Chiropractors employ various manually-applied treatment procedures when caring for patients, the most common being an adjustment. A chiropractic adjustment involves the application of a quick, precise and usually painless force directed over a short distance to a specific body part. Adjustments can be performed by hand, by hand-guided instruments, and with the use of specially designed equipment. In addition to adjustments, chiropractors may use other treatment procedures to care for a patient, such as mobilization procedures, physiotherapy modalities, soft-tissue manipulation, nutritional recommendations, exercise and rehabilitative measures. Neck and back pain are known to generally improve in time, however, recurrence is common. It is also known that keeping a positive attitude and remaining physically active improves one's chance of recovery.
The beneficial effects associated with chiropractic treatment procedures include decreased pain, improved mobility and function, and reduced muscle spasm. There are some conditions for which chiropractic care is contraindicated; other conditions may not respond to chiropractic treatment or perhaps worsen with chiropractic treatment. In these cases, referral to another healthcare provider may be necessary or suggested by the chiropractor.
The body of evidence suggests that chiropractic care is generally safe; however, as with any form of treatment, some risks may be involved. Listed below are summaries of both common and rare side-effects/complications reported to be associated with chiropractic care:
- Reactions most commonly reported are local soreness/discomfort (53%), headaches (12%), tiredness (11%), radiating discomfort (10%), dizziness, the vast majority of which resolve within 48 hours.
- Fractures or joint injuries in isolated cases with underlying physical defects, deformities or pathologies.
- Burns due to some physiotherapy procedures.
- Disc herniation
- Cauda Equina Syndrome (1 case in 100 million adjustments)
- Vertebrobasilar artery stroke (1 case per 400,000 to 1 million cervical spine adjustments [manipulations]). A similar level of association for stroke is also found for patients under the age of 45 when consulting with a medical doctor; for those older than age 45, the level of association for stroke is higher when seeing a medical doctor than a chiropractic doctor. Please indicate if you have a headache or neck pain that is the worst you have ever felt.
Alternate forms. of treatment that a patient may want to consider before undergoing chiropractic care include prescription and over-the-counter medications, surgical intervention, and non-treatment. Listed below are summaries of concern with these alternative procedures:
- Long-term use or overuse of certain medications carry some risk of dependency; with other medications, long term use or overuse increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Surgical risks may include unsuccessful outcome, complications such as infection, pain, reactions to anesthesia, and prolonged recovery.
- Potential risks of refusing or neglecting care may result in increased pain, restricted motion, increased inflammation, and worsening condition.
Digital production of Palmer College of Chiropractic Informed Consent Form.