Study demonstrates safety of chiropractic procedure

May 18 2011
Many people with back pain prefer to visit a chiropractor first before they consider a spine surgery, but some may be nervous about what appears like rough handling by these practitioners. However, studies show that chiropractic manipulation is unlikely to cause an injury. 

Individuals who see a chiropractor for back pain often undergo dynamic chest compression, similar to that which is performed during CPR procedures. In order to allay any fears about bone breaks, researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee set out to investigate the force limits of this type of manipulation.

As part of the study, the scientists collaborated with experienced chiropractic doctors who used a test dummy to measure the force of chest compression during regular chiropractic spinal work as well as during manipulations where maximum effort was exerted.

The part of the spine that was subjected to the test corresponded to the mid-back level in humans (T7 to T8 vertebrae).

The researchers also used a mechanical device to apply forces sufficient to cause chest compression in the test dummy and kept increasing them until they reached injurious levels.

Brian D. Stemper, PhD, associate professor at the Department of Neurosurgery at Medical College of Wisconsin, confirmed that the results showed that normal chiropractic manipulation was unlikely to result in injuries.

However, he stressed that the data gathered during the study "may lead to safer manipulation procedures and help to decrease the possibility of adverse outcomes." That's because, ultimately, each patient's needs and injury threshold are unique, depending on their age, overall health - including the level of disc degeneration - as well as gender.

According to a 2007 paper published in the journal Chiropractic and Osteopathy, between 6 and 12 percent of Americans and Canadians visit a chiropractor each year.