Frequently Asked Questions About Chiropractic Care

• by Dr. Adrian Cohen

Frequently Asked Questions About Chiropractic Care

Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) care for patients of all ages, with a variety of health conditions and are well known for their expertise in caring for patients with back pain, neck pain and headaches. To help you determine whether chiropractic care is right for you, I have answered some of the most Frequently Asked Questions.

  1. Are chiropractors real doctors?

    Yes. Students in Canada complete a four-year Doctor of Chiropractic degree based on an evidence-based model of care, derived from the most recent research and best practices. As primary contact health care professionals, Doctors of Chiropractic meet directly with their patients, without MD referral, and have the expertise to diagnose and treat patients. Each year, approximately 180 students from across North America enter the Canadian program. Graduates are recognized worldwide for the quality of their education. For more information, please visit

  2. What is chiropractic?

    The word “chiropractic” comes from ancient Greek and means “done by hand.”

    Adjustment of the joints of the body has been used in health care for many centuries and is at the heart of modern chiropractic care.

    Chiropractors are specialists in manual adjustment of the vertebrae of the spine and other joints. Adjustment helps relieve pain and restore normal functioning to the spine, joints and supporting structures of the body – so you can enjoy your everyday activities again as quickly as possible.

    Chiropractors are also trained to prescribe therapeutic exercise, provide nutritional counseling, and recommend rehabilitation and injury prevention strategies.

  3. What is an adjustment?

    An adjustment is a highly skilled and precise movement usually applied by hand to a joint of the body. Adjustments free up the joint to restore proper movement and optimize function.

    Chiropractic adjustment techniques have been researched extensively. Complications are rare and side-effects, such as temporary soreness, are usually minor. Your chiropractor will determine if your problem will respond to chiropractic care or if you require referral to another health care provider.

  4. When should I see a chiropractor?

    Eight out of ten Canadians will experience back pain at some point in their life, and at least one-third of people in Ontario will have back pain at any given time. For many people, the pain can keep them away from work, school or even their day-to-day activities. If pain causes interruptions and restrictions in the activities of your daily life then you should consult a healthcare provider.

    Chiropractors are highly educated and extensively trained to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent conditions disorders of the spine, joints, muscle and nervous systems. These disorders may include back pain, neck pain, headaches, recurring pain in your arms and legs, etc.

    Many patients including, seniors, find that treatment helps them to maintain mobility and a good range of motion. Pain should never become a way of life, especially when there is qualified help available.

    There are many reasons to seek chiropractic care: Work, accidents, sports injuries, household chores, even the stress of daily living can cause painful joint and spinal problems. Even if you do not have painful symptoms, chiropractic care can help you maintain a healthy spine and joint function.

  5. What are some of the benefits of Chiropractic Care?

    Chiropractic care can:

    • Improve movement and function in your neck, shoulders, back, torso, and extremities
    • Improve your posture
    • Provide relief from headaches, neck and back pain
    • Help prevent work-related muscle and joint injuries
    • Lead to enhanced athletic performance
    • Improve your flexibility and range of motion
    • Relieve a pregnancy-related backache
    • Correct gait and foot problems
  6. Is a chiropractic adjustment safe?

    Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest, drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of a headache, and neck and back pain. It has an excellent safety record. However, no health treatment is completely free of potential adverse effects. Even common over-the-counter medicines carry a risk.

    Most patients experience immediate relief following an adjustment, however, some may experience temporary pain, stiffness or slight swelling. Some patients may also experience temporary dizziness, local numbness, or radiating pain. However, adverse effects associated with spinal adjustment are most often minor and short-lived.

    • Informed consent prior to starting treatment.

      All regulated health professionals are obligated by their regulatory standards to obtain informed consent documented in a written form to treatment from their patients. Health care consumers must receive appropriate and accurate information to assist them in evaluating their health care choices, and in balancing the relative risks of treatment options with the benefits. The chiropractic profession takes this responsibility seriously and has been a leader in obtaining informed consent.

    • Neck adjustment.

      Almost half of us experience some kind of neck pain at least once a year. Persistent or recurrent neck pain is reported by an estimated 50 - 85% of patients one to five years after initial onset. 27% of patients seeking chiropractic treatment report neck or cervical problems. Thus, treatment of neck pain is an integral part of chiropractic practice.

      There are evidence-based clinical practice guidelines in place for chiropractic treatment of neck pain. For both chronic and acute neck pain, the guidelines state that manual therapies, mobilization, and patient exercises and stretches are recommended.

    Evidence also demonstrates that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulative/adjustment therapy, is an effective treatment for cervicogenic and tension-type headaches. More so, studies have demonstrated that care offered by chiropractors can also decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines.

    Patients and their chiropractors work together to determine the risks versus benefits, and usually, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Chiropractors limit their patients’ risk by performing thorough medical histories, orthopedic and neurological examinations, and frequently re-evaluate symptoms and progress.

  7. Does chiropractic care require a referral from an MD?

    No. Chiropractors are legislated as primary care professionals in every province in Canada, and chiropractic is the 3rd largest primary health care profession next to medicine and dentistry world wide. Chiropractors often work closely with medical doctors, many of whom refer to chiropractors when they believe chiropractic treatment will help alleviate a patient’s condition. Similarly, chiropractors frequently refer to medical doctors when necessary.

  8. Can chiropractic care cure other ailments besides back pain?

    It care cannot “cure” every ailment, but there is some evidence to indicate that adjustments may have a beneficial effect on a variety of conditions. For example, someone with asthma may find that they can breathe easier after an adjustment, which is not curing asthma itself but can provide some relief from associated symptoms. In addition, some women who have trouble getting pregnant seek out chiropractic treatment, which has been linked with an increased ability to conceive when other medical conditions have been ruled out, and when doctors attribute this problem to "stress."

  9. How many Ontarians use chiropractic?

    Chiropractic is one of the largest primary care professions in Ontario, with more than 3,100 practicing chiropractors. Almost 2.7 million Ontarians use the services of a chiropractor each year to help them get back to work, and back to doing the things they love.

  10. Are there many athletes who use chiropractic?

    Yes. Many amateur and professional athletes use chiropractic treatment as part of their overall health care, fitness and maintenance program. Chiropractic is often used to improve muscle and joint conditioning, which has a direct effect on athletic performance. Treatment works to improve biomechanical function and enhance overall conditioning, important in situations where there is continuous repetitive movement. Chiropractic care also help athletes fine-tune their muscles and joints for high level performance, and may reduce long term wear and tear. Finally, treatment can be used to prevent, and sometime shorten, the healing time of injuries.

    Athletes most often select treatment to improve their performance; where as the average consumer will select chiropractic care to help manage aches and pains. In some cases treatment will be similar, but in all cases a treatment plan will be developed according to the goals and condition of each patient. In the case of professional and elite athletes, chiropractors often work in conjunction with other health care professionals, including family doctors and/or sports medicine doctors, massage therapists and physiotherapists.

  11. Does chiropractic care require X-rays?

    X-rays can play a role in diagnosis and are taken when a need has been determined after taking a patient’s case history and conducting a physical examination. Most patients do not require x-rays. Chiropractors receive 360 hours of education in radiology covering a full range of topics from protection to X-ray interpretation and diagnosis. Governments in every province have recognized the training and competence of chiropractors to take and interpret X-rays and have granted them this right.