Chiropractic care

Chiropractic careDid you know that approximately 10 percent of our global population are experiencing back pain right now? Back pain episodes also have a 50 percent recurrence rate within a year. If you’re experiencing back or neck pain, one treatment option you might be considering is chiropractic care.

What do chiropractors do?

Chiropractors are health care professionals that focus on disorders of the musculoskeletal and the nervous systems, and the effects of these disorders on general health.

Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), or chiropractors, practice a hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis, and treatment. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose various conditions and recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.

DCs can assess patients through clinical examination, laboratory testing, diagnostic imaging, and other interventions to determine if chiropractic treatment is appropriate. They can also refer patients to the appropriate level of care when chiropractic is not suitable for the patient’s condition, or if the condition requires treatment in conjunction with other healthcare providers.

What kinds of conditions do chiropractors treat?

Chiropractors treat common musculoskeletal complaints, including back pain, neck pain, and pain in the joints and muscles of the arms or legs. Research studies show that chiropractic care is very effective for back pain and can also help people suffering from tension headaches, migraines, whiplash injuries, sciatica, pinched nerves, muscle spasms, and bulging discs.

When should you see a chiropractor?

When it comes to treating back and neck pain, typically you want to try conservative or non-invasive approaches that chiropractors offer as a first step. Clinical guidelines recommend chiropractic for back pain for this reason. Before jumping to treatments like pain management injections or surgery, consider chiropractic care.

What types of treatments do chiropractors offer?

One of the treatment tools chiropractors use is spinal manipulation. This can range from the traditional hands-on maneuvers that result in the joint making a ‘pop’ noise, to a Cox Flexion table that gently mobilizes the joints and discs, to a mechanical assist tool called an Activator that gently pulses the joint. Chiropractors will often use these tools when the traditional hands-on technique is not recommended, for example in people with advanced arthritis, spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, or in people who’ve experienced an acute trauma. Most chiropractors will also use exercise rehabilitation, give dietary recommendations, and provide patients with self-care and home care advice.

What should I expect on my first visit?

Much like a regular doctor’s visit, your chiropractor will take a detailed medical history, perform a physical examination that includes an orthopedic and neurologic exam, a biomechanical assessment, postural exam, muscle exam, and how well you can bend and rotate. They will also review prior records and obtain any imaging test deemed necessary.

How often do I need to see a chiropractor?

Like physical therapy, a typical chiropractic care plan will start once or twice a week and then taper as you improve. Some people have severe chronic degenerative conditions that may require periodic follow-up visits not unlike medical care for chronic conditions. Fortunately, most patients have issues that resolve and don’t require ongoing treatment.  The myth that once you start going, you must keep going, is simply not true.

Are there side effects after chiropractic treatment?

Some people feel better right away, while others can experience muscle soreness afterwards that usually dissipates in 24 hours. Complex side effects associated with manipulation are extremely rare. In general, chiropractic care has been shown to be very safe and effective.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Open Network) compared usual medical care (medication, self-care, physical therapy) to chiropractic care. After six weeks patients receiving chiropractic care reported less pain, less disability, improved function, higher satisfaction, and used less pain medicine than the usual medical care group.


David BenEliyahu, DC, FICC, is the administrative director of the Back and Neck Pain Center and director of the Chiropractic Collaboration Program at Mather Hospital.