Myth #4: Chiropractic treatment is dangerous.
A great synopsis of the risks associated with chiropractic treatment was recently published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. While the full text article can be found at the bottom of this post, the summary is as follows:
This synopsis provides an overview of the benign and serious risks associated with chiropractic care for subjects with neck or low-back pain. Most adverse events associated with spinal manipulation are benign and self-limiting. The incidence of severe complications following chiropractic care and manipulation is extremely low. The best evidence suggests that chiropractic care is a useful therapy for subjects with neck or low-back pain for which the risks of serious adverse events should be considered negligible. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2008;31:461-464)
This synopsis references a previous study published in Spine which found that the risk of experiencing a stroke following a visit to a chiropractor was equal to the risk of experiencing a stroke following a visit to a family doctor. It led the authors to conclude that “The increased risks of VBA stroke associated with chiropractic and PCP (family doctor) visits is likely due to patients with headache and neck pain from VBA dissection seeking care before their stroke. We found no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated chiropractic care compared to primary care.” So, people who are already having a stroke will experience neck pain and headaches, and will logically go and see either their chiropractor or their family doctor. It is not the treatment of either of these practitioners that causes the stroke to happen.
In summary, there are risks of adverse events with chiropractic treatment. These risks are small and self-limiting, and the risks of severe complications are very small. When compared to other common treatments such as taking medication or surgery, chiropractic is a very safe form of treatment for neck and low back pain.