Does Chiropractic Care Cause Long Term Damage?
Chiropractic techniques and treatment procedures may appear intimidating, but the reality is far from the rumor. Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments such as spinal manipulation are mostly safe and effective to treat back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions – especially when you get yourself treated by a certified and trained chiropractor.
So do long-term chiropractic sessions cause damage? Well, statistics show that lumbar spine manipulation can cause a serious adverse effect in one per million patient visits. This data shows that the incidence rate is very low – especially when we compare it to taking an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) or other medical procedures.
Shortly after the session, most patients may experience minor side effects such as stiffness and soreness. However, this is mild and mostly resolved within the next day or two.
Chiropractors are professionally trained health care providers that pay close attention to a patient’s condition and try their best to prevent immediate or long-term damage. However, as with any medical profession, chiropractic care does have some red flags.
“Red Flags” in Long Term Chiropractic Care
Although chiropractic care is generally safe, there are certain red flags when it comes to long-term chiropractic sessions. Some medical conditions and injuries contradict the use of some chiropractic sessions such as applying high-velocity manipulation. These may include:
- Osteomyelitis (spinal bone infection)
- Severe osteoporosis (bone fragility)
- Multiple myeloma ( a type of body cancer)
- Paget’s disease (cause of frequent bone deformities, fractures)
- Bone tumors (benign or cancerous growths)
- Rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis (inflammatory conditions of the joints)
- Ankylosing spondylitis
In the presence of these musculoskeletal conditions, any sort of high-velocity chiropractic manipulation is contraindicated and may result in severe adverse effects and complications.
There are several claims online claiming adverse reactions and complications following single or long-term chiropractic sessions. These include chronic headaches, pain in the neck, and bleeding in the brain. Serious but rare adverse effects of chiropractic care include stroke, worsening of the herniated discs, and cauda equina syndrome – pinching of the spinal nerves in the lower part that can cause permanent paralysis.
According to a 2017 review, serious adverse effects accounted for 13 per 10,000 to 1 in 2 million spinal manipulations. The review shows that benign events (such as headaches, stiffness, and soreness) were more common (accounting for 23-83%). However, most of these were temporary and resolved within 24-48 hours. The review concluded that benign events were common but also confirmed serious but rare complications – mostly related to other preexisting conditions (mentioned above).
Another review from 2017 that looked at 18 articles and research papers also found similar adverse events following single or long-term use of chiropractic care. It showed that 80% of the spinal manipulation sessions were effective and successful at relieving pain and providing symptomatic relief while 12% reported mild and less than 1% with severe adverse effects. The remaining 7% of the studies were unclear, neutral, or lack solid evidence. The review concluded that chiropractic care is overall effective and safe for most people without any known medical conditions. Although serious adverse effects can happen, they are rare.