A 2016 study Goertz contributed to showed that about 14 percent of people have seen a chiropractor in the last year. Of those with significant neck or back pain, 33 percent said chiropractic care was safest compared with 12 percent who say pain medications are safer (physical therapy was perceived as safest), according to Gallup data. Also, 29 percent say chiropractic care is more effective than pain medication for those who have neck or back pain, while 22 percent preferred medication over chiropractic care.
Chiropractic overlaps with several other forms of manual therapy, including massage therapy, osteopathy, physical therapy, and sports medicine. Chiropractic is autonomous from and competitive with mainstream medicine, and osteopathy outside the US remains primarily a manual medical system; physical therapists work alongside and cooperate with mainstream medicine, and osteopathic medicine in the U.S. has merged with the medical profession. Practitioners may distinguish these competing approaches through claims that, compared to other therapists, chiropractors heavily emphasize spinal manipulation, tend to use firmer manipulative techniques, and promote maintenance care; that osteopaths use a wider variety of treatment procedures; and that physical therapists emphasize machinery and exercise.
A 2008 commentary proposed that the chiropractic profession actively regulate itself to combat abuse, fraud, and quackery, which are more prevalent in chiropractic than in other health care professions, violating the social contract between patients and physicians. According to a 2015 Gallup poll of U.S. adults, the perception of chiropractors is generally favourable; two-thirds of American adults agree that chiropractors have their patient's best interest in mind and more than half also agree that most chiropractors are trustworthy. Less than 10% of US adults disagreed with the statement that chiropractors were trustworthy.
Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments, the theory being that proper alignment of the body's musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury caused by a traumatic event, such as falling, or repetitive stress, such as sitting without proper back support.