The risk of chiropractic procedures has been the subject of much study. With millions of chiropractic adjustments given each and every day around the world it's important to the public, the profession and of course, the malpractice insurance companies. Because chiropractic has historically kept itself separate and unique from the medical profession it has found itself to be the object of attacks from medicine. Since evidence for the effectiveness of chiropractic in many health conditions continues to grow, the attack on chiropractic has moved to safety. What do the facts say regarding risk?
You are seven times more likely to get hit by lightening than have a stroke from a chiropractic adjustment.
No one pays closer attention to injury statistics than Malpractice Insurance carriers. Scott Haldeman, MD, DC reviewed malpractice claims records for a 10-year period between 1988 and 1997. In reviewing the outcomes following the application of 134.5 million cervical manipulations (commonly referred to as the chiropractic adjustment), the records indicated that there were 23 reported cases of stroke or vertebral artery dissection (VAD). Of this group, 10 of the patients had the complicating factors of high blood pressure, use of oral contraceptives, or a history of smoking, all of which are associated with vascular disease. The actual incidence of stroke or VAD following cervical manipulation was found to be one per 5.85 million cervical adjustments. That means that the average chiropractor would work for 1430 years (or practice 48 full chiropractic careers!) before they would see a single case of this type of incident.
The chart below shows the comparative risk of a number of common procedures and events to that of a chiropractic adjustment. Even the risk for stroke of something as common as birth control pills is over 200 times greater than a stroke from a chiropratcic adjustment.
|Risk for||compared to chiropractic|
|Death from spinal fusion surgery||100,000|
|Death from cervical (neck) surgery||34,483|
|Death from hospital mistake||30,000|
|Death from laminectomy (spinal surgery)||25,000|
|Death from prolonged Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, Aleve use.||4,166|
|Paralysis or stroke from back or neck surgery||3,571|
|Death from automobile accident||750|
|Stroke from Birth Control Pills||235|
|Get struck by lightening||7|
|Death from aviation accident||2.5|
Notice you are 7 times more likely to get hit by lightening! Other reports listing a higher frequency of adverse events have been compromised by the tendency of those authors to inappropriately list the practitioner as a chiropractor, even when it turned out that the injury was caused by a medical doctor, a physical therapist or even a kung fu teacher and a hair dresser! And yet the reports typically refer to the treatment as a "chiropractic adjustment."
The National College of Chiropractic Clinic reported that over a 15 year period over 5 million neck adjustments were given without a single vascular injury - and this is a student clinic with relatively inexperienced doctors performing the procedures.
Rather than raising concerns about the safety of chiropractic, these studies emphasize that spinal manipulation, in the hands of a in the hands of a trained chiropractor, spinal adjustment is extremely safe. However, in the hands of unskilled practitioners they can be dangerous, and the practice must be closely regulated. This is why chiropractic exists as a separate profession. To provide you with safe and effective care, not a physical therapist or a medical doctor who attended a weekend course on spinal manipulation (yes, they do have these). All chiropractors complete 2 years of pre-doctoral training followed by 4 years of doctoral training and a one year internship. I had my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition from Ohio University prior to chiropractic school.
The American Journal of Pediatrics found that chiropractic is the most used alternative health care choice for children. One of the largest studies on chiropractic safety is the New Zealand Federal Government's 18 month "Inquiry on Chiropractic" published in 1979. The study concluded that "chiropractic is remarkably safe" and further stated that "chiropractic is the only health profession equipped by their education and training to carry out this procedure."
Dr. Stephanie Maj has a thriving family practice in the heart of Chicago. Her clinic is located at 1442 W. Belmont Ave., 1E, Chicago, IL 60657. 773.528.8485. www.communitychiropractic.net