Is Chiropractic Treatment Dangerous?

Posted by EditorsChoice
Sunday, 30 September 2007

We’ve all heard stories about someone who was crippled or even killed by a Chiropractor. Sometimes we’re even warned by our family doctor not to let our Chiropractor adjust us as it may cause a stroke. Even the L.A. Times recently called the safety of manipulation into question. Just how safe is chiropractic treatment? What are the facts?

1. Due to the extreme rarity of injuries caused by Chiropractic treatment and its unequaled safety record, chiropractic doctors pay only a fraction (i.e. 1/10 to 1/50) the malpractice rates compared to medical physicians. (1)

2. Only 19 deaths have been attributed to Chiropractic treatment worldwide over the latest 65 years studied (1934-1999). In fact, the risk of “serious injury” from anti-inflammatory medication including Aspirin and Advil is 400 times greater than from manipulation. (2)

In other words, it’s much safer to have a chiropractic treatment for your neck pain or headache then taking medicine (over the counter or prescribed).

3. Nearly 10,000 studies have been performed on manipulation (making it the most thoroughly studied form of treatment for back pain) and the great majority have found the following when compared to medical treatment:

a. Increased patient satisfaction.
b. Shortened time to return to activities or work.
c. Less permanent disability.
d. Less costly.

The governments of several countries, including the United States (A.H.C.P.R.) and Canada (Manga), have found manipulation to be the most effective form of treatment for back pain. In fact, the Canadian report suggested that Chiropractors be the “gate keepers” for back pain saying that it would save Canada hundreds of millions of dollars if their citizens saw Chiropractor’s first. After reviewing all published studies, it was determined that there were “no medical procedures that were as safe as Chiropractic treatment.”

The British Medical Journal and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found similar results. In fact, the U.S. government reported that physical therapy and acupuncture were not “cost effective” and that surgery was useful in only 1% of cases.

Further, the report was emphatic that they should be employed only after conservative approaches (like manipulation) were first exhausted.

So why are there still news reports of the dangers of Chiropractic? Lets take a look at the last article that was reported by the journal, “Neurology”, and reported in the L.A. Times.

The study found that seven out of the 51 people questioned who had a stroke were adjusted by a Chiropractor in the previous month. This compared to two of those in the control group. So an association was drawn between manipulation and strokes. The problem with making such an opinion is that headaches and neck pain are the early symptoms of this type of stroke. So of course more people with neck pain and headaches sought chiropractic care versus those who were in the control group who were pain free.

This illustrates the problem with association-type studies. They don’t show the cause only association. For example, the following is a common example taught in research courses that warn against making conclusions from such studies.

Since there are more churches in violent neighborhoods, churches lead to violence. Actually, establishing churches are a reaction to people living in a violent neighborhood, not a cause.

In fact, another study published by the same journal, “Neurology,” found fewer people having strokes if they were adjusted than the control group that wasn’t. Unfortunately, that never made the newspapers nor did most of the other studies which showed chiropractic treatment far safer than all other medical treatments.

Why the media prints inflammatory stories while ignoring others that would put your mind at ease is beyond the scope of this paper. But it is unfortunate that people are being scared away from a treatment that is absolutely safer and more effective and by default being directed to one that has significantly greater risks.

Personally, between Dr. Murray and myself, we have practiced about 40 years and have never injured anyone (more than some temporary soreness as part of the treatment). The real danger comes from having musculoskeletal problems that are covered-up with drugs and surgery. Since the cause is not addressed this way, the patients often get worse, more discouraged and depressed and there are often side effects.

We use only the safest of all procedures and specifically screen for all risk factors that make manipulation unsafe. I’m sure you have already noted how thorough we are. This is the only way that you should be treated by any of your doctors. If you ever have questions about the risks or benefits of any procedure, always feel free to speak to us directly.

(1) Malpractice Statistics from the National Chiropractic Mutual Insurance Company, West Des Moines, Iowa.

(2) Terrett, A, Current Concepts in Vertebrobasilar Complications, NCMIC Group, Inc., 2001, p 199.

Article Source:

About the Author:
Dr. Rick Morris is the founder of the The Morris Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center in Santa Monica, Ca. You can read more of his health articles or contact him at his website and find out about his non-surgical treatment of low back pain disorders

Mainstream Makes Adjustments

By Buzz McClain
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 17, 2007; Page HE01

The sound of cavitation is music to my ears. That’s the popping noise made when a joint is taken past its normal range of motion and a bubble of gas emerges in the surrounding synovial fluid. Keep twisting or pulling and eventually the bubble bursts, relieving pressure on the joint.

And it feels good.

And here it comes again. I’m facedown on a brown padded table, my nose positioned in an opening so I can breathe. My arms hang loosely to the floor and my legs are extended behind me.

It’s comfy here, and I could nap, except Glenn Loebig is probing a tender spot on my lower right back with one of his preternaturally muscular thumbs.

“There it is,” he announces, making me wince with a poke. With his open hands, he presses on my lower back, leans in and with a swift push . . .

Ah, cavitation. And not just one pop but a short, quick sequence of them, creating a snap, crackle, pop effect. “That was a good one!” Loebig says enthusiastically, as if even he’s surprised at the intensity. “That’s going to feel better now.”

Chiropractic medicine has been derided as a fringe practice or worse since founder Daniel David Palmer began adjusting spines just over a century ago. For decades, anyone who wanted chiropractic treatments for backaches or other ailments had to find them on his own and pay for them out of pocket. But times are changing. While the medical profession remains deeply skeptical of chiropractic as a comprehensive health-care approach, more doctors are referring patients to chiropractors to treat lower-back and other musculoskeletal pain.

“I’m an orthopedic spine surgeon, so I treat all sorts of back problems, and I’m a big believer in chiropractic,” says William Lauerman, chief of spine surgery and a professor of orthopedic surgery at Georgetown University Hospital. “I’m more of a believer for acute problems like short-term back pain, although I know [chiropractic] can be helpful for some cases of more-chronic conditions.”

Chiropractic treatment for short-term back pain — “three or four days, can’t get out of bed, that sort of thing” — Lauerman says, “is one of the few things that has been demonstrated to significantly alter the natural history of acute back pain. . . . People get better quicker if they go to a chiropractor for a few visits.”

An Uneasy Truce

Such referrals come despite the still-thin evidence for chiropractic’s effectiveness. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) describes studies of chiropractic for back pain as of “uneven quality and insufficient to allow firm conclusions.” A meta-analysis in the 2003 Annals of Internal Medicine found that spinal manipulative therapy relieved back pain better than sham therapy but no better than other standard treatments.

Chiropractic students study a minimum of 4,200 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, with most states requiring a four-year undergraduate degree and four years of postgraduate training at an accredited chiropractic college. Chiropractors also must pass national and state licensing exams before practicing. But just as in mainstream medicine, sometimes things go wrong. In 2003, a 43-year-old woman in Mahopac, N.Y., suffered a stroke after a routine neck adjustment. The case is headed to court.

“[That stroke] is a rare occurrence, but it is something we have to be concerned about as a responsible profession,” says William Morgan, one of two chiropractors at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. “We’ll study the risk and will do everything we can to minimize the risk.”

Chiropractic patients now number about 22 million, thanks to medical referrals and the fact that “87 percent of all American workers who have insurance have plans that include chiropractic service,” says Kevin Corcoran, executive vice president of the American Chiropractic Association, based in Arlington. The ACA represents 16,000 of the country’s estimated 60,000 practicing chiropractors.

That doctors refer patients to any of them is a sea change from 1990, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the medical establishment was trying to put the chiropractic industry out of business through a campaign of denigration. The case, Wilk v. American Medical Association, prompted the AMA to change its code of ethics in 1992 regarding chiropractors.

“I think the majority of MDs recognize the value chiropractors bring,” Corcoran says.

The American College of Physicians, which includes about 120,000 internists and medical students, agrees the doctor-chiropractor relationship is no longer a hot topic. “It just isn’t on our radar,” ACP spokeswoman Susan Anderson says.

The AMA declined to comment beyond noting its revised policy, which says, among other things, “It is ethical for a physician to associate professionally with chiropractors provided that the physician believes that such association is in the best interests of his or her patient.”

Chiropractors can’t prescribe drugs or perform surgery, but “we are trained to recognize and diagnose and send patients to the appropriate care if it’s something beyond our scope,” says William Lauretti, an assistant professor at the New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and a former chiropractor in suburban Maryland. Some cancers, for instance, “can present as low-back pain. We’re trained to tell the difference when there’s something more serious and more urgent than the basic muscle or joint problem.”

Morgan, a former Navy petty officer, has been working under contract alongside staff physicians at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center for nine years, trying to relieve symptoms and reduce dependence on medication. In many cases, he’s the first chiropractor his patients have ever seen.

“They trust their physician a great deal, and if they think I can help make them better, they’ll trust me, too,” he says. “And if I can’t make them better, then we’ll find someone who can.”

Making Adjustments

When I stand up, I see that Loebig is right. It does feel better. What had been a nagging bundle of deadline tensions and bad posture knotted up on the inside of the right hip is now a pressure-free zone of happiness that gladly accepts its fair share of weight distribution. I twist from side to side. My hips glide with newfound ease.

A study conducted over seven years by a physician and a chiropractor and reported in June’s Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed that patients who turned first to chiropractors and other alternative-medicine professionals for care were hospitalized and had surgery 60 percent less often and spent 85 percent less on pharmaceuticals than those with medical doctors as primary care providers.

And that’s what I’m counting on. After three spinal surgeries since 2002, two lumbar and 2004’s brutally intrusive cervical fusion, which put a piece of cadaver bone in my neck in a procedure that was supposed to correct chronic shoulder and arm pain — and didn’t — I’m hoping to minimize my time under the knife.

My neurologist, who is trying to find the right combination of chemicals to control that pain, prescribed chiropractic as part of his treatment. Loebig focuses on my shoulder and arm, finishing each visit with adjustments to the neck and lower back.

“That should help your golf swing,” Loebig says with a pat on the back as he makes marks on my chart.

I’ve been adjusted, and not just my back and golf swing but my outlook as well. I step into the bright sunshine outside Loebig’s Great Falls office a little lighter on my feet, a little less aware of the chronic pain in my right shoulder. My head feels looser on my neck, and I feel taller. The sensation of well-being won’t last, I know. It could be a matter of days, or even hours, before the pressure builds again and my joints stiffen with stress and tension. But for now, I’ll take it. ·

Buzz McClain is a Washington area freelance writer.

New York Yankees & Chiropractic

by Michael Dorausch, DC
Original Story Here

The New York Yankees and chiropractic have been in the news the past few weeks thanks to major-league baseball player Johnny Damon. In most recent news, the New York Times reported earlier this week that the Yankees would be hiring a team chiropractor, apparently on the advice of Johnny Damon.

New York Yankees Johnny DamonThere were several articles circulating in the news about Johnny Damon and the chiropractic care he has been receiving in Orlando, Florida. According to Damon, his chiropractor is amazing. The New York Yankees center field ballplayer hopes his chiropractic care will translate into better results on the field, not only for himself, but for his team.

This wouldn’t be the first time the New York Yankees have utilized the team chiropractor. Back in May of 1934, a magazine from the National Chiropractic Association featured a front-page photo of New York Yankees team chiropractor (Dr. Painter) working with a ballplayer, with Babe Ruth watching on. I don’t know if there’s any truth of this, but I once heard that at the time, the New York Yankees asked the New York Daily News to keep quiet about the Yankees having a team chiropractor, which was from the 1920s to the 1930s. Apparently, they wanted to maintain a competitive edge by keeping the chiropractic care a secret. Perhaps coincidentally, the Yankees recorded their best season ever (1927 – World Champions) and won four World Championships (1923, 1927-1928, 1932) during the time of Dr. Erie Painter, chiropractor.

According to various news reports, Johnny Damon has not spent a single day on baseball’s disabled list during his lengthy playing career.  You can visit the official Johnny Damon web site at to view his bio, long list of awards and records, as well as some very impressive statistics.

PLAY BALL! Chiropractic Adjustments Keep Boston Red Sox Organization Physically Fit Throughout the Baseball Season


Original Story Here

Thanks to an integrated medical team of orthopedists and internists, certified athletic trainers, chiropractors, massage and physical therapists, the Boston Red Sox organization actively practices injury prevention in anticipation of a winning season in 2007. Competing at an exceptionally high level, both players and staff cover all their bases when it comes to maintaining optimal health, with chiropractic adjustments contributing to the overall fitness of the organization.

According to Michael D. Weinman, DC, Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) and a member of the medical team who provides chiropractic care for three to four hours prior to the first pitch of about two-thirds of all home games, When the bodys joints, muscles and nerves are well-conditioned, a player performs at the top of his game and is able to stave off nagging injuries. Chiropractic adjustments enhance physical health and promote top performance.

Jim Rowe, a certified athletic trainer who has served as head team trainer and is currently the medical operations coordinator for the past two years for the Boston Red Sox explains, Chiropractic care is part of the overall healthcare approach and provides yet another service to our players. Dr. Weinman does not do everything — but what he does, he does best. We intend to continue offering this service which is valued by active team members of every age.

With a demanding schedule that includes seven weeks of spring training, 162 games, and potentially weeks of play-off games or a World Series, Rowe cites the importance of keeping players in top physical condition for every game as well as between games.

Once the season gets into swing, players are traveling on late night flights, falling asleep on a bus or airplane, or sleeping in different hotel beds, says Rowe. Rowe has worked in the Minor Leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers for five years, then one year in Pawtucket, then 11 years as head trainer for the Boston Red Sox before becoming their medical operations coordinator. This type of schedule takes a toll on the body, and chiropractic adjustments help across-the-board. We find that chiropractic adjustments can play an important role in injury prevention and can be effective for acute injuries as well as in-between games.

Dr. Weinman, a member of The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of the benefits of chiropractic, adds, A baseball players body is put to the test both on and off the field. Given these intense physical demands, accompanied by the pressure to win, players value an integrated medical approach that includes chiropractic adjustments.

He says that the most common problems among baseball players are rotator cuff injuries, neck, mid-back and lower back conditions, as well as hamstring pulls, which occur from running full out from a standstill position.

Chiropractors would adjust the involved joint to keep it mobile, reduce inflammation and break-up adhesions, explains Dr. Weinman. With the Red Sox I get to work with physical therapists, trainers and strength and conditioning staff, to provide the best care and to maintain the highest level of health and wellness for all the athletes and staff.

Literature Review Shows Spinal Manipulation Beneficial For Neck Pain

American Chiropractic Association Article
03 May 2007

A new literature review finds evidence that patients with chronic neck pain enrolled in clinical trials reported significant improvement following chiropractic spinal manipulation, according to a March/April 2007 report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT).

According to Howard Vernon, DC, PhD, the review’s chief author, “The results of the literature review confirm the common clinical experience of doctors of chiropractic: neck manipulation is beneficial for patients with certain forms of chronic neck pain.”

As part of the literature review, Dr. Vernon and his colleagues reviewed nine previously published trials and found “high-quality evidence” that patients with chronic neck pain showed significant pain-level improvements following spinal manipulation. No trial group was reported to remain unchanged, and all groups showed positive changes up to 12 weeks post treatment. No trial reported any serious adverse effects.

This literature review did not include studies involving patients with acute neck pain, neck and arm pain, neck pain due to whiplash, or those with headaches. In this review, chronic neck pain was defined as being a minimum of 8 weeks duration.

Researchers also found that mobilization therapy was beneficial in improving patients’ pain levels, with many achieving full recovery after six to seven weeks of treatment; however, the current evidence did not support a similar level of benefit from massage therapy.

Neck pain is a very common complaint – approximately 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men are estimated to have chronic neck pain at any one time. According to a report issued by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, 18 percent of chiropractic patients list neck pain as their chief complaint.

Spinal manipulation, commonly referred to as a chiropractic adjustment, is the main therapeutic procedure performed by doctors of chiropractic. The purpose of manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become hypomobile.

Chiropractors practice a hands-on, drug-free approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, headaches and other neuromusculoskeletal complaints. In addition, a significant amount of evidence shows that the use of chiropractic care for certain conditions can be more effective and less costly than traditional medical care.

The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), the premier biomedical publication in the chiropractic profession and the official scientific journal of the American Chiropractic Association, provides the latest information on current research developments, as well as clinically oriented research and practical information for use in clinical settings.

Chiropractic for Military Personnel

Christopher Duncan DC
March 2007

With the recent inadequacies found within the military healthcare system and Walter Reed Hospital, there have been many attempts to determine how far the lack of care for our soldiers goes. According to a 2006 report by the Veterans Administration, “42.7 percent of veterans who sought VA health care after returning from duty in the Middle East or Southwest Asia were diagnosed with a musculoskeletal condition…making it the most common diagnosis among the subject population.” This diagnosis is understandable when considering that these soldiers stand, march, and run around in combat zones wearing, at times, over 80 pounds of gear. That additional weight adds extreme stress and strain on the back and on the body over all.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has done research and determined the most cost effective and efficacious method of treating these conditions. Yet the DoD does not make it available to the soldiers deployed overseas, and stateside its use is limited if even possible to receive when they return home. This treatment is Chiropractic. Chiropractic care has been shown to be extremely effective in treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. As far back as 1986 research done by the DoD has shown the efficacy of chiropractic in regard to musculoskeletal conditions, the number one complaint of returning soldiers.

The research was so conclusive that in 2001 the National Defense Authorization Act replaced the demonstration program. According to the Tricare (the DoD health insurance company) website, “Chiropractic care became a permanent benefit for active duty at designated sites on October 1, 2001. The Chiropractic Care Program is currently available at 42 Military Treatment Facilities.” The website also lists a total of 236 treatment facilities. That means that there are 194 facilities where returning soldiers cannot receive this proven and cost effective treatment for their number one health care complaint.

Utah soldiers do not really have the option. Those preparing to mobilize, returning home, and those stationed here receive treatment at Hill Air Force Base Medical Facility. The closest authorized chiropractic facility for our fighting forces in Utah would be in Colorado over an 8 hour drive. These soldiers are not left without care, according to Tricare soldiers, family members, and non-active duty personnel, “…may seek chiropractic care in the local community at their own expense,” because, “Chiropractic care received outside of the designated locations is not covered under the Chiropractic Care Program.”

Due to the nature of their work and for force security many of our Special Forces troops can’t reveal their identity. One such is a veteran of the war in Afganistan. He is a Staff Sgt. and served in Afganistan from 2001 to 2002. The US Military does an excellent job of making sure that all their soldiers are in peak condition because a unit can only move as well as its slowest component. When asked about his training he said, “We train hard, and we’re in good shape.” However even these soldiers after all that training can get injured, especially when they are carrying their daily load of 150 pounds with ammo. When asked if he and others in his unit suffered any musculoskeletal injuries his response was, “oh yeah, but we don’t complain.” This soldier never received treatment for his back and knee injuries from the military. When he came home they were bad enough that he sought chiropractic care at ALIGN Rehab and Wellness Center, a local Provo based clinic. Because the military doesn’t cover chiropractic outside of the designated locations, he had to pay out of his own pocket.

Dr. Christopher Duncan, a chiropractor at ALIGN where this soldier was treated, comments on the injuries that are seen with these returning soldiers and the success that they have had with chiropractic treatment. “Most of the injuries that we see are overloading or repetitive stress injuries. These types of problems are the bread and butter of chiropractic. It’s what we do. We have seen a great success with the soldiers who come to us with these problems. In fact these soldiers are in such good shape beforehand that their recovery if not delayed is faster than normal. It really is a shame that Tricare doesn’t extend coverage to local chiropractors in the same manor that other insurance plans do. That way, if these soldiers don’t live near a designated military facility they could go to their local doctor, get the care that they need and still be covered for it.”

The US Military is the finest in the world, with soldiers well trained and well armed. Congress has already granted all active duty soldiers chiropractic coverage in their health care package. Here in Utah, overseas, and in 194 military stations with access to medical services, they just can’t use it.

UPDATE: Legislation Would Provide More Chiropractors at VA Centers Nationwide