care. This is similar to the incidence of this type of stroke among the general population.
If you are visiting your doctor of chiropractic with upper-neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms. This will help your doctor of chiropractic offer the safest and most effective treatment, even if it involves referral to another health care provider.
When discussing the risks of any health care procedure, it is important to look at that risk in comparison to other treatments available for the same condition. In this regard, the risks of serious complications from spinal manipulation for conditions such as neck pain and headache compare very favorably with even the most conservative care options. For example, the risks associated with some of the most common treatments for musculoskeletal pain—over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and prescription painkillers—are significantly greater than those of chiropractic manipulation.
According to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, people taking NSAIDS are three times more likely than those who do not to develop serious adverse gastrointestinal problems such as hemorrhage (bleeding) and perforation. That risk rises to more than five times among people age 60 and older.
Moreover, the number of prescriptions for powerful drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone have tripled in the past 12 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that abuse of these commonly prescribed painkillers are among the leading causes of accidental death in the United States. Overdoses of opioid painkillers are responsible for some 15,000 deaths per year; that’s more than the number of deaths from cocaine and heroin combined.
Doctors of chiropractic are well trained professionals who provide patients with safe, effective care for a variety of common conditions. Their extensive education has prepared them to identify patients who have special risk factors and to get those patients the most appropriate care, even if that requires referral to a medical specialist.
Q: Does chiropractic treatment require a referral from an MD?
Q: Is chiropractic treatment appropriate for children?
Q: Are chiropractors allowed to practice in hospitals or use medical outpatient facilities?
Q: Do insurance plans cover chiropractic?
Q: What type of education and training do chiropractors have?
Q: How is a chiropractic adjustment performed?
Q: Is chiropractic treatment ongoing?
Q: Why is there a popping sound when a joint is adjusted?
What Disorders Do Chiropractors Treat?
Chiropractors diagnose and treat many different spinal disorders that cause musculoskeletal or nerve pain. Similar to other types of doctors, a chiropractor performs a physical and neurological examination as part of his or her process of making an accurate diagnosis. X-rays or CT scan studies may be ordered to confirm your diagnosis. This article highlights several spine-related problems that may be evaluated and treated by chiropractic care.
Back sprains and strains are experienced by approximately three out of four adults. Sprains are caused when ligaments—the tough bands of tissue that hold bones together—become overstretched or torn. Strains involve a muscle and/or a tendon. Either one can occur when you lift too much weight, play a strenuous sport, or even bend or twist improperly during regular activities during the day. The pain may be aching, burning, stabbing, tingling, sharp, or dull.
Cervicogenic headaches are caused by referred neck pain. The pain from this type of headache is usually felt at the back of the head, in the temples, and/or behind the eyes. A cervicogenic headache may be mistaken for migraines or cluster headaches.
Coccydynia is pain that develops in the spine’s tailbone. Some people who fall down or who ride a bike for a long time may develop coccydynia, which can get worse when sitting. Sometimes the pain begins without any known cause.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is usually associated with aging. As you become older, your intervertebral discs— the pillow-like cushions between your vertebrae—can degenerate or break down due to years of strain, overuse, or misuse. The discs may lose flexibility, elasticity, and shock absorption. They also become thinner as they dehydrate.
Herniated disc usually occurs in the neck or low back. A herniated disc can cause pain when the outer ring (annulus) or interior matter (nucleus pulposus) presses on a nearby nerve root.
Myofascial pain is a chronic pain disorder where pressure on sensitive points in your muscles—called trigger points—can cause deep, aching pain in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. This is known as referred pain. Sometimes myofascial pain feels like a “knot” in your muscle, and occurs after a muscle is used repeated.
Piriformis syndrome may occur when the piriformis muscle (a narrow muscle located in the buttocks) compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve. Symptoms may be called sciatica and may include pain and/or sensations (tingling, numbness) that travel down through the buttock(s) and into one or both legs.
Sciatica may occur when the sciatic nerve or a branch of the sciatic nerve is compressed or becomes irritated. The hallmark of sciatica is moderate to severe pain that travels below the knee of one leg. Some people with sciatica describe the pain as sharp, shooting, or similar to an electric-shock.
Short leg or leg length discrepancy is also known as limb length discrepancy (one leg is shorter than the other). It can be caused by different types of structural (eg, birth defect) or postural problems (eg, pelvic tilt).
Spondylosis or spinal osteoarthritis may affect the spine’s facet joints or other bones. This type of arthritis is often associated with aging.
Whiplash is a hyperflexion/hyperextension injury commonly occurring when a motor vehicle is rear-ended. The neck and head are “whipped” suddenly and quickly forward (hyperflexion) and backward (hyperextension), which may lead to severe neck sprain and/or strain.