This is a great question, certainly one that deserves an answer. Let’s look at the chiropractic safety issue from a couple of different angles.
Medical and chiropractic malpractice insurance premiums, or the amount that we, as professionals have to pay for our insurance is in many ways dictated by the likelihood of us injuring a patient and the subsequent cost to our insurance company who ultimately have to “foot the bill” if I may.
In other words, the more likely my treatment is to cause harm, the higher my malpractice premium will be. Or put another way, the more dangerous my treatment, the higher my premium.
Generally speaking, surgeons have the highest insurance premiums because their treatment (surgery) is relatively risky, as compared to other treatments. It’s less safe.
If I had to pay what a surgeon pays for my malpractice insurance, I would have to find another line of work because I would not be able to pay my bills.
Malpractice Insurance for chiropractors is one of the lowest, if not the lowest of all healthcare providers because, chiropractic is relatively safe with the most common complaint from an adjustment being some soreness that goes away after a couple of days. Based on insurance premiums, chiropractic is relatively safe.
When considering the risks of having a healthcare procedure or taking a drug, you should generally compare it to the other options available to you.
For instance, low back pain is a common reason for a visit to a chiropractor. It is also a common reason for people to take advil or aleve, opioid type narcotics, have spinal injections, and have surgery.
Let’s compare these on safety alone.
A study came out a few years back in a well respected medical journal that stated that NSAIDs, which is the class of drug that Advil and Aleve fall into are responsible for 100,00 deaths per year. Most people are also aware of the problems that Advil cause for gastrointestinal bleeding.
Death due to Opiod type narcotic use has actually surpassed the number of deaths per year due to motor vehicle accident. That’s right, Oxycontin kills more people than car crashes.
Epidural spinal injections (ESI) increase the risk of spinal fractures. The more injections, the greater the risk of fracture. There is also a risk, albeit a low risk, of spinal infection.
Surgery has so many cons and risks associated with it that it should never be considered in the same breath as chiropractic when discussing risks. Not to mention that the success rate of surgery for back pain is laughable.
And yes. People die having back surgery. It’s a big deal!
The biggest risk in chiropractic is that the condition will temporarily get worse. There is some connection to cervical manipulation and stroke but the statistical likelihood of it occuring is in the neigborhood of 1 in a million to 1 in several million. About the same risk as you being struck by lightning. Basically, people have strokes and some times that stroke happens after visiting a chiropractor.
Interestingly, I read a report on this and it found that statistically you have a greater risk of having a stroke after a visit to your primary care doctor than you do a chiropractor.
I will end with this. The question of safety regarding chiropractic usually boils down to this.
Is chiropractic at least as safe as medicine?
A study published in 2014 in the prestigious medical journal Spine reported that for patients seeking help for musculoskeletal pain, risk of injury caused by treatment was, “76% lower among subjects with a chiropractic office visit as compared to those who saw a primary care physician.”
At the end of the day, bad things can happen no matter what you do or don’t do. It is impossible to eliminate all risk but I know of no healthcare treatment or modality that is safer than a specific chiropractic adjustment delivered by a well-trained and competent chiropractor.
Yes, chiropractic is safe!
Stay well adjusted my friends.