Does Chiropractic Adjustment Work? A Doctor's Opinion on Back, Neck Treatments and More

Important Caution. Please Read This!

Use the information on this site AT YOUR OWN RISK, and read the disclaimer.

Subscribe for Free!

Never miss a post or update.

BONUS: Right now, you'll also receive "The Survival Doctor's Ultimate Emergency Medical Supplies" report—FREE!

We respect your email privacy.

 Subscribe in a reader

Find The Survival Doctor on FacebookFollow The Survival Doctor on TwitterFollow Me on PinterestFollow me on GoodreadsSubscribe to me on YouTube

This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

Does Chiropractic Adjustment Work? A Doctor’s Opinion on Back, Neck Treatments and More

Are chiropractic adjustments a scam, quackery or proven to work? A doctor looks at the evidence. Included: treatment for back pain, neck pain, more.

Does Chiropractic Adjustment Work? A Doctor's Opinion on Back, Neck Treatments and More | The Survival Doctorby Andrea E. Gordon, M.D.

[Editor’s note: This article was originally hosted on, our sister site.
It’s now featured here as part of our new general-health section.]

Mention chiropractic treatment in a room full of doctors and you’ll hear responses ranging from, “That will give you a stroke!” to, “Helped me when nothing else could.” So what is this therapy and why is it so controversial?

Chiropractic Vs. Conventional Medical Beliefs

Chiropractors believe bones can get subtly out of line and cause muscle spasms or nerve irritation. This causes the pain. Realigning the bones by manipulations called adjustments supposedly helps relieve it.

Several difficulties face researchers when looking at whether chiropractic treatment works. Some chiropractors claim to treat many other kinds of problems, such as asthma and menstrual cramps. And some combine supplements with spinal manipulation.

Is Chiropractic Adjustment Proven to Work for Other Problems?
  • Bed-wetting: Weak evidence suggests it may work.
  • Fibromyalgia pain: Weak evidence suggests it may work.
  • Colic: According to one study, manipulation might work better than simethicone (Gas-X, Mylanta Gas Relief), but no better than just being held by a nurse.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: It doesn’t seem to help.
  • Asthma: We don’t have enough evidence to decide.

Chiropractors’ assumptions also differ from those in conventional medicine. If you’re taught that the skull bones are fused, you’ll likely view anyone claiming to adjust them with suspicion. Further, most chiropractors claim their adjustments do more than just relieve pain; they allow the body to function better. If nerves aren’t being pinched, all messages they transmit, from digestion to muscle relaxation to hormonal activation, can proceed more normally.

But chiropractic treatment’s increasing popularity has exposed physicians more to it. And relatively recent research has demonstrated that it does work for some things. These changes have helped soften doctors’ opinions.

Does Chiropractic Treatment for Back Pain Work?

Back pain is perhaps the most common reason for seeking chiropractic adjustment.

  • For short-term back pain, some studies have shown that it can be as effective as or more effective than conventional treatment.
  • For long-term back pain, a 2004 analysis published by the respected Cochrane Collaboration found that chiropractic adjustments were as good as but not better than other treatments like physical therapy, exercise or pain medication.
Does Chiropractic Treatment for Neck Pain Work?

Neck pain and headaches are other complaints chiropractors commonly treat. A 2005 Cochrane review concluded that chiropractic manipulation for neck pain helped when combined with exercise but not when done without.

The Survival Doctor's Guides to Wounds and BurnsThis brings up the issue of risk versus benefit. Neck adjustments do present a rare risk of stroke. And if you’re not really benefiting, the questions is whether even a minimal risk is too high.

Home remedies + science = do-it-yourself survival medicine! Get prepared for disasters with The Survival Doctor’s e-books.

What Are the Risks of Chiropractic Treatment?

Other than the rare risk of stroke from neck adjustments, the other risks of chiropractic adjustment are minimal—usually some soreness. If something isn’t improving, there is a risk of missing another diagnosis, so you should see your primary-care provider.

What’s My Opinion?

I recommend chiropractic adjustments for many of my patients with:

  • Low-back pain, especially sacroiliac-joint dysfunction, which occurs where the hip and back join together. It can be hard to treat.
  • Neck pain that doesn’t respond to conventional therapy.

Many people have poor posture or habits, and I’ve found chiropractic treatment is one of the ways the resultant problems can be addressed.

is a board-certified family doctor practicing integrative medicine and teaching at Tufts University Family Medicine Residency at Cambridge Health Alliance in Malden, Mass. She’s also an assistant professor of family medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

You May Also Like:

Original version appeared in September/October 2006 edition of My Family Doctor magazine. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

  • Pingback: Advantages of Routine Spinal Adjustments | Duncanville, Texas Chiropractor()

  • Pingback: Advantages of Routine Spinal Adjustments | Schaumburg Chiropractors()

  • Pingback: Advantages of Routine Spinal Adjustments | New City Chiropractor()

  • alli

    A few years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia along with several auto immune disorders. I was put on Celebrex, along with muscle relaxers to help with the discomfort. Long story short, I was able to take myself off of all meds by changing my eating habits. When my back started hurting 5 months ago, I tried to ignore the pain because I really didn’t want to go to the doctor only to be put on meds. I decided to give the Chiropractor a try. I have always been hesitant to see one. I wasn’t always convinced that they were on the up and up. I do have to say, that after only 1 week of treatment, I am feeling almost 100% better and am once again pain free. I have a ruptured disc between my C4 & 5 and would regularly have headaches and neck pain. That pain has ceased too. I am always very leery of “different” means of medical treatment, but I will tell you, I swear by Chiropractic therapy. I has worked wonders for me. I have not experienced anyone pushing “vitamins” or other supplements on me, and have a clear plan drawn out for my treatment. I would highly recommend to anyone to give them a try.

  • Emma Jurgens

    • MY HIV DISEASE WAS CURED BY DR NICE, WITH HIS HERBAL HEALING SPELL/ ([email protected]).DR NICE is the only Dr who could ever get my HIV-AIDS cured with his healing spell, I have tried almost everything but I couldn’t find any solution on my disease, despite all these happening to me, I always spend a lot to buy a HIV drugs from hospital and taking some several medications but no relieve, until one day I was just browsing on the internet when I come across a great post of! Michelle! who truly said that she was been diagnose with HIV and was healed that very week through the help of these great powerful healing spell doctor, sometime I really wonder why people called him DR NICE I never knew it was all because of the great and perfect work that he has been doing that is causing all this. so I quickly contacted him, and he ask me some few questions and he said a thing I will never forget that anyone who contacted him is! always getting his or her healing in just 6 hours after doing all he ask you, so I was amazed all the time I heard that from him, so I did all things only to see that at the very day which he said I will be healed, all the strength that has left me before rush back and I becomes very strong and healthy, this disease almost kills my life all because of me, so I went to hospital to give the final test to the disease and the doctor said I am HIV negative, I am very amazed and happy about the healing Dr NICE gave to me from the ancient part of Africa, you can email him now for your own healing too at :[email protected]

  • foxfan01

    I went to a DC when I could not work out the pain in my neck. While being examined, he discovered my hip was out of alignment and my left leg was shorter than my right. I have dealt with stiffness in my lower back, to the point I routinely sat with a pillow behind my lower back. I have a long commute and when I would arrive I would have to stretch my back to relieve the stiffness. Dr Justin Judd (Corsicana Texas) adjusted my lower back, returning my leg to it proper relation to the other and as a result, the sensitive and stiffness is gone in my lower back.
    I had sore spots between my spine and scapulars. It had been there for years. I thought it was muscle soreness, as I lift weights. After the first adjustment, the pain is gone and has not returned.
    The treatments from Dustin Judd have been a blessing. I feel wonderful. The treatments have been the greatest thing I have done for me since Lasik and marrying my wife.

  • Pingback: Advantages of Routine Spinal Adjustments | Kostas Chiropractic()

  • guest22

    The few times I have seen a chiropractor, the first thing he tells me is how bad my back is messed up. I’m curious, if I had my back fixed at one chiropractor, and then immediately went to a second chiropractor, would the second guy still tell me how bad my back looks, even though the first one supposedly fixed it just moments ago?

  • Vlad Volkov

    I was injured by a chiropractic, spraining ilio-lumbar and sacroiliac ligaments on the right side. From having some functional issues, I ended up with chronic low back pain and pain shooting down my leg on occasion. My involvement with sports that involve running and jumping was over in a flash. Believe me, there are enough people that are injured that way, they simply don’t like talking about it because the original decision to go see a chiropractic and try that miracle healer around the corner was mega-foolish. I did a lot of inquiry into the matter and below is the summary of MY FINDINGS: The high velocity bread-and-butter chiropractic technique was adopted by early chiropractors from Doctors of Osteopathy (that’s who one should see about neck/back pain) to FACILITATE THE MONETARY TRANSACTION following the audible crack in the back. The perception of well-being and lowered pain following the chiropractic adjustment is related to the release of adrenaline and perhaps some other endorphins by the body that is STRESSED (air a cliff on skis and your soreness from the day before will go away for an hour). While early chiropractors knew they were running a scam and therefore had some limits, the new generation think themselves a prodigy and are dangerous because they do not know of a limit. By going to a chiropractic today, one is trading the health of his spinal ligaments (that can be sprained or develop micro tears under chiropractic adjustment) and therefore joints for a shot of adrenaline. Based on my experience with 12 chiropractors, 95% of them did not have enough compassion, accountability and competency required to practice medicine. Additionally, having diagnostics (X-Ray), diagnosis (subluxation) and treatment (crack in the back) performed by a single individual creates a fertile ground for abuse and should technically be disallowed under Stark Law.

    • guest22

      Curious, did you consider a law suit? If so, do you mind if I ask what the results of that law suit might have been? I ask because my crazy wife keeps taking my kids to chiropractors despite my refusing to allow it. She’s taken all of them even when they were babies. I’m wondering what I might be able to do when one of those chiropractors finally injures my wife and/or kids.

      • Vlad Volkov

        The legal recourse is nothing because the sprain in low back or neck ligaments does not show up on even advanced imaging. As such, the subjective feeling of pain or discomfort cannot be objectively confirmed. Generally speaking, malpractice lawsuits are very tough. Besides, chiropractors nowadays make you sign a paper that all legal issues should be resolved through a mediator (not sure what that means exactly but most likely outside of court). One will be lucky to find a doctor who is knowledgeable enough to manually diagnose the problem (you are looking at 60+ crowd), treat it, and perhaps appear in court on your behalf. BTW, the guy who injured me had a whole wall of Polaroids of him adjusting kids and personally told me that he is “always gentle” (ha-ha). Besides the outright injury to low back (which is 3 years old now and NOT resolved), he messed up the curve in my mid back by repeatedly pushing it in (once again, for no reason) – took me over a year of exercise to get it back and I can’t even describe how much pain I went through. I have two small kids and needless to say, they will be properly instructed and will hopefully share the message with their friends. I view the _mainstream_ of chiropractic profession as people with low ethical standards – the kind of people you don’t want to even touch your children, left alone crack their spines just to make a buck.

  • Pingback: Advantages of Routine Spinal Adjustments()