Chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort. However, patients may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching following treatment (as with some forms of exercise) that usually resolves within 12 to 48 hours.
In many cases, such as lower back pain, chiropractic care may be the primary method of treatment. When other medical conditions exist, chiropractic care may complement or support medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with the condition.
Doctors of Chiropractic may assess patients through clinical examination, laboratory testing, diagnostic imaging and other diagnostic interventions to determine when chiropractic treatment is appropriate or when it is not appropriate. Chiropractors will readily refer patients to the appropriate health care provider when chiropractic care is not suitable for the patient’s condition, or the condition warrants co-management in conjunction with other members of the health care team.
Back Pain Facts & Statistics
Although Chiropractors care for more than just back pain, many patients visit chiropractors looking for relief from this pervasive condition. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time.1
A few interesting facts about back pain:
• One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.2
• Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
• Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
• Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.3
• Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.4
What Causes Back Pain?
The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain. While sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements—for example, picking up a pencil from the floor— can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. Back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss.
Manipulation as a Treatment for Back Problems
Used primarily by Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) for the last century, manipulation has been largely ignored by most others in the health care community until recently. Now, with today's growing emphasis on treatment and cost effectiveness, manipulation is receiving more widespread attention.
Chiropractic spinal manipulation is a safe and effective spine pain treatment. It reduces pain, decreases medication, rapidly advances physical therapy, and requires very few passive forms of treatment, such as bed rest.5
In fact, after an extensive study of all currently available care for low back problems, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research—a federal government research organization—recommended that low back pain sufferers choose the most conservative care first. And it recommended spinal manipulation as the only safe and effective, drugless form of initial professional treatment for acute low back problems in adults.6
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) urges you to make an informed choice about your back care. To learn more about how chiropractic manipulation may help you, contact a Doctor of Chiropractic in your area. Search our online database of ACA members to find a doctor of chiropractic near you.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain
• Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
• Remain active—under the supervision of your doctor of chiropractic.
• Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
• Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities, such as gardening.
• Maintain proper posture.
• Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
• Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
• Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.
•Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
• Work with your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.
1. Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
2. Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
3. This total represents only the more readily identifiable costs for medical care, workers compensation payments and time lost from work. It does not include costs associated with lost personal income due to acquired physical limitation resulting from a back problem and lost employer productivity due to employee medical absence. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville,
4. In Vallfors B, previously cited.
5. Time to recognize value of chiropractic care? Science and patient satisfaction surveys cite usefulness of spinal manipulation. Orthopedics Today 2003 Feb; 23(2):14-15.
6. Bigos S, Bowyer O, Braen G, et al. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults. Clinical Practice Guideline No.14. AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December, 1994.
Learn More at the American Chiropractic Association website link
What training does a chiropractor have?
Doctors of chiropractic (also known as chiropractors) are well educated
and trained in their field and have similar education requirements to those
of medical doctors and physical therapists.
Chiropractic training is the third largest doctoral level health care
profession after medicine and dentistry. Your chiropractor mastered the
science of anatomy, physiology, pathology, neurology, biomechanics,
X-ray techniques and spinal adjusting methods.
A certified chiropractic sports practitioner (CCSP) has additional specialty training with a focus on sports
Specialty Length Clinical Hours
Chiropractic 4 years 4,820 Yes
Medical 4 years 4,670 Yes
Physical Therapy 3 years 3,398 Yes
Source: American Chiropractic Association, acatoday.com
96% of Chiropractic Patients surveyed rated the general outcome of their treatment as“Good” or better.
80% of people experience low back pain at some time in their lives, and for many, the condition becomes chronic.
Chiropractic Quick Facts
Chiropractic is the fastest-growing and second-largest primary health care profession.
There are approximately 70,000 doctors of chiropractic (DCs) in active practice in the United States spread from rural areas to inner cities. More than 10,000 students are currently enrolled in chiropractic educational programs accredited by a federally-recognized body (CCE).
Chiropractic services are in high demand.
Tens of millions of Americans routinely opt for chiropractic services and this number is rapidly growing. In 1993, more than 30 million consumers made chiropractic a regular part of their health care program.
Doctors of Chiropractic receive extensive, demanding professional education on par with medical doctors (MDs) and osteopaths (DOs).
To receive the doctor of chiropractic degree, candidates must complete extensive undergraduate prerequisites and four years of graduate-level instruction and internship at an accredited chiropractic institution. Comprehensive knowledge of all systems of the body and diagnostic procedures enable the DC to thoroughly evaluate a patient, address disorders relating to the spine and determine the need for referral to another health care provider.
Doctors of Chiropractic are primary health care providers.
According to the Center for Studies in Health Policy, "The DC can provide all three levels of primary care interventions and therefore is a primary care provider, as are MDs and DOs. The doctor of chiropractic is a gatekeeper to the health care system and an independent practitioner who provides primary care services. The DC's office is a direct access portal of entry to the full scope of service."
Doctors of Chiropractic are licensed in all 50 states in the US.
DCs have been licensed and recognized for many decades in all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Chiropractic is recognized by governmental health care programs.
Chiropractic is included in Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees Health Care Benefits Programs, Federal Workers' Compensation and all state workers' compensation programs. Chiropractic students are qualified to receive federal student loan assistance and DCs are authorized to be commissioned as health care officers in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The practice of chiropractic is based on sound scientific principles.
The existence of the nervous system as the primary control mechanism of the body is an undisputed scientific fact. Its relationship with the spine is the focus of the practice of chiropractic. The spine develops in utero to provide two primary functions: (1) allow for freedom of movement and (2) house and protect the spinal cord. When the vertebrae of the spine become misaligned through trauma or repetitive injury, two major consequences will result: (1) the range of motion becomes limited and (2) spinal nerves emerging from the spinal cord are compromised. DCs use the term "subluxation" to describe such disruptions. Interruption of nerve flow can eventually lead to pain, disability, and an overall decrease in the quality of life. Conversely, the removal of that interference has been shown to have significant, lasting health benefits. Through the adjustment of the subluxation, the doctor of chiropractic endeavors to restore normal nerve expression. The body is then able to respond appropriately to any imbalance in the system, thus relieving symptoms and restoring health.
Doctors of chiropractic provide effective, low-cost health care for a wide range of conditions.
Studies conducted according to the highest scientific standards and published by organizations not affiliated in any way with chiropractic institutions or associations continue to show the clinical appropriateness and effectiveness of chiropractic care. One of the most recent, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, stated emphatically that:
"On the evidence, particularly the most scientifically valid clinical studies, spinal manipulation applied by chiropractors is shown to be more effective than alternative treatments for low back pain...There would be highly significant cost savings if more management of low back pain was transferred from physician to chiropractors."
The doctor of chiropractic is an effective source of preventative and wellness care.
The anatomical focus of the DC on the human spine has created the perception of the DC as just a "back doctor." Although this perception is not entirely incorrect, it is very much incomplete. Doctors of chiropractic are a highly appropriate resource in matters of work-place safety, stress management, injury prevention, postural correction and nutritional counseling."
The process of chiropractic adjustment is a safe, efficient procedure which is performed nearly one million times every working day in the United States.
There is a singular lack of actuarial data that would justify concluding that chiropractic care is in any way harmful or dangerous. Chiropractic care is non-invasive, therefore, the body's response to chiropractic care is far more predictable than its reactions to drug treatments or surgical procedures. Of the nearly one million adjustments given every day in this country, complications are exceedingly rare. Perhaps the best summary statement on the subject of safety was published in 1979 by the Government of New Zealand which established a special commission to study chiropractic. They found:
"The conspicuous lack of evidence that chiropractors cause harm or allow harm to occur through neglect of medical referral can be taken to mean only one thing: that chiropractors have on the whole an impressive safety record."