One of the most common questions that people ask is around the safety of chiropractic care. So, how safe is it? According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, joint pain of the arms or legs, headaches, and other neuromusculoskeletal complaints.” While chiropractic is considered a safe complementary therapy, there can be some potential side effects, like soreness following a spinal manipulation.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Age, injury, poor posture or diseases such as arthritis can lead to degeneration of the bones or joints of the cervical spine, causing disc herniation or bone spurs to form. Sudden severe injury to the neck may also contribute to disc herniation, whiplash, blood vessel destruction, vertebral injury and, in extreme cases, permanent paralysis. Herniated discs or bone spurs may cause a narrowing of the spinal canal or the small openings through which spinal nerve roots exit. Pressure on a nerve root by a herniated disc or a bone spur may result in:

Through manual manipulation of the spine delivered to the highest standards by licensed chiropractors, chiropractic care works to restore and maintain proper communication from your brain to your body by relieving what chiropractors refer to as a subluxation, or a misalignment, of the spine. Restoring proper alignment to the spine can assist with pain relief and prevention of:
Numerous controlled clinical studies of treatments used by chiropractors have been conducted, with conflicting results.[4] Systematic reviews of this research have not found evidence that chiropractic manipulation is effective, with the possible exception of treatment for back pain.[4] A critical evaluation found that collectively, spinal manipulation was ineffective at treating any condition.[10] Spinal manipulation may be cost-effective for sub-acute or chronic low back pain but the results for acute low back pain were insufficient.[11] The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of maintenance chiropractic care are unknown.[12] There is not sufficient data to establish the safety of chiropractic manipulations.[13] It is frequently associated with mild to moderate adverse effects, with serious or fatal complications in rare cases.[14] There is controversy regarding the degree of risk of vertebral artery dissection, which can lead to stroke and death, from cervical manipulation.[15] Several deaths have been associated with this technique[14] and it has been suggested that the relationship is causative,[16][17] a claim which is disputed by many chiropractors.[17]
No single profession "owns" spinal manipulation and there is little consensus as to which profession should administer SM, raising concerns by chiropractors that other medical physicians could "steal" SM procedures from chiropractors.[70] A focus on evidence-based SM research has also raised concerns that the resulting practice guidelines could limit the scope of chiropractic practice to treating backs and necks.[70] Two U.S. states (Washington and Arkansas) prohibit physical therapists from performing SM,[71] some states allow them to do it only if they have completed advanced training in SM, and some states allow only chiropractors to perform SM, or only chiropractors and physicians. Bills to further prohibit non-chiropractors from performing SM are regularly introduced into state legislatures and are opposed by physical therapist organizations.[72]
Age, injury, poor posture or diseases such as arthritis can lead to degeneration of the bones or joints of the cervical spine, causing disc herniation or bone spurs to form. Sudden severe injury to the neck may also contribute to disc herniation, whiplash, blood vessel destruction, vertebral injury and, in extreme cases, permanent paralysis. Herniated discs or bone spurs may cause a narrowing of the spinal canal or the small openings through which spinal nerve roots exit. Pressure on a nerve root by a herniated disc or a bone spur may result in:

Most people believe that chiropractors treat back pain. That is true, but there is so much more that chiropractic care can achieve. Because chiropractors help to remove pressure from the nervous system, they can also influence many other conditions. It is common to hear chiropractic patients say that they came in for back pain and their headaches got better.
The most common cause of shoulder pain and neck pain is injury to the soft tissues, including the muscles, tendons, and ligaments within these structures. There is nearly double the risk for developing neck pain for people who spend most of their day sitting at work. Neck pain is twice as likely for those sitting in poor posture with the head in a flexed forward position.
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Cervical stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord and is most frequently caused by aging. The discs in the spine that separate and cushion vertebrae may dry out. As a result, the space between the vertebrae shrinks, and the discs lose their ability to act as shock absorbers. At the same time, the bones and ligaments that make up the spine become less pliable and thicken. These changes result in a narrowing of the spinal canal. In addition, the degenerative changes associated with cervical stenosis can affect the vertebrae by contributing to the growth of bone spurs that compress the nerve roots. Mild stenosis can be treated conservatively for extended periods of time as long as the symptoms are restricted to neck pain. Severe stenosis requires referral to a neurosurgeon.
In the U.S., chiropractors perform over 90% of all manipulative treatments.[210] Satisfaction rates are typically higher for chiropractic care compared to medical care, with a 1998 U.S. survey reporting 83% of respondents satisfied or very satisfied with their care; quality of communication seems to be a consistent predictor of patient satisfaction with chiropractors.[211]
There is no good evidence that chiropractic is effective for the treatment of any medical condition, except perhaps for certain kinds of back pain.[4][10] Generally, the research carried out into the effectiveness of chiropractic has been of poor quality.[89][90] Numerous controlled clinical studies of treatments used by chiropractors have been conducted, with conflicting results.[4] Research published by chiropractors is distinctly biased.[4] For reviews of SM for back pain chiropractic authors tend to have positive conclusions, while others did not show any effectiveness.[4]
The next step in the process was an X-ray. Having an X-ray done of your spine can help the chiropractor determine your treatment plan and can aid in the adjustment. That said, not all chiropractors will recommend an X-ray at your appointment. It turns out some chiropractors say that X-rays should be part of routine chiropractic care, while others argue X-rays aren't necessary for every patient. When researching potential chiropractors, feel free to ask if they recommend X-rays for all patients and how the X-rays can benefit your treatment plan.
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