Originally published: April 2018
Many Canadians continue to have questions about the role that chiropractors play in the healthcare team, and what benefit chiropractic care may have to their health. While you can always find a chiropractor in your community to discuss your specific needs, today we’re busting some commonly shared chiropractic myths:
1. Once you see a chiropractor you have to keep going back
This is false. When seeking care from a chiropractor, we will perform an assessment including a history and physical examination to determine the cause of the pain or dysfunction. From these observations, a diagnosis will be made and the treatment plan developed in collaboration with the patient – according to their needs and goals. The treatment plan will recommend a number of initial visits to see if the patient responds to care and scheduled re-evaluations. Depending on the patient and the condition, the recommended course of care may vary. Ultimately, the decision to continue care is yours. As a patient, if you have questions or concerns about care, you should feel comfortable to ask the chiropractor for more information on the recommendations made and address any concerns. The care plan should be part of a shared decision-making between the patient and practitioner.
2. Chiropractors are not ‘real’ doctors
Chiropractors are regulated in all 10 Canadian provinces, and are designated to use the title “doctor” similar to physicians, optometrists and dentists after completing the extensive Doctor of Chiropractic degree program. Those professions who are recognized to use the “doctor” title have extensive training in their area of expertise that allows them to be diagnosticians – to provide a diagnosis.
3. A medical doctor must refer you to a chiropractor
In all provinces in Canada, chiropractors are primary contact providers, which means you can access them directly. Due to the extensive training of chiropractors as diagnosticians, chiropractors will perform a comprehensive assessment to help determine a diagnosis or clinical impressions. Depending on the outcome, the chiropractor can discuss a course of care or refer to another healthcare professional, as needed. However, in some cases, you may need a referral to access coverage depending on your benefits provider.
4. There is no evidence to support the effectiveness of chiropractic care
Chiropractic treatment is at times questioned on its effectiveness. Yet, the chiropractic profession and others have invested significant resources to build a robust body of evidence studying the impact of manual therapies on MSK conditions. For example, spinal and joint manipulation has been shown to be effective treatment for acute and chronic MSK conditions, like back pain. In fact, spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is recommended as first line intervention for back pain in numerous clinical practice guidelines including the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force1, the American College of Physicians and American Pain Society2 as well as Britain’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence3.
5. Chiropractors can only treat back pain
Chiropractors are musculoskeletal (MSK) experts and are trained in assessing, diagnosing, treating and preventing biomechanical disorders that originate from the muscular, skeletal and nervous system. In addition to the evidence that supports chiropractic care in managing musculoskeletal complaints of the spine, there is also evidence that it supports chiropractic management of the extremities, headaches and even TMJ pain,5,6. Chiropractors are also able to provide lifestyle counselling about nutrition, fitness and ergonomics among others that may be useful in managing or preventing a variety of health conditions. The health of your MSK system doesn’t just start with a healthy spine, you need to be fully aware of your health to maintain a well-rounded healthy lifestyle!
6. Adjustments are painful
In general, adjustments or joint manipulations do not hurt. In fact, many patients report immediate pain relief. Patients may be nervous about the ‘cracking’ or popping sound that may occur during an adjustment. The sound is believed to result from the release of gas bubbles from the joint – similar to cracking your knuckles!
Asking questions about your health and treatment options is very important. You are a partner in your care and your participation is critical to helping us provide the best care to meet your goal. If you have any questions beyond this blog about chiropractic treatment, visit a chiropractor in your area.
1Haldeman, S., Carroll, L., Cassidy, J., Schubert, J., & Nygren, A. (2008). The bone and joint decade 2000–2010 task force on neck pain and its associated disorders: Executive summary. Spine, 33(4S), S5-S7. 2Chou, E., Qaseem, A., Snow, V., Casey, D., Cross, T., Shekelle, P., & Owens, D. (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain: A joint clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Annals of Internal Medicine, 147(7), 478-491. 3National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. (2009). Low back pain early management of persistent non-specific low back pain. Londres, Angleterre. 4Hoskins, W., McHardy, A., Pollard, H., Windsham, R., & Onley, R. (2006). Chiropractic treatment of lower extremity conditions: a literature review. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 29(8), 658-671. 5McHardy, A., Hoskins, W., Pollard, H., Onley, R., & Windsham, R. (2008). Chiropractic treatment of upper extremity conditions: a systematic review. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 31(2), 146-159. 6Bryans, R., Descarreaux, M., Duranleau, M., Marcoux, H., Potter, B., Reugg, R., White, E., & , (2011). Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 34(5), 274-289.