Over the years a number of myths pertaining to chiropractic have been created, mostly by economic competitors and those with differing philosophies. While the majority of myths have no basis, they do exist and cause some confusion to individuals unfamiliar with chiropractic care.
Myth #1: Spinal Adjustments Hurt
Quite the contrary. Many patients feel instant relief immediately after their treatments. In fact, most look forward to their chiropractic treatments. In patients suffering from severe bouts of back or neck pain, some discomfort may be experienced for obvious reasons, however, for most patients, this is not the case.
Myth #2: Spinal Adjustments Are Dangerous
Chiropractic spinal adjustments are extremely safe when performed by chiropractors. In fact, chiropractic adjustments are among the safest treatments for most back and neck problems. According to a 1993 Ontario Ministry of Health commissioned study,
"There is no clinical or case-control study that demonstrates or even implies that chiropractic spinal manipulation is unsafe in the treatment of low-back pain. Some medical treatments are equally safe, but others are unsafe and generate iatrogenic (doctor-induced) complications for low-back pain patients. Our reading of the literature suggests that chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low-back pain."
Lead investigator of the study, Pran Manga, Ph.D., however, did warn that spinal adjustments performed by health care professionals other than qualified doctors of chiropractic were potentially harmful and less effective:
"Indeed, several existing medical therapies of low-back pain are generally contraindicated on the basis of the existing clinical trials. There is also some evidence in the literature to suggest that spinal manipulations are less safe and less effective when performed by non-chiropractic professionals."
On December 8, 1994, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services released clinical practice guidelines for the management of acute low back pain. Their guidelines were developed after extensive study of the diagnostic and treatment methods used for acute low back pain. 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 colchicine are not recommended for acute low back problems.
Myth #3: Chiropractic Doctors Lack Education Compared With Medical Doctors
The training and education endured by chiropractors are extremely thorough and demanding, similar to that of medical doctors with the exception of pharmacology and surgery.
Prior to entering chiropractic college, the aspiring chiropractor requires 2-4 years (depending on the college attended and the state one wishes to practice in) of premed undergraduate studies. Once completed, the student must next complete 4-5 academic years of studies at a chiropractic college. This includes extensive training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, neurology, radiology, differential diagnosis, chiropractic adjustive techniques, biomechanics, and other health-related studies.
In addition, prior to graduation, each student must successfully complete several hundred clinical hours of "real" patient management in a clinical setting under professional supervision. Most chiropractic colleges also require students to partake in clinical externship programs which place them in actual chiropractic offices, further enhancing their clinical practice skills.
Near or soon after graduation, the new doctors of chiropractic must successfully complete rigorous National and State Board examinations prior to obtaining a license to practice chiropractic. Once licensed, most states require that chiropractors receive annual continuing education to ensure that a high level of competency is maintained.
Myth #4: Chiropractic Is Not Scientific
Chiropractors have always sought to provide the safest and most effective healing methods for their patients. In order to achieve this, the chiropractic profession has been dedicated to conducting scientific studies to improve its diagnostic methods and treatment techniques. In the last 20 years chiropractic, health care has established an impressive array of scientific research that demonstrates the efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care. There are many further studies currently underway, and several have been performed by medical doctors and government researchers in both the U.S. and a number of other countries.
In fact, the chiropractic profession has accumulated a greater number of scientific trials on chiropractic than the medical profession has accumulated for many of the treatments rendered by medical doctors. According to David M. Edy, M.D., Ph.D., professor of health policy and management with Duke University, North Carolina, only 15 percent of all medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence. Paul G. Shekelle, M.D., M.P.H., of the RAND Corporation, made the following statement on ABC's 20/20:
"There are considerably more randomized controlled trials which show benefit of this (chiropractic care) than there are for many, many other things which physicians and neurosurgeons do all the time."
Myth #5: Chiropractic Care is Expensive
Research clearly disproves this myth. Chiropractic care has been consistently shown to be cost-effective in a number of government and workers' compensation board studies.
According to The Manga Report, a 1993 Canadian government commissioned study,
"There would be highly significant cost savings if more management of low-back pain was transferred from physicians to chiropractors... Users of chiropractic care have substantially lower health care costs, especially inpatient costs, than those who use medical care only."
According to an economic analysis conducted in Richmond, Virginia,
"By every test of cost and effectiveness, the general weight of evidence shows chiropractic to provide important therapeutic benefits, at economical costs. Additionally, these benefits are achieved with apparently minimal, even negligible, impacts on the costs of health insurance."
When the State of Florida's Workers' Compensation Board conducted research in 1988 on treatment costs associated with injured workers who received care from either chiropractic doctors or medical doctors, they found chiropractic treatment costs were 58.8 percent of the treatments costs rendered by medical doctors ($558 vs. $1,100 per case).
You’ll Have to Continue Chiropractic Care for the Rest of Your Life
Most doctors of chiropractic promote a preventative type of lifestyle which has been construed by adversaries to mean that chiropractic care requires a lifetime of commitment. Actually, recommending that patients return for periodic spinal care is no different that what dentists recommend to their patients in order to prevent cavities and gum disease.
Just as it would be ludicrous to believe that visiting a dentist once per lifetime would ensure permanently healthy teeth and gums it's equally as silly to think that visiting a chiropractor a few times will ensure a lifelong healthy spine. Our spinal tissues undergo daily bombardment of stresses originating from bad postural habits, suboptimal work environments, psychological stress, and hectic lifestyles just to name a few.
For these reasons, after the resolution of acute problems patients are given the option to receive periodic spinal checkups which acts to minimize the likelihood of future recurrences or development of new problems. The preventative approach in health care has been gaining much recognition as of late and there has been a large push in the medical community and health insurance industry to incorporate preventative programs into mainstream medicine.
It's really that simple. Periodic care to prevent future problems - safe, natural, convenient care now to avoid nasty and complex problems later.
Myth #6: Chiropractors Only Treat Back Pain
Chiropractors provide effective treatment for all types of soft tissue disorders and not just back and neck ailments. This includes conditions of the joints of the extremities like the ankle, knee, and shoulder.
What you may not be aware of is chiropractic's success in treating a number of non-soft tissue conditions like dysmenorrhea (painful menses), ulcers, migraine headaches, and ear infections in children. While we cannot claim to cure these conditions, we believe that many of these problems can be mimicked, aggravated and some times caused by disruptions in the nervous system as a result of spinal abnormalities. By correcting these spinal abnormalities like the vertebral subluxation, chiropractic has helped thousands of individuals overcome these conditions and regain control of their lives.
A number of studies have also supported these findings. In one such study, spinal manipulative therapy was compared with standard medical treatments in the treatment of duodenal ulcers. The researchers Pikalov, MD, and Kharin, MD, found those subjects receiving spinal manipulations took an average of 16 days to heal vs. 26 days to heal in the standard medical treatment group.
- JMPT 1994;17(5):310-313