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Do you fear seeing a Chiropractor?

Posted by Dr Niki McGuinness (Chiropractor) in General on May 11th, 2016

With recent media attention, I can see why you would fear seeing a Chiropractor. From ‘back cracking’ babies to strokes, Chiropractors really do get a bad rap in the media. So I wanted to address one of the current fears which have been ‘hyped’ by the media so I can rationalise it for you and hopefully put you at ease, at least in one aspect of Chiropractic. I talk here not only as a Chiropractor but also as a patient of Chiropractic for over 12 years.

Chiropractors ‘crack’ necks/they will hurt me

Well I thought I would start with addressing the word ‘crack’. The word ‘crack’ is defined as a sudden, sharp and explosive noise. This word in itself is a threatening adjective used to scare the public. Yes there are some Chiropractors who manipulate joints and as a by-product a small popping noise may be heard. A study of the finger joint being manipulated confirmed that this popping noise is purely the release of gas as the joint capsule tension is released. This popping noise is termed by Chiropractors a ‘cavitation’.

Not every Chiropractor manipulates to ‘cavitate’ or create a popping sound. I certainly prefer to use more low force treatments, especially as many people don’t like the discomfort associated with locking a joint in order for it to cavitate.  As a rule of thumb, and some may accuse me of generalising here, male Chiropractors in my experience prefer manipulation or manual adjusting and female Chiropractors usually prefer more low force, gentle approaches. As I said, I am generalising here.

So why do Chiropractors Manipulate?

Well, there are many theories in Chiropractic about manipulation, some of them are a bit off the wall but  personally, the reason I choose to manipulate or use low force tools, is to improve joint function and relax the muscles and ligaments around the joint. And i really do see this on a day to day, case by case basis.  After an adjustment,  you can see an immediate relaxation of the muscle surrounding the joint, whether it be the lumbar para-spinals or the trapezius of the cervical spine. And for a short term at least, the muscle relaxation usually results in less pain and improved function of the joint. If you would like to read some research on this, please find this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14589467.

Neck Manipulation aagh!

On the topic of neck manipulation, I do certainly offer this to some of my patients, however I usually try a number of treatments with the activator and dry needling first. Research is inconclusive on neck manipulation and neck pain however there are some positive results for Cervicogenic Headaches, and I do see this in practice. However don’t go rushing for a neck adjustment yet. It’s important that the Chiropractor gets your diagnosis right as tension type headaches, which are similar to cervicogenic headaches, can on occasions be worsened by neck manipulation.

I have heard of Chiropractors ‘surprising’ patients with a neck adjustment without warning. I’d say this is because they want you to be relaxed and not anticipate the adjustment however this is the aspect that patients get annoyed with and get scared of. Before doing any neck adjustment, I always talk it through with patients first and discuss the options and the risks and they make an informed choice about whether they want it. I would say that about 80% of my patients opt out. REMEMBER it is YOUR choice and you mustn’t let a Chiropractor try and convince you into having it if you are scared or nervous.

With any intervention either in health or in beauty, there always bring risk and obviously these risks must be explained to you before treatment. I find many Chiropractors just get you to sign the consent in the waiting room, however I spend 5 or so minutes discussing the most likely to least likely risks of treatment. This way, when you sign the dotted line, you are clear. But please let me say, I have been a Chiropractor for 5 years now and the most common reaction I see is an increase in pain for up to 72 hours which then subsides. The statistics are around 1 – 3 will experience this after their treatment and it is not considered an adverse event. In general, spinal manipulation is safe and can be a very effective form of treatment.

So, my closing statement is please don’t believe ‘hearsay and gossip’ from people who have never seen a decent Chiropractor or who have read ridiculous articles on social media. Chiropractors have very loyal and happy customers and the proof of this can be seen in the ‘pudding’ with many patients seeking help from Chiropractors on a daily basis, all over the world.

In health and wellbeing, Niki