At least 70 million adultse in the United States deal with some type of chronic pain. In fact, low back pain is the second most common reason Americans see their doctor.
Many people are interested in finding alternatives to medication for pain relief. Chiropractic treatment is one potential pain management option, especially if you’re dealing with back pain or neck pain.
In this article, we’ll outline 10 of the top benefits of getting chiropractic care, and how to find a chiropractor who’s right for you.
What is chiropractic care?
Chiropractic care is a form of complementary medicine based on the idea that your body can heal itself with the help of specific hands-on manipulations from a trained professional. These manipulations help realign your joints and can potentially lead to pain relief.
Chiropractic treatment may help relieve pain from conditions affecting your:
- connective tissue
Chiropractic treatment often focuses on your spine but may focus on other parts of your body depending on the particular issue you’re dealing with.
Chiropractic treatment has some similarities with physical therapy, and certain conditions may benefit from being treated with both types of therapy.
In general, chiropractors are more likely to use hands-on manipulations to relieve your symptoms. Physical therapists tend to put a bigger emphasis on rehabilitating injuries with stretches and exercises.
What are the benefits of chiropractic care?
1. Improves neck pain
Neck pain is a common problem, especially if you sit for many hours a day, frequently bend your neck to use your phone, or have poor posture. A chiropractor may help ease your neck pain by realigning your spine and easing tension in your neck muscles.
An older 2012 study found that 12 weeks of spinal manipulation was more effective than medication at treating non-specific neck pain in a group of 272 adults at 8-, 12-, 26-, and 52-week follow-ups.
A 2019 study found that cervical spine manipulation may help decrease neck pain in the short-term by modifying levels of neuropeptides in your blood. Neuropeptides are proteins made in your nervous system that function as neurotransmitters or hormones.
2. Reduces reliance on opioid pain relievers
People with chronic pain are often given prescriptions for opioid pain relievers to help manage their discomfort. However, undergoing chiropractic treatment may lower your need to take these pain relievers.
A large 2020 study compared the number of prescriptions for opioid pain relievers filled for adults who visited just their doctor or who visited both a chiropractor and their doctor to treat spinal pain.
The study found that adults who visited a chiropractor were less likely to get an opioid prescription filled for their pain compared to those who only saw their doctor.
3. Eases back pain
Chiropractic treatment may be a good alternative to more invasive alternatives like surgery or injections for treating short-term or chronic back pain.
The American College of Physicians recommends that doctors encourage people with chronic low back pain to first seek non-medication treatments before taking medication to treat their pain. Some of the treatment options recommended include:
- spinal manipulation (chiropractic care)
- tai chi
- progressive muscle relaxation
A 2017 review of studies found that spinal manipulation was associated with moderate improvements in short-term back pain and function compared to placebo treatment for up to 6 weeks.
4. Possible reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms
Osteoarthritis pain is caused by the degeneration of the cartilage in a joint that causes the ends of your bones to rub together. Some types of chiropractic adjustments may help align your joints and reduce how much your bones rub together.
There hasn’t been a lot of research on the benefits of chiropractic manipulation for osteoarthritis. However, a 2020 animal study found some evidence that chiropractic manipulation may help slow down the progression of arthritis by improving the status of cartilage, bone, and the joint capsule.
5. Eases headache symptoms
Spinal manipulation may be effective at treating tension headaches and headaches that originate in your neck.
A 2016 study found that 6 to 8 sessions of cervical and upper thoracic spine manipulation were more effective than movement and exercise for relieving pain in people with chronic headaches. This was still the case at a 3-month follow-up.
6. More affordable treatment for chronic back pain
Chiropractic treatment may be a cheaper alternative to conventional treatment for chronic low back pain.
In a 2016 study, researchers looked at the potential financial benefits of chiropractic treatment for Medicare recipients with chronic back pain.
The researchers found that people who received chiropractic treatment had a lower overall treatment cost. The study also determined that their treatment duration was shorter than that of those who had conventional medical treatment.
7. High satisfaction
Studies have generally reported relatively high levels of satisfaction with chiropractic treatment.
For example, in a 2015 study, researchers found that a group of 544 people in chiropractic care reported a high level of satisfaction.
Also, 92 percent of the people in this study had improvements in their pain, and 80 percent reported improvements in their ability to move around.
8. Reduces scoliosis symptoms
Chiropractic care may help improve the Cobb angle of people with scoliosis. The Cobb angle is a measurement of how much side-to-side deformity there is in the spine.
A 2016 study found that the Cobb angle in a group of five children with scoliosis improved after 8 weeks of chiropractic treatment. Noticeable improvements were seen after 4 weeks of treatment.
9. Helps improve posture
Undergoing chiropractic treatment may potentially help correct poor posture, especially if your poor posture is caused by too much sitting.
A 2017 case study examined the effect of chiropractic treatment on a 27-year-old woman suffering from back pain, neck pain, and headaches caused by hyperkyphosis posture. Hyperkyphosis is commonly known as a hunchback posture.
After 30 treatments over 6 months, she showed a significant improvement in her posture and pain relief in both her head and neck.
10. May help athletic performance
Spinal adjustments may potentially improve your athletic performance. This could be due to increased joint mobility, reduced pain, and less tissue restriction.
However, there are still some questions about whether spinal adjustments improve sports performance. A 2019 review of studies found that it didn’t improve performance in people without symptoms.
Chiropractic adjustments may be effective when used to deal with pain caused by an injury.
What type of certification and training do chiropractors have?
Chiropractors must earn a postgraduate degree called a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). It usually takes 4 years to complete. Admission to the program requires at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate coursework, and some programs require a bachelor’s degree.
All states also require chiropractors to be licensed. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, but all states require a chiropractor to pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exams.
Some chiropractors specialize in a particular area of chiropractic treatment and go on to do a residency for several more years.
The bottom line
Chiropractors use hands-on adjustments to reduce pain and help your body heal itself. They often focus on issues dealing with the spine.
Research has found that chiropractic adjustments may be an effective treatment for various forms of neck or back pain. Seeing a chiropractor may also lower your need to take pain relievers or undergo more invasive treatments like surgery.
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