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Myths About Chiropractic Care

Posted on May 29, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff

The idea of chiropractic care seems to divide people into two distinct camps. There are those who swear by it and see a practitioner regularly for adjustments. And there are those who fear or dismiss it. 

“There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding exactly what chiropractor care is and what it can do,” says Linda Holland, D.C., a doctor of chiropractic medicine at Henry Ford Health. “The truth is that it’s an extremely safe practice that’s effective for people at every stage of life.”

What Is Chiropractic Medicine?

One persistent myth about chiropractic care is that chiropractors aren’t real doctors. Earning a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree requires a minimum of 4,200 hours of classwork that includes biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, practice physical exams, diagnostics and hands-on techniques. 

“It’s very important to see a chiropractic doctor who’s qualified and licensed,” says Dr. Holland. All will have received a D.C. degree, and they must be licensed in your state to practice. 

Another myth about chiropractic care is that it’s just about cracking your joints. Chiropractic adjustment is the name for the manipulations of the spine, neck or other joints that do sometimes result in a cracking or popping noise. The sound is caused by the release of gases in the synovial fluid that cushions the joint. Those adjustments are important for realignment and improving movement and function of your joints. 

“But adjustments are just one technique we use to treat muscle or joint pain and promote healing,” says Dr. Holland. A chiropractic appointment might also involve a variety of other techniques, including:

  • Soft-tissue manipulation: Chiropractors often combine adjustments with massage techniques to help release and relax muscles around the joints.
  • Stretching: A chiropractor may work with you on specific exercises or stretches to improve your range of motion and muscle strength.
  • Taping: Your provider may use kinesiology tape to support injured joints or muscles.
  • Ultrasound or laser therapy: You may find these machines in a chiropractic office because they can be used to promote healing.   

Can Chiropractic Adjustments Cause Injury?

“The biggest misconception about chiropractor care is the concern that treatment will cause injury,” says Dr. Holland. “You may experience short-term soreness after an adjustment, but it’s important to understand this isn’t the same as harm.” 

Serious injury resulting from a chiropractic adjustment is extremely rare. But the myth persists and frightens off many people who could potentially benefit from chiropractic care. Stories of adjustments causing serious side effects fuel this fear, but studies have found damaging events and injury to be very rare. They are most likely in people with other underlying conditions that could affect treatment. 

A well-trained provider will proceed with caution if dealing with a patient who has conditions that may make adjustments dangerous. “During your appointment, we’ll do a full physical exam and take a detailed health history,” says Dr. Holland. “We’ll look for any conditions that may require modified care. These include rheumatoid arthritis, spinal instability, cancer in the spine, osteoporosis or traumatic injury.”

The Benefits Of Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a holistic practice that takes into account all aspects of your health and well-being. “A chiropractor can not only help you manage pain, but also aid in improving other pillars of health, such as nutrition, sleep and exercise,” says Dr. Holland. You may receive chiropractic care on its own or in combination with other practices like physical therapy, massage or acupuncture. 

Almost anyone, at any age and stage of life, can reap benefits from quality chiropractic care:

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  • During pregnancy, chiropractic manipulation can help align the sacrum and pelvis, making delivery easier.
  • Infants can be evaluated soon after birth to address misalignments resulting from their position in the uterus or stresses during delivery.
  • Children with conditions like leg length discrepancies or scoliosis can have improved mobility and alignment with chiropractic care.
  • Teenagers can benefit from chiropractic care during growth spurts and development.
  • Adults and older adults can maintain better mobility, body alignment, muscle strength and balance. 

The biggest benefit of chiropractic care—at any age—is maintaining better body alignment so that your joints and muscles can function at their best. Some specific conditions often treated with chiropractic medicine include:

People often assume chiropractic care won’t be covered by their insurance. But check your plan—and your provider—because in many cases it is covered. Instead of fearing chiropractic medicine and buying into the myths, do your homework to find a qualified and licensed chiropractor who’s right for you. 

 Reviewed by Linda Holland, D.C., a doctor of chiropractic medicine at the Henry Ford Center for Integrative Medicine.
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