I was recently asked this question, and I have to say it disturbed me a bit. This rumor, urban myth or just plain bad press, pops up about the chiropractic adjustment every few years. The simple answer is that chiropractic adjustments can not cause permanent damage, and it's significantly safer than most other forms of health care. Over 20 million people receive either chiropractic and osteopathic manipulations, and the incidents of serious side effects are “very low.”
When talking to the general public, I will inevitably be asked how do you know you're not going to break a neck? Well, I have studied martial arts for about half of my life, and there is no way that the chiropractic adjustment can break a neck, baring any major underlying pathology.
There are a few simple facts about the safety of chiropractic. First, insurance companies spend a lot of money researching the danger of an event or activity. If events and activities that carry more risk, much more must be spent on the insurance premium for that event. It works just like speeding tickets. The more you get caught speeding, the more you'll pay in insurance. The same is true for malpractice insurance, if you are an OBGYN, for example, you can expect to pay between $85,000 to $200,000 a year. Someone in Internal Medicine would expect to pay around $20,000 a year for their premium. These astronomical numbers are because if a doctor misdiagnosis someone with cancer or hurt a child during delivery; it will potentially be more life altering costing more money in malpractice claims. These increased claims increase the perceived risk to the insurance company, and they have to charge more to the doctor. My malpractice, on the other hand, runs about $1,600 a year. This to me is a glowing endorsement for chiropractic safety because we all know that insurance companies don’t make money by paying out claims, especially for permanent damage.
Second, you can look at the chiropractic student base as another glowing example of why it doesn't cause permanent damage. There are approximately 50,000 chiropractors and students around the world. To graduate we had to know how to adjust, which means we had to start and practice somewhere. We've all practiced on each other, and no one ever came out with permanent damage. Which means that there's a really good chance that the doctor who is adjusting you (who has graduated) won't break you.
Hopefully, this has helped a bit to dispel the myths that chiropractic is dangerous and can cause permanent damage. I have to guess that most of these attacks are coming out of a lack of understanding about the safety of chiropractic. The truth about safety in healthcare is that properly prescribed, properly dosed, and properly taken medications are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country. This is the safety and efficacy conversation we should be having.
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