The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) stated chiropractic as the safest non-drug, noninvasive forms of health care available for neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Although it has an abundance of benefits, no health treatment is completely free of adverse effects. The risks associated with chiropractic are extremely small. After an adjustment is given to a patient, most feel immediate relief following it but some may experience mild soreness, stiffness or aching, just as you would following some forms of exercise. Research shows that this soreness typically fades within 24 hours.
Common health complaints that chiropractors encounter are neck pain and headaches – both which can be treated through precise cervical manipulation or in other words called a “neck adjustment” which aims to improve joint mobility in the neck, restoring range of motion, reducing muscle spasm, which helps relieve pressure and tension in the neck. Neck adjustments, when performed by a skilled and well educated professional such as a Chiropractor is a remarkably safe procedure.
There have been some reports that a high velocity neck adjustment can be associated with a rare kind of stroke, called a vertebral artery dissection. However, evidence suggests that this type of arterial injury often takes place spontaneously in patients with a pre-existing arterial disease. These spontaneous vertebral artery dissections have been associated with everyday activities like turning the head while crossing the street, swimming, or getting your hair shampooed in a hair salon. If a patient experiences this condition, they may have neck pain and a headache that leads them to seek professional care in the office of a chiropractor or family physician, but the care is not the cause of injury. The latest and best evidence shows that the incidence of artery injuries associated with high velocity neck adjustments are extremely rare – about one to three cases in 100 000 patients who get treated with a course of care, which is similar to the incidence of stroke in the general population.
When visiting your chiropractor with upper neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms and their progression. This will help your doctor provide the safest and most effective treatment – even if that is referral to another physician. It is important to consider the risks of other treatments for the same condition. For example, the risks associated with some of the most common treatments for musculoskeletal pain (ie. NSAIDs and prescription pain killers) are significantly greater than those of chiropractic manipulation. As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of accidental death in the US is the overuse and abuse of prescription opioid pain medications.
In conclusion, chiropractors are well trained professionals who provide their patients with safe, effective care for a variety of health conditions. Their extensive education helps them recognize special risk factors and to ensure their patients receive the most appropriate care.