There are rumors about chiropractors that have frustrated me for years, but none have been more frustrating than some of the crazy stories surrounding chiropractic spinal manipulation. Over the years, I have taken it upon myself to try to track down the stories to ascertain if there were any basis of truth in them. I have never found one to be true yet.
The story usually goes something like this… “I have a friend who says he was badly hurt by a chiropractor”. Once I call the friend he says, “Well… It wasn’t me but it was a friend of mine.” I dutifully track this next lead and find that they relate it was a cousin. When I call the cousin… well, the pattern just keeps going until the trail dries up.
My father had similar frustrations and pursued leads as a member of the Tennessee Board of Chiropractic Examiners. He would say, “If there is someone out there hurting people, I want to know about it and stop it.” However, even with his diligence, he was unable to locate the severely injured person.
Chiropractors may employ a variety of treatments to bring a condition under control. Although we are famous for our use of spinal manipulation, we also manipulate peripheral joints, use therapeutic modalities such as ultrasound, and electric stimulation, and assist our patients with corrective exercises for rehabilitation.
From a diagnostic standpoint we use a battery of orthopedic and neurological provocative examinations, x-ray investigation, and sometimes EMG and NCV studies. All of these procedures contain a small risk factor for injury or irritation.
All procedures contain a complication rate, but I am glad to say that complication rates for chiropractic examination and treatment are extremely low. Research has listed burns from hot packs or cold packs, shocks from electric therapy equipment failure, and irritation to spine joints, in some cases, from spinal manipulation as the more common problems. There is also a rare complication of stroke that has been reported from manipulation of the neck joints, but that occurrence is between 1 in 2-5 million cases. However, new research shows that manipulation of the neck is of no more of a risk than normal neck movements.
The chiropractic profession has remained diligent in studying treatment complications and has improved its procedures over the past 50 years. The complication rate continues to fall as the pursuit of science refines treatment and diagnostic methods.
The truth is … chiropractic treatments are extremely safe. The techniques that we use are designed to be carefully and professionally employed, and when provided by trained professionals, rarely result in complications to the patients.
The most compelling statistic that points to the true safety of our procedures is my malpractice insurance premium. For 1 million dollar coverage, I pay $2200 per year. By comparison some MDs are paying over $60,000 for similar coverage.
By Dr. Richard L. Cole