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Does Chiropractic Work?


Chiropractic – The Science

As much as media figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, Mel Gibson and so on have raised the profile of chiropractic by publicly endorsing it, that’s probably not going to impress many people without being convinced by the science. (By the way, Chris once treated a famous Hollywood star- honest!). Chiropractic will not be suitable for every patient that comes through our doors and it won’t help every ailment. But the fact is most regular patients visit because, “it just works” for them and that’s good enough as far as they are concerned. However, there is good, solid scientific evidence, as opposed to anecdotal, that may convince the sceptic. As recently as March 2018 there was a breakthrough paper published in The Lancet no less that extolled the virtues of non-invasive techniques such as chiropractic, particularly for low back pain.

But does chiropractic work? Any chiropractor that claims he or she can cure almost any ailment should be viewed cautiously. It can produce some curiously beneficial and often unexpected results no doubt but it’s not a wonder-cure for the World’s ills. Some sources have criticised the standard of chiropractic research but it should be remembered that chiropractors don’t have the budgets of the big drugs companies who have deep pockets and some would say barely hidden agendas. Many modern-thinking medical practitioners now recognise they can no longer ignore the benefits their patients are reporting following a course of chiropractic, but others remain unconvinced. Thankfully, there is recent professional cooperation and mutual appreciation between chiropractic and conventional medicine that lies in stark contrast to many years of discord. Cooperation and the collaborative care of patients are now quite common, in fact we regularly liaise with a patient’s GP, if appropriate.

pointingatspineYou can find lots of good research out there, including a recent study that shows that as many as 39% of women experienced shorter labour if they underwent treatment during pregnancy, but that’s not going to interest most patients. The three principal sources of research we’d like to use are the ones listed below as they are systematic reviews – rigorously conducted over a lengthy period by an independent group of researchers. All of this research provides varying degrees of evidence that yes, indeed chiropractic does work and in particular is the preferred method in many cases for relieving low back pain, neck problems and recurring headaches – something we chiropractors and our regular patients have known for some time. Chiropractic research is improving and it is hoped that soon any remaining doubts about its efficacy can be laid to rest once and for all.

  • Bronfort, G., Haas, M., Evans, R., Kawchuk, G., Dagenais, S. (2008). Evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain with spinal manipulation and mobilization. Spine Journal, 8(1), 213-225. See here.
  • Bronfort, G., Nilsson, N., Haas, M., Evans, R., Goldsmith, C.H., Assendelft, W.J.J. & Bouter, L.M. (2004). Non-invasive physical treatments for chronic/recurrent headache. The Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. See here.
  • Gross, A.R., Hoving, J.L., Haines, T.A., Goldsmith, C.H., Kay, T., Aker, P., Bronfort, G. (2004).Manipulation and mobilization for mechanical neck disorders. The Cochrane Database of Systemic Review. See here.

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