Chiropractic came into being on this day in 1895 — a time when confusion about health was widespread. Tools in conventional medicine were scant. The famous Flexner Report had not yet been commissioned, and health care in the U.S. in general could only be classified as dismal (at best) or futile (at worst).
Fast forward to today. 123 years later, much has been learned about how the body works and how we can heal it. Still, many do not understand the benefits of non-traditional medical care and how it serves in keeping one well.
If you frequently deal with symptoms like joint pain, backaches or headaches and have yet to visit a chiropractor for help, you may be missing out on an effective and natural treatment option. Millions of people around the world have experienced the incredible benefits of chiropractic care — a holistic, non-invasive treatment approach proven to help treat dozens of different conditions. One of the best things about receiving chiropractic adjustments is that they are a completely drug-free path to healing the body naturally.
Despite its growing popularity, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the field of chiropractic care, including how the practice works and how chiropractors are trained. Below, you’ll learn more about the philosophy, history and evidence-based research behind chiropractic care — shedding light on why studies have proved, objectively and subjectively, that chiropractic patients commonly experience “overall increased bodily function”.
What Are Chiropractic Adjustments?
What is the meaning of chiropractic? There are a number of chiropractic definitions depending on who you ask. According to the World Federation of Chiropractic, the meaning of chiropractic medicine is:
A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation.
Here’s another chiropractic definition, this time according to the Association of Chiropractic Colleges:
Chiropractic is a healthcare discipline that emphasizes the inherent recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. In addition, Doctor of Chiropractic recognize the value and responsibility of working in cooperation with other health care practitioners when in the best interest of the patient.
Indeed, chiropractic can be a complementary medicine as most chiropractors are used to working with medical doctors to get people pain-free and avoid future injuries.
How Chiropractic Treatments Work:
Most of the benefits associated with chiropractic care are from patients receiving specific chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic adjustments work by helping to place your body in the proper position that then allows the body to heal itself.
Safety is paramount. Indeed, as a holistic and alternative treatment approach, chiropractic adjustments can reduce stress placed on someone’s immune system, freeing up energy to be used towards disease prevention and maintaining homeostasis. Chiropractic care aims to address the whole body, enhancing patients’ ability to think, move and perform.
- Chiropractors pride themselves on taking a natural, drugless approach to helping their patients reach their health goals. Essentially, the basic principle upon which the entire profession is built is that the body has the amazing, innate ability to heal itself, under the right conditions. It is the chiropractor’s job to help create an environment that facilitates this inner-healing process and where safety is assured.
- Because the nervous system controls every cell and organ in your body, chiropractors focus their attention on the health of the spine being properly aligned. If the spine shifts out of its proper place, then adjustments are used to help bring the spine back into alignment.
- At the core of numerous chiropractic miracle stories is a concept known as “vertebral subluxation.” When chiropractors use this phrase, they refer to mechanical compression and irritation to spinal joints and nerves.
Case in point: the very first chiropractic patient in history was named William Harvey Lillard, who experienced difficulty hearing due to compression of the nerves leading to his ears. He was treated by “the founder of chiropractic care,” David. D. Palmer, who gave Lillard spinal adjustments in order to reduce destructive nerve compressions and restore his hearing. After doing extensive research about physiology, Palmer believed that Lillard’s hearing loss was due to a misalignment that blocked the spinal nerves that controlled the inner ear — an example of vertebral subluxation. Palmer went on to successfully treat other patients and eventually trained other practitioners how to do the same. The first college of chiropractic, founded in 1897, was named after Palmer — the Palmer Chiropractic School & Cure.
Lillard is just one example of a patient who was able to overcome a serious problem in part by receiving targeted chiropractic adjustments. For someone else, it could be that sciatica (nerve pain down the back of their legs) is compromising their quality of life, or for another person, gastrointestinal discomfort. When you consider how most cells and organs in your body are controlled by nerves traveling through your spinal canal, it’s mind-blowing to consider how vast the positive outcomes of realigning these nerves can be.
Complementary treatments to chiropractic include Spinal Decompression Therapy, which involves stretching the spine, using a traction table or similar motorized device, in order to relieve back pain and/or leg pain. Deep tissue massage therapy, acupuncture and physical therapy are considered other common complementary therapies.
Why Get Chiropractic Adjustments?
Many things can lead to a vertebral subluxation. Some of the more common causes include:
- A vertebra going out of place (“misalignment”) because of a slip or fall (i.e., “macrotrauma”).
- The entire spine misaligning globally due to poor posture.
- Joint swelling caused by damage done to the intervertebral joint.
- An inflammatory response caused by a poor diet, lack of pure water or psychological stress.
- Osteoporosis or degenerative changes of the spine or intervertebral discs.
- Trigger points and tight back muscles that pull the vertebrae out of place.
Importance of Having Good Posture:
The problem in Western cultures is that our unnatural habit of sitting down all day does damage to our spine and posture. Today, it’s common to spend hours sitting while being glued to a cell phone, iPad or laptop. Few people take the time each day to properly stretch, fix their posture or engage in enough physical activity.
The “hunched over” lifestyle that is all too popular today causes straining on the neck, due to a condition called “forward head posture.” Studies prove that for every inch your head sticks out from its true center of gravity, your neck bears an extra 10 pounds of stress!
During posture evaluations, chiropractors regularly observe many of their patients carrying their head two to three inches forward, which is an extra 20–30 pounds of pressure on their neck. Just think about how dangerous this can be for the health of someone’s spine, and how this straining then spills over to many other parts of the body.
Top 12 Benefits of Chiropractic Adjustments
Finding a good chiropractor isn’t only key to correcting the damage caused by years of poor posture or trauma — it’s also important for everyone wanting to take a proactive approach to protecting his or her health. It’s hard to find any other profession on the planet that can prevent neuromuscular-based disease like chiropractic can.
Are you experiencing frequent negative health symptoms like back pain, headaches, or stress? Pain medications can only do so much, and they won’t fix your problem.
Visiting a chiropractor may be able to help you overcome some or all of your symptoms. The adjustments you receive can have a myriad of positive benefits without the stress or invasiveness of surgery or other more intense techniques.
Is a chiropractic adjustment right for you? Consider some of the top benefits of getting a chiropractic adjustment.
- Blood Pressure
In 2007, George Bakris, the world expert on hypertension, published a study with a team of researchers in the Human Journal of Hypertension showing that one upper cervical chiropractic adjustment had the same effect as two blood pressure-lowering drugs. Even more fascinating, the effects of just one adjustment lasted more than six months!
Compared to the placebo-treated patients, those who got the real procedure saw an average 14 mm Hg greater drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure count) and an average 8 mm Hg greater drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom blood pressure number). (11)
Other studies have shown similar findings with hypotensive patients, and their low blood pressure was raised to normal levels after chiropractic care. This is exciting — it highlights the body’s ability to create a homeostatic balanced environment once vertebral subluxations are removed.
High blood pressure medications can have negative side effects including:
If an adjustment can give similar, if not the same, effect as these types of medications, it might be something to consider.
- A Chiropractic Adjustment Can Help With Neck and Lower Back Pain
This benefit is probably the most well known when it comes to going to the chiropractor. 80% of all Americans experience some sort of lower back pain in their lifetime.
Medications and surgeries are options for this type of pain, but those can be dangerous, expensive, and ineffective.
An adjustment from chiropractor services can significantly reduce your back and neck pain via a non-invasive technique. Chiropractic treatment is also cheaper than other methods of back pain management.
One study involving chiropractic patients with neck pain found that 96 percent of respondents indicated that they were either “Very satisfied” or “Satisfied” with the chiropractic care they received, and that 98 percent said that they “Definitely would” or were “Very likely” to choose chiropractic care again if they experienced a similar problem.
In a 2003 study published in the British Medical Journal, 183 patients with neck pain were randomly allocated to receive either manual therapy (spinal mobilization), physiotherapy (mainly exercise) or general practitioner care (counseling, education and drugs) over the course of a 52-week period. The clinical outcome measures showed that chiropractic adjustments resulted in faster recovery than physiotherapy and general practitioner care. Moreover, total costs of the chiropractic-treated patients were about one-third of the costs of physiotherapy or general practitioner care.
Another study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction one month following treatment compared to patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients, as a higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent in the physician group) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better. Nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was actually worse or much worse following treatment. Other studies have shown comparable results; the majority of acute and chronic chiropractic patients experience better outcomes in pain, functional disability and patient satisfaction following treatment.
In a study funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, conducted to test the effectiveness of different approaches for treating neck pain, 272 participants were divided into three groups: those that received either spinal manipulative therapy from a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), those who received pain medications (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants), and those only following at-home exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs, and about 48 percent of those who exercised, reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain. As a comparison, 33 percent of the people in the medication group reported decreased pain. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the two drug-free groups (chiropractic and exercise) continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to an average of just 38 percent pain reduction among those who only took medication.
Scoliosis is a condition where there is an abnormal curvature of the spine. This can cause pain, abnormal posture, a reduction in your range of motion, and even trouble breathing.
Most scoliosis patients have few options for treatment. But a chiropractic adjustment has been shown to help treat scoliosis patients.
Chiropractic treatment combined with physical therapy could help treat and prevent the progression of scoliosis. The effectiveness of this treatment option varies from patient to patient, but it is a viable option.
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates from your lower back down your legs because of a damaged or pressured sciatic nerve.
This type of chronic pain can lead to over-medicating and chronic pain. Chiropractic treatment can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve that is causing your sciatica. Studies show that patients receiving adjustments reduced the number of pain days they had. They also experienced a reduction in the severity of their pain.
- Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the top causes of pain, joint issues, and tension. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of diseases like heart disease, chronic pain, and cancer.
Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to reduce inflammation, which can lead to a number of positive benefits, including:
Chronic lower back pain relief
Reduced muscle tension
Relief of joint pain
Reduced inflammation can also help reduce your risk of developing diseases that are linked to high inflammation.
- Headache Relief
Both tension and migraine headaches can be caused by back pain and spinal issues. Back misalignment can cause muscle tension and pain which can result in both tension headaches as well as migraine headaches.
Second only to back pain, headaches — both tension headaches and migraine headaches — are one of the most common conditions regularly managed by chiropractors. Over 230 peer-reviewed articles referenced chiropractic’s ability to help cure, prevent and ease the burden of headaches and migraines in people all across the globe!
A group trial found that 22 percent of people who had chiropractic treatment saw the number of attacks drop by 90 percent. In that same study, 49 percent said they had a significant reduction in pain intensity. Compared to most medical treatments, few interventions can initiate headache relief naturally, without the risks of taking drugs long-term, like chiropractic adjustments can. (7)
- Improvement in Symptoms of Neurological Conditions
Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to help increase blood flow to the brain. They can help increase the flow of cerebral spinal fluid as well. This can significantly help people suffering from neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
While this subject is still being researched, the potential therapeutic applications provide exciting possibilities of treatment for these patients.
- Children’s Health Benefits
Kids chiropractic care can significantly improve certain conditions that affect children. The big three conditions that can be helped with an adjustment in children are colic, acid reflux, and ear infections.
Colic causes near constant crying and fussiness in young children and babies as a result of abdominal discomfort and gas. Colic can be extremely difficult to treat, which can result in an uncomfortable baby and exhausted parents.
Adjustments have been shown to help improve infantile colic symptoms.
Acid Reflux and Ear Infections
It’s thought that the nerves in the brain and back along with the nerves in the gut and head are particularly sensitive. When these are affected, it can result in conditions like acid reflux and ear infections.
A chiropractic adjustment can help to improve what’s known as the gut-brain connection, which is why chiropractic adjustments might help these types of conditions.
This improvement can also boost the immune system, which can help prevent infection.
- Improved Athletic Performance
Reduction of inflammation, pain, and other similar conditions can help get the body in top shape. This is especially true for athletes who depend on their body to do their job.
Many sports teams and professional athletes hire chiropractors. Adjustments can reduce pain and tension caused by sports and activity. Alignments can also reduce inflammation and boost the immune system to help enhance an athlete’s performance.
Dizziness and vertigo can make it impossible to do everyday tasks or even get up out of bed without feeling disoriented and nauseous. This is a common condition after experiencing a head or neck injury.
A chiropractic adjustment can help target joints and vertebrae that aren’t moving correctly. This could help reduce vertigo episodes. An adjustment can also help fix your body’s natural balance, which can also cause vertigo if it’s misaligned.
- Surgery Prevention
Chiropractic has long been heralded by natural health care providers as a method to prevent back surgery. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association just recently published its low back pain guidelines and suggested that people suffering from back pain first try chiropractic before resorting to surgery.
- Frozen Shoulder
In 2012, a clinical trial  was published describing how patients suffering from the debilitating condition frozen shoulder responded to chiropractic care. Of the 50 patients: 16 resolved completely; 25 showed 75 percent to 90 percent improvement; eight showed 50 percent to 75 percent improvement; and one showed 0 percent to 50 percent improvement. Before chiropractic treatment the patients reported a median initial pain score of 9 out of 10, with a range of 7 to 10. But after treatment the median score dropped down to 2, with a range of 0 to 10.
Additional Chiropractic Benefits
While the benefits mentioned above might draw the most patients to visit chiropractors, there are also many more reasons why chiropractic care is such a valuable treatment approach. Additional benefits of chiropractic adjustments include helping to treat:
- Back pains due to pregnancy
- Osteoarthritis and joint pain
- Asthma and other respiratory issues
- Anxiety, due to adjustments activating the parasympathetic nervous system
- Reduced range of motion, trouble with flexibility and fibromyalgia
- Bell’s Palsy
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping, which can be tied to pain, anxiety or trouble breathing properly
Chiropractic History & Interesting Facts
Although it’s been practiced for nearly 120 years, chiropractic care has become much more popular and accessible over the past three decades. While chiropractic has typically been thought of as an “alternative” or “complimentary” offering, it’s now more mainstream than ever before — indicated by the fact that chiropractors are licensed in all 50 states of the U.S, recognized in many other countries, included in many insurance plans, and generally given the same standing as doctors and nurses.
The man who is considered the “godfather” of chiropractic is D.D. Palmer, who was the first person to make the claim that abnormalities of the spine were the root causes of many diseases. In the 1890s, Palmer began treating patients with a combination of hands-on adjustments, along with energetic/spiritual healing. Palmer treated his very first patient named Harvey Lillard, who suffered from impaired hearing, by realigning his spine in order to improve communication between his brain and his body.
With an intense interest in medicine, especially bone-setting and manipulations of the neck and back, Palmer went on to teach many others his beliefs and techniques. In 1897, he opened the very first school offering training in chiropractic treatments, called the Palmer School of Chiropractic. Since this time, more than 40 chiropractic schools/colleges have opened in the U.S. enrolling thousands of future Doctors of Chiropractic every year.
DCs must complete four years of doctoral graduate school in order to qualify for exams that must be passed before becoming licensed. Prior to beginning graduate studies in chiropractic training, four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education must be completed.
Precautions Regarding Chiropractic Adjustments
You can rest assure that chiropractic has been shown to be one of the safest treatment approaches in healthcare today, as adjustments are performed very carefully and in a very precise manner. That being said, there some mild side effects following treatment that might occur. These usually go away within 1–2 days and might include temporary discomfort, soreness, stiffness or tenderness in the area of the body where you were adjusted.
Final Thoughts on Chiropractic Benefits
- Chiropractic adjustments work by helping to place your body in the proper position that then allows the body to heal itself. One of the principles of chiropractic care is realigning the spine thereby reducing pressure placed on sensitive nerves, which can contribute to dysfunction of the central nervous system.
- Chiropractic can be a complementary medical approach to mainstream medicine as well, and it’s been proven to be one of the safest approaches to naturally and holistically treating patients with a wide range of symptoms or conditions, including: back or neck pain, sciatica, scoliosis, frozen shoulder, acid reflux or digestive issues, headaches, high blood pressure, injuries and neuromusculoskeletal complaints that may require surgery.
How to Find a Chiropractic Doctor
Wondering about chiropractic prices, or whether treatments will be covered by insurance?
The good news is that a written referral is usually not needed to see a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). You can visit a chiropractor just like you would an MD, as chiropractic care is included in most health insurance plans, including major many medical plans, workers’ compensation, Medicare, some Medicaid plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. You may have to pay a copay and exact prices will depend on your insurance plan, but overall visiting a chiropractor should not be a big expense.
Getting a chiropractic treatment can be a great way to improve multiple areas of your health with one non-invasive treatment. Surgeries and medications can be dangerous and expensive. With an adjustment, you could safely and easily target your problems.
The best way to find a licensed chiropractic doctor in your area is to either ask someone you know for a referral, including your primary doctor, or to search online to find a healthcare professional, using HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.
 Medical Education in the United States and Canada, Abraham Flexner, 1910, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Menlo Park, California
 Murphy FX, Hall MW, D’Amico L, Jensen AM. Chiropractic management of frozen shoulder syndrome using a novel technique: a retrospective case series of 50 patients. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2012;11(4):267-272. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2012.07.001.