Chiropractors treat conditions related to your body’s structure. Their goal is to relieve pain and improve function. They don’t prescribe drugs or do surgery. Rather, they adjust or manipulate your spine and other body parts to get them in the right position, or proper alignment. Chiropractic care is based on the idea that when your body is in proper alignment, you have a better chance of healing yourself. Get an overview of some of the more common ailments—not all of which are related to the spine.
Chiropractic adjustment is safe when it’s performed by someone trained and licensed to deliver chiropractic care. Serious complications associated with chiropractic adjustment are overall rare, but may include:
- A herniated disk or a worsening of an existing disk herniation
- Compression of nerves in the lower spinal column
- A certain type of stroke after neck manipulation
Don’t seek chiropractic adjustment if you have:
- Severe osteoporosis
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of strength in an arm or leg
- Cancer in your spine
- An increased risk of stroke
- A known bone abnormality in the upper neck
How you prepare
No special preparation is required before a chiropractic adjustment.
What you can expect
At your initial visit, your chiropractor will ask questions about your health history and perform a physical exam, with particular attention to your spine. Your chiropractor may also recommend other examinations or tests, such as X-rays.
During the procedure
During a typical chiropractic adjustment, your chiropractor places you in specific positions to treat affected areas. Often, you’re positioned lying facedown on a specially designed, padded chiropractic table. The chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply a controlled, sudden force to a joint, pushing it beyond its usual range of motion. You may hear popping or cracking sounds as your chiropractor moves your joints during the treatment session.
After the procedure
Some people experience minor side effects for a few days after chiropractic adjustment. These may include headaches, fatigue or pain in the parts of the body that were treated.
Chiropractic adjustment can be effective in treating low back pain, although much of the research done shows only a modest benefit — similar to the results of more-conventional treatments. Some studies suggest that spinal manipulation may also be effective for headaches and other spine-related conditions, such as neck pain.
Not everyone responds to chiropractic adjustments. A lot depends on your particular situation. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve after several weeks of treatments, chiropractic adjustment might not be the best option for you.