- Chiropractic is a form of physical therapy that aims to relieve pain and stress in the body with the manual manipulation of the bones, joints, and muscles, most commonly along the spinal column. A chiropractor is able to move joints carefully into the optimal position, for instance, allowing them to function normally and the body to realign itself. Chiropractors also treat soft tissue – muscles and tendons – with massage and stretching.
- Chiropractic is most commonly used to treat back and neck pain, but can be used all over the body.
- Chiropractic care improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.
What is chiropractic?
It’s a hands-on, ‘manual’ therapy and commonly, a practitioner will also assess your posture as part of an overall diagnosis. Sessions are usually between 15 minutes and an hour.
How can it help me?
Chiropractic is most commonly used to treat back and neck pain, but misaligned joints and muscles often result in referred pain, which means other areas of the body may feel painful due to the imbalance – in this sense, chiropractic is a whole-body treatment. Headaches and sciatica are also common reasons to seek help.
What the science says
The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reports that chiropractic can indeed improve chronic and acute neck pain, and there is good evidence that the spinal manipulation which characterises the practice can be an effective treatment for persistent lower back pain.
Evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches (those which are caused by problems with the neck and therefore secondary to the primary presenting health issue). Spinal manipulation is recommended for the management of patients with migraine or cervicogenic headaches. Multimodal multidisciplinary interventions including massage may benefit patients with migraine. Joint mobilisation or deep neck flexor exercises may improve symptoms of cervicogenic headache. Low-load craniocervical mobilisation may improve tension-type headaches.
Parkinson, Sibbritt, Bolton, et al (2012), Well-being outcomes of a chiropractic intervention for lower back pain: a systematic review, Clinical Rheumathology.
Todd, Carroll, Robinson, Mitchell (2014), Adverse Events Due to Chiropractic and Other Manual Therapies for Infants and Children: A Review of the Literature, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
Southerst, Marchand, Coté et al (2015), The effectiveness of noninvasive interventions for muskoloskeletic thoracic pain and chest wall pain: a systematic review, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
Peterson, Muhlemann, Humphreys (2014), Outcomes of pregnant patients with low back pain undergoing chiropractic treatment: a prospective cohort study with short term, medium-term and 1-year follow-up, CHIROPRACTIC & MANUAL THERAPIES.
Bryans, Decina, Descarreaux, et al (2014), Evidence-Based Guidelines for the Chiropractic Treatment of Adults With Neck Pain, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
Cassidy, Bronfort, Hartvigsen (2012), Should we abandon cervical spine manipulation for mechanical neck pain? No, BMJ.
Bryans, Descarreaux, Duranleau, et al (2011), Evidence-Based Guidelines for the Chiropractic Treatment of Adults With Headache, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
Kaminskyj, Frazier, Johnstone et al (2012), The chiropractic care of patients with asthma: a systematic review of the literature to inform clinical practice, Clinical Chiropractic.