Doctor of Chiropractic (DCs) treat an estimated 35 million Americans annually. DC’s practice a hands-on, drug-free approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are perhaps best known for their expertise in the use of spinal manipulation; however, they are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, and to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling. Chiropractic services are included in most health insurance plans.
Available research studies and reviews suggest that the services provided by chiropractic physicians are both safe and effective. Below are excerpts from a few recent studies. To find more research supporting chiropractic services, visit the World Federation of Chiropractic’s Reading List and the Clinical Compass for both guidelines and research.
For Acute and Chronic Pain
“Given that most patients with acute or subacute low back pain improve over time regardless of treatment, clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacologic treatment with superficial heat (moderate-quality evidence), massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation (low-quality evidence). If pharmacologic treatment is desired, clinicians and patients should select nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or skeletal muscle relaxants (moderate-quality evidence).” – American College of Physicians (2017)
“For patients with chronic low back pain, clinicians and patients should initially select nonpharmacologic treatment with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction (moderate- quality evidence), tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation (low-quality evidence).” – American College of Physicians (2017)
“Many treatments are available for low back pain. Often exercises and physical therapy can help. Some people benefit from chiropractic therapy or acupuncture.” – Goodman et al. (2013), Journal of the American Medical Association
“[Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy] in conjunction with [standard medical care] offers a significant advantage for decreasing pain and improving physical functioning when compared with only standard care, for men and women between 18 and 35 years of age with acute low back pain.” – Goertz et al. (2013), Spine
“Cervical spine manipulation was associated with significant improvement in headache outcomes in trials involving patients with neck pain and/or neck dysfunction and headache.” – McCrory, Penzlen, Hasselblad, Gray (2001), Duke Evidence Report
“The results of this study show that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches. . . Four weeks after cessation of treatment . . . the patients who received spinal manipulative therapy experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in all major outcomes in contrast to the patients that received amitriptyline therapy, who reverted to baseline values.” – Boline et al. (1995), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
For Neck Pain
In a study funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to test the effectiveness of different approaches for treating mechanical neck pain, 272 participants were divided into three groups that received either spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic (DC), pain medication (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants) or exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs and 48 percent who exercised reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the drug-free groups continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain; compared to just 38 percent pain reduction among those who took medication. – Bronfort et al. (2012), Annals of Internal Medicine