Is Chiropractic Treatment Safe?
One quick search of chiropractic treatment online and you will find thousands of videos dedicated to the art of spinal adjustment.
Some of these videos are genuine training videos for professional therapists to view and to act as an aide memoire when revisiting old techniques or learning new ones. Unfortunately, some of these videos are sheer click bait, and are designed to shock and/or entertain. These videos often show vigourous, forceful manipulations of the spine with loud clicks and pops to accompany the video.
These videos are NOT what spinal adjustment is about! Spinal adjustment performed correctly by chiropractors, osteopaths and even physiotherapists should be gentle and performed with minimal leverage.
All medical procedures carry some level of risk and spinal manipulation is no different. Thankfully, the risks associated with manipulation are minimal, however, these risks can range from headaches, aggravation of presenting symptoms and CVA. The most serious of these are those that fall under the category of cerebro-vascular accidents (CVA) and include stroke and vertebral artery dissection. In the few reported cases that exist, these adverse reactions to treatment are normally when the technique is applied too vigourously (as per the YouTube click bait videos) or where the selection criteria for the technique has not been met. This normally means that the treatment technique was inappropriate for the patient and should not have been performed due to underlying medical contra-indications such as osteoarthritis, rhuematoid arthritis, previous history of stroke, TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack) or many other cardiovascular reasons. A simple screening questionnaire and physical examination would determine the suitability to spinal manipulation.
Patients who are interested in exploring the benefits of spinal adjustment should not be afraid to ask their therapist more about the risks and suitability to this technique. Patients should also remember that spinal adjustment is just one technique that can relieve neck and back pain and should not be viewed as a panacea for all. There are many other techniques that can also be applied that are just as successful as adjustment without the risks.