Are There Side Effects to Chiropractic Care?


Chiropractic is recognized as one of the safest therapies you can use to treat joint pain, back and neck pain, headaches, and other conditions. Because no type of healthcare therapy is completely free of potential side effects, however, some adverse effects may occur. Many patients feel relief immediately following a chiropractic spinal adjustment, but some experience mild aching or soreness in the spinal joints or muscles. This feeling is similar to muscle soreness after exercise. If this occurs, it is usually within the first few hours post-treatment and for most patients (74%) does not last longer than 24 hours after the treatment. An ice pack often reduces the symptoms of this more quickly. Spinal adjustments pose few serious risks, although rare complications include the possibility of a herniated disk or compression of the nerves in the lower spinal column.

Some headaches and neck pains can be treated through cervical manipulation, which are also known as neck adjustments. These treatments improve joint mobility in the neck, restore the normal range of motion, and reduce muscle spasm to relieve pressure and tension. Neck manipulation is known to be a safe procedure, but some patients may experience side effects for a few days after treatment. These side effects include headache, fatigue, or continuing pain.

At the extreme end of risks associated with cervical manipulation, there have been reports that have associated it with a certain kind of stroke: vertebrobasilar artery (VBA) stroke. The best evidence indicates that the incidence of such injuries associated with neck adjustments is extremely rare – about 1 case in 5.85 million manipulations. To put this risk into perspective, this type of injury usually occurs spontaneously, or it happens as a result of everyday activities such as looking up to watch fireworks, turning your head while driving or having your hair washed in a hair salon.

Chiropractic adjustments are safe when performed by licensed professionals trained to deliver chiropractic care. During your visit, you should be very specific about your symptoms, and about any concerns you feel about any risks. This will help us offer the safest and most effective treatment for you. Depending on your condition and the specific problems being treated, you may be able to forego manipulation in favor of a regimen of joint mobilization, therapeutic exercise, soft-tissue techniques, or other therapies.

It is normal to have questions about chiropractic care. If you have further questions about the content of this article or other aspects of chiropractic, please ask. We are here to help!