Does Chiropractic Care Work?
Chiropractic care absolutely works. Even though not every patient walking out of a chiropractic office would say that chiropractic worked for them, that doesn’t mean that chiropractic doesn’t work. Just like many medical procedures or interventions, the success rate falls short of 100%, but that’s because of human error.
Chiropractic care works when it’s done correctly. In all the instances where chiropractic failed to produce the desired result one, two, or both of the following things must have happened;
- The chiropractor made an error in when, where, or how to adjust the patient.
- The patient had the wrong idea of what was supposed to happen.
We’ll address #2 first…
If a patient has the wrong idea of what’s supposed to happen after an adjustment that is almost always the chiropractor’s fault. The purpose of chiropractic care is to improve your nervous system function – NOT make a joint in your spine “pop” to relieve some neck or back pain. Why so many chiropractors operate like a spinal mechanic looking to “snap, crackle, and pop” your spine into some theoretically ideal shape so that your neck and back pain go away for while is topic for another blog post.
When your nervous system (which controls and coordinates the function of EVERYTHING in your body) is able to work well and you also give your body what it needs in terms of nutrition, rest, and activity then your neck pain, back pain, and most other health problems will go away – and stay away. But the key is improved nervous system function, not simply to make a joint “pop”.
Now let’s tackle #1…
There is definitely a connection between your spine, how it moves, and the function of your entire nervous system, but it’s more complicated than finding the sore and tight spots on your back and trying to manipulate them. Accurately and repeatedly measuring the function of your nervous system requires special diagnostic tools and multiple studies have shown that manual palpation (simply using one’s hands to feel the spine) does not yield reliable and reproducible findings.
Lacking the proper diagnostic tools means the chiropractor is likely to make errors in when to adjust. Having a sore spot in your spine doesn’t always mean it needs to be adjusted.
Another key responsibility of the chiropractor is knowing where to make the adjustment that will improve the patient’s nervous system function. This process requires detailed x-ray analysis of the patient’s spine, ideally both in a neutral position and in a flexed or extended position. The part of the spine that needs to be adjusted will appear stuck (not moving through it’s normal range of motion) on the x-rays. Again, this cannot be done accurately with manual palpation and multiple studies and demonstrated this – to the chagrin of many “old school” chiropractors.
When the chiropractor does their job correctly and the patient understands what is supposed to happen in the moments, days, and weeks following an adjustment then everyone is happy and the outcome is successful!