- Chiropractic adjustments are designed to quickly bring a joint or vertebrate back into position.
- Potential benefits of chiropractic adjustments include relief from headache, neck and back pain.
- Side effects of chiropractic adjustments can include stiffness, fatigue, and pinched nerves.
More than 35 million Americans seek the help of chiropractors each year to improve their range of motion, relieve pain and muscle spasms, and increase flexibility.
Chiropractors do this by manipulating the joints to help realign bones that have shifted from injury, sleeping in a strange position, or from repetitive activity.
Are Chiropractors Safe? Yes, chiropractors are licensed alternative practitioners who complete 3 to 5 years of training for the profession. However, if you have spinal cancer, severe osteoporosis, bone abnormalities, or numbness in the limbs, see your doctor first as these conditions increase the risk of side effects such as herniated discs or nerve compression.
Here’s what to expect from a chiropractic adjustment, the benefits of this procedure, and potential risks to be aware of.
What to Expect from a Chiropractic Adjustment
Chiropractors usually work on the spine, but can also target the head, neck, hips, knees, and ankles. It all depends on where you feel pain and what muscles, joints, and bones that pain is associated with.
To determine where the adjustment should be made, a chiropractor usually performs the following steps:
- Discuss your medical history, including any medical conditions and previous surgeries.
- Physically examine your spine by analyzing your posture.
- Order an x-ray, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Some chiropractors do this for each patient, others depending on their history and condition.
- Analyze your range of motion by checking reflexes and moving your joints.
Once the chiropractor has identified the areas that need adjusting, they will use their hands or a small hand tool to apply quick and sudden pressure to the affected area. The force is meant to push the joint through its entire range of motion and realign the bones, says Alex Tauberg, DC, a primary spine practitioner at Tauberg Chiropractic and Rehabilitation.
The procedure itself isn’t usually painful, but it can cause a cracking sound or a cracking sensation as your bones move back into place. How quickly you will notice benefits after a fitting will vary depending on individual factors, but up to 60% of patients will experience relief after their first visit, while 30% may need two or three adjustments.
“Many people have fewer headaches, less stiffness, and often report sleeping better because their bodies feel more relaxed after a chiropractic adjustment,” said Allen Conrad, DC, chiropractor at the Montgomery County Chiropractic Center
What does this cost? Most health insurances take care of chiropractic adjustments. However, if you don’t have health insurance, the cost can vary between doctors but is anywhere from $ 100 to $ 200.
Benefits of Chiropractic Customization
Chiropractic adjustments help manage back, neck, and headaches. In fact, the American College of Physicians recommends non-drug treatments, such as spinal manipulation, as a treatment for acute and chronic low back pain. However, they recommend other non-drug treatments like physical therapy first.
For example, in a small 2014 study of people with leg and back pain, participants who received spinal manipulations, personal instructions, and exercises had less pain after 12 weeks than participants who received only personal instructions and exercises.
Other potential benefits of chiropractic adjustments include:
- Improves flexibility
- Relieves pain
- Reduces back cramps
- Reduces headaches, including migraines
- Decreases sciatica, or pain related to the sciatic nerve, which controls the muscles in the back and legs
- Decreases cases of pinched nerves in the back
- Reduces pain and stiffness from whiplash
When considering chiropractic treatment, see your family doctor first to rule out other health conditions that can cause pain, such as a herniated disc.
“While chiropractic care can help with pain and loss of function, treatment for other conditions should be discussed with your doctor,” says Siddharth Tambar, MD, a rheumatologist with Chicago Arthritis and Regenerative Medicine.
Side effects of chiropractic adjustment
Chiropractic is considered low risk, Tambar says, but there are some potential side effects to consider. These include:
- Sore muscles after an adjustment that usually goes away in around 24 hours
- A temporary increase in joint pain
In rare cases, chiropractic adjustments can cause:
- Herniated disc in the spine
- Pinched nerves
These types of complications are rare, says Tambar, and are more likely to occur if you seek treatment from an unlicensed person. So always go to a licensed chiropractor. You can review a chiropractor’s certification and licensing with the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.
Certain medical conditions also increase the risk of complications from chiropractic adjustments. Therefore, do not seek chiropractic care if you:
- Cancer in your spine
- A bone abnormality in your spine or neck
- Severe osteoporosis
- An increased risk of stroke
Chiropractic adjustments are when chiropractors move your bones back to relieve pain and increase mobility. If you have back pain, neck pain, or frequent headaches, a chiropractor may be able to help.
However, you should always discuss your symptoms with your primary care doctor before seeing a chiropractor, and share your full medical history with your chiropractor to reduce the risk of permanent damage.
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