She is a chiropractor at Supernova Medical Centre. A chiropractor is a health practitioner who manipulates joints. Chiropractic is used as an alternative to, or to complement, conventional medicine. This article explains what chiropractors do, and includes questions you might ask.
Chiropractors diagnose, treat and prevent mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal systemand the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. Chiropractors offer services relating to a range of musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain, neck pain and headache. Spinal manipulation is the main treatment used by chiropractors. It is a therapy that involves using the hands to move a joint beyond its usual range of motion. Manual pressure is applied to the spine using different techniques, and some movements may give an audible crack or pop.
Some chiropractors also claim to treat non-musculoskeletal problems, such as ear infections, asthma, allergies, colic in babies and bedwetting. Some also offer advice on childhood immunisation. There is no evidence for the effectiveness of chiropractic manipulation in treating these conditions. Chiropractors do not have the necessary expertise to advise on childhood immunisation. Your medical doctor is the appropriate health professional to discuss the benefits and risks of immunisation for children.
Spinal manipulation is probably just as effective as, but no more effective than, conventional medical therapy for acute low back pain. In addition, spinal manipulation has been shown to give minor short-term improvements in pain and function in people with chronic low back pain. Spinal manipulation is one of several options which include exercise, massage and physical therapy that can provide some relief to low-back pain.
Before recommending a treatment for neck pain, your medical doctor should exclude serious underlying problems. These problems may include damage to a bone or ligament from significant trauma, infection, cancer, or nerve compression. Spinal manipulation is neither safe nor effective for these serious conditions.
There may be other reasons why spinal manipulation is not appropriate for your neck pain. A common cause of neck pain is torticollis (twisted neck). Physical therapies such as gentle mobilisation may provide effective relief; however spinal manipulation is not recommended. While spinal manipulation is sometimes used to treat other causes of neck pain, its effectiveness is not well established.
If you have chronic headaches or migraines your medical doctor should be your first contact. Your doctor may recommend treatments such as rest or pain relief medicines, as well as considering medicines to reduce the frequency of the headaches or migraines. Spinal manipulation is not recommended for common tension-type headaches. The evidence to support spinal manipulation for other types of headaches or migraines is not strong.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners warns of the potential for serious complications following spinal neck manipulation for the treatment of headaches.
There is no evidence that spinal manipulation can effectively treat non-musculoskeletal conditions.
Spinal manipulation is usually safe, although it can be associated with minor problems and, rarely, very serious side effects. Minor short-lived complaints following spinal manipulation are common. About half of people who have seen a chiropractor say they felt dizzy, light-headed or numb afterwards, or had a headache, or had more pain or stiffness.
Serious side effects include damage to the spine, nerves, blood vessels in the head and neck and to the brain. These rare but serious side effects include:
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners warns of the potential for serious complications following neck manipulation, including the risk of death.
The chiropractor is likely to discuss your current health problem, along with your overall medical history. They may perform an examination and you might be offered spinal manipulation.
Parents typically seek chiropractic care for their children for musculoskeletal disorders. Chiropractors may provide treatments to children including:
Experts agree that there are risks to children including risks from manual therapy, or indirectly from delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.
The Chiropractic Board of Australia says there is a lack of quality evidence on the chiropractic care of children. The Chiropractic Board expects chiropractors treating children to:
Some chiropractors say they can treat ear infections, asthma, allergies, autism, bed-wetting and colic in babies. There is no evidence these claims are true.
Before or during your appointment with a chiropractor, you may like to ask some of the following questions:
It would also be important to let your chiropractor know of any medical condition that may affect your treatment or put you at higher risk of side effects from spinal manipulation.
You might be at a higher than usual risk of having complications if you have: