Misconceptions About Chiropractic
First- A Little About Chiropractic
Simply put, chiropractors use adjustments (which are light, quick thrusts) to get joints, which aren’t moving well, moving again. Have you ever heard of the expression “movement is life”? Well, this is pretty much the mantra of chiropractors. The profession as a whole believes in the body’s’ ability to heal itself as long as it has the means to do so. We just have to give the body the proper tools. Sometimes it just needs a little push, (or high velocity, low amplitude adjustment), to find its way.
Chiropractic as a profession is relatively young as it was founded in 1895 by DD Palmer, but the idea of manipulation, or adjustments, has been around a lot longer than that. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), spinal and extremity manipulation has been around for thousands of years, possibly originating in ancient Greece and China.
Even though chiropractic has proven itself among it's patients and other health care professionals to be an effective treatment for various ailments, it continues to face opposition from many. Below I have outlined several of the most popular misconceptions about chiropractic which will hopefully bring some clarification to the subject.
1- Once you pop, you just can't stop.
What are we; Pringles? There’s a little rumor going around that once you start going to the chiropractor, you can’t stop. If this were true, we would be as rich as the leaders of the tobacco industry (which, unfortunately, we are not). As it is, our adjustments don’t come loaded with nicotine.
There are some docs out there taking advantage of their patients having them come in 5 days a week for months at a time. (Note: Possibly an exaggeration but chances are someone somewhere is doing it). These people are a disgrace to the profession and do not accurately represent the whole.
That being said, it is true that most people who go to the chiropractor don’t stop going, but they may come in once a month or so. This is what we like to call preventative care, a somewhat strange concept in the US. The theory is if you take care of yourself while you are well, you will stay well. Imagine that. Acting proactively, instead of retroactively when it comes to health care. Huh.
2- If a chiropractor adjusts my neck with an activator, it will pierce my vagus nerve and I’ll die.
Thanks Bones. We really appreciate your research team for doing their homework on this one. This rumor is probably my favorite because it's so ludicrous. An activator is a hand-held instrument used by chiropractors to adjust patients. It has a preloaded tension which delivers a light impulse into a joint and if you know basic anatomy, it’s obvious that it can NEVER pierce the vagus nerve.
Vagus Nerve and Surrounding Anatomy
3- If a chiropractor adjusts my neck, I’ll have a stroke.
Addressing this rumor requires some background knowledge. First off, a stroke happens when a blot clot travels from a blood vessel up into the brain and blocks blood flow to brain tissue. Damage already must be present in the artery for the stroke to take place. Chiropractors are capable of many things, but creating blood clots isn’t one of them.
After making this point, usually chiro-haters say something like “Well what about that guy who went to the chiropractor and had a stroke that Tuesday”. Here’s the facts, folks; Patients experiencing the beginnings of a stroke often present with a stiff neck and the “worst headache of their lives”. Aside from low back pain, what are the two top reasons people go to visit the chiropractor? NECK PAIN/STIFFNESS and HEADACHES. These people then go the chiropractor, already in the process of having a stroke. Chiropractors are trained to catch the symptoms of a stroke and refer the patient out to the emergency room.
It can be argued that adjusting the neck can dislodge a blood clot. This is true. It is also true that any motion of the cervical spine can do the same. This, however, does not mean that chiropractors are responsible for strokes. As mentioned earlier, the blood clot would already have to be formed, and chiropractors don't do that. According to Dr. Jack Kucheran of Northside Wellness Centre in Alberta, about 1 in 6,000,000 people experience a stroke after visiting the chiropractor.
4- All Chiropractors Hate Medical Doctors
While I can’t speak for every single person in the chiropractic profession, I can speak for most of those I know and this in simply not true. Yes, we don’t believe drugs and surgery should be the first go to for helping patients. Why not try conservative care which has minimal side effects and is much less costly first? If the patient is not a candidate for chiropractic care or a trial of chiropractic care does not suit them, we are trained to refer them to PCPs or specialists who would be able to help.
I hope this clears up some confusion there may have been about what chiropractors are all about. If you have any questions feel free to drop a line. Thanks for reading!
ACA today. http://www.acatoday.org/level3_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61&T3ID=149 Last accessed 8/11/11
Taylor, S.H., Arnold, N.D, Biggs, L., Colloca, C.J., Mierau, D.R., Symons, B.P., Triano, J.J. (2004). A review of the literature pertaining to the efficacy, safety, educational requirements, uses and usage of mechanical adjusting devices: Part 1 of 2. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 48(1), 74-108.