Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine, under the belief that such a disorder affects general health via the nervous system. The main chiropractic treatment technique involves manual therapy, especially manipulation of the spine, other joints, and soft tissues, but may also include exercises and health and lifestyle counseling.
Chiropractors (practitioners of chiropractic) use their hands to treat disorders of the bones, muscles and joints. Treatments that involve using the hands in this way are called “manual therapies”. Chiropractors use a range of techniques, with an emphasis on manipulation of the spine.
They may also offer advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle, and rehabilitation programmes that involve exercises to do in your own time. Some chiropractors may also offer other alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.
Many chiropractors only treat conditions related to the spine, such as lower back or neck pain.
Some chiropractors, however, claim to treat a wider range of conditions, including asthma, infant colic, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and many others.
The GCC says that the care provided by chiropractors should be “informed by the best available evidence, the preferences of the patient and the expertise of practitioners”.
Chiropractic treatments are often used for musculoskeletal conditions (which affect the muscles, bones and joints).
These conditions include:
- lower back pain
- neck pain
- shoulder pain and problems
- slipped discs
- leg pain and sciatica
- pain or problems with hip, knee, ankle and foot joints
- pain or problems with elbow, wrist and hand joints
Some chiropractors, however, claim to treat a wide range of conditions that are unrelated to muscles, bones and joints, such as:
- painful periods
- infant colic
- headache and migraine
- high blood pressure (high blood pressure)
- mental health conditions – such as depression, phobias or anxiety disorders
- gastrointestinal disorders (of the stomach and bowel)
They may also use chiropractic treatments to maintain overall good health.
The use of manual treatments as practised by chiropractors is not recommended in cases where there is an increased risk of damage to the spine or other bones, or the nerves.
This means that people with certain health conditions may not be able to have chiropractic. They include people with:
- severe osteoporosis
- primary cancer of the bone or a secondary cancer that has spread to the bone
- poorly controlled arthritis or gout
- poorly controlled diabetic neuropathy
- compression of the nerves in the spinal cord
Chiropractic treatment is also not recommended if you are taking anticoagulants, such as warfarin.
In some cases, where manipulation of bones, joints and soft tissue is not recommended, a chiropractor may be able to offer other treatments, along with diet, exercise and lifestyle advice.
If you have any of these health conditions, or you are unsure whether chiropractic is safe for you, speak to your GP first.