This is an excerpt from Chapter Five of Dr. Troy Dreiling’s book.
Not Risky Business
So, you may be asking, are there any risks associated with chiropractic? Risks are small and typically involve some mild soreness or aching after an adjustment. This is the same kind of soreness found after exercise. It simply means that your muscles, bones and ligaments have moved in ways they are not used to. Based on studies, this minor soreness typically fades within 24 hours. In most instances, however, patients feel immediate relief.
Why is chiropractic so safe? First of all there are no drugs. Drugs can have potentially dangerous side effects. Secondly, there are no surgeries. If there are no surgeries, then you cannot have surgical complications.
Possible Risks of a Common Medical Treatment
One of the most common treatments prescribed by medical doctors for neck and back pain are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDS. These drugs carry significant risks far greater than a bit of soreness from an adjustment.
Such risks include:
- Potentially life-threatening allergic reaction
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Increase the risk of heart attack
- Increase the risk of stroke
- Skin reactions
In fact, according to a study from the American Journal of Gastroenterology, nearly 33% of hospitalizations and deaths related to gastrointestinal bleeding are due to NSAID painkillers like ibuprofen. 2
Even such advice as bed rest can cause problems. These problems include:
- Muscle atrophy
- Heart and lung weakness
- Bone mineral loss
- Blood clots
Chiropractic has none of these risks.
What Have the Researchers Found?
Chiropractic researchers are involved in studying the benefits and risks of chiropractic care. All available studies, literature and case studies show that chiropractic treatment holds an extremely small risk for many different reasons.
- Postgraduate education
- Basic philosophy
The basic philosophy of chiropractic is that the body can heal itself and that it is not the job of a chiropractor to heal. The job of a chiropractor is to remove subluxations so that the body can operate fully.
Canadian researchers analyzed scientific literature on chiropractic and stated the following:
“Chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of llow-backpain. Chiropractic management is greatly superior to medical management in terms of scientific validity, safety, cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction.”
Another analysis of the literature in Ontario found that:
“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.” 4
And the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that:
- Serious complications from specific chiropractic spinal adjustments is rare
- Specific chiropractic spinal adjustment should be used before considering surgical intervention
- Prescription drugs such as oral steroids, antidepressant medications and colchicine are not recommended for acute low back problems.
AMA Tries to Vote NO
So, where do the reports of danger originate? Most of the misinformation and misunderstanding comes from the American Medical Association (AMA).
This determination to have chiropractic seen as something unsafe and performed by “quacks” pretending to be doctors began as far back as the early 1960’s. At that time, the AMA tried to eliminate chiropractic as a profession. The purpose was to keep medical physicians from referring patients to chiropractic among other things such as have access to hospitals, doing joint research projects or teaching at colleges. To do this, they told its membership, medical students, insurance companies and the general public that chiropractic was an unscientific cult.
This attitude has changed and we see many referrals from physicians all over the country to our clinic for results. I always encourage patients to hire doctors that support their decision to seek out chiropractic care. Many of the old physicians and biased attitudes have faded away. I believe the patient has a choice in picking their team of health care providers and the chiropractor should be always be welcomed from other doctors to help the patient get the best care and best results possible.
In 1976, five chiropractors filed a lawsuit against the AMA for violation of the Sherman Anti-trust Law. Finally, in 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals stated that the AMA intended to “destroy a competitor,” and that there was evidence “showing that the AMA was motivated by economic concerns.” It also stated that the AMA doctored evidence to try to prove that chiropractic was unsafe.
One of the studies most touted by the AMA talks of 113 cases of injury after spinal manipulation. What you won’t hear, however, is that these 113 cases were over a period of 53 years and that only 66 were injured after manipulation was performed by a licensed chiropractor.
If we look at the numbers, we will find that:
- There are over 60,000 chiropractors in the U.S.
- Approximately 286 million adjustments or more are made each year
Therefore, the injuries sustained through manipulation are about one case per 286 million adjustments. Stated in statistical terms, the risk of manipulation to the neck is 0.0002% or two to three cases per million.
Now let’s look at that number and compare it to the risk of death from surgery to the cervical spine – 700 per million.
So, you can see, chiropractic manipulation is far safer and as studies have shown, far more effective, too!
Looking at these numbers in comparison to what is happening in the medical community will help you understand more fully the safety of chiropractic. Let’s take a look at drug injuries.