How Chiropractors Treat Back Pain
By Madeline Vann, MPH | Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
A chiropractor uses spinal manipulation and other techniques to help ease back pain. Therapy generally takes a number of visits for it to be effective.
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One option for people who are seeking back pain treatment is to seek the help of a chiropractor. This specially trained health professional believes that alignment of the spine is related to the overall health and wellbeing of the individual.
By incorporating that belief into treatment, with particular attention to the spine, chiropractic care may be able to provide pain management for back pain patients using a variety of methods to achieve that goal.
Close to 18 million adults and 2 million children receive chiropractic treatments for pain therapy and other conditions every year.
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Chiropractic methods have been shown to be effective in reducing pain among people with back pain. For example, a study of 42 patients who visited chiropractors for pain management over a period of two months found that low force spinal adjustments successfully helped ease lower back pain.
How Chiropractic Treatment Works
Regular chiropractic treatments usually focus on spinal manipulation and alignment to aid pain management and stimulate the body’s self-healing abilities. Realignment of the spine is thought to reduce pressure on the central nervous system. Headaches and lower back pain are among the most common conditions treated by a chiropractor.
Your first visit is likely to be an evaluation, not unlike what you go through on the first visit to a doctor’s office. You will be asked to describe your symptoms and your chiropractor may order tests and X-rays that could help her understand your condition better.
You and your chiropractor will then develop a treatment plan. Pain management likely requires multiple visits over a long period to provide the best pain therapy.
At each visit, your chiropractor may use forceful pressure on key parts of your back or other parts of your body to realign your spine and manage pain. This pressure may be abrupt or it may be low in force, and may be delivered by hands or with the help of a specially designed instrument. Massage may also be incorporated into your treatment. Talk to your chiropractor about the different methods she likes to use before agreeing to a treatment plan.
You may also be given:
- Nutritional supplements
- A change in diet
- Recommendations for physical activity
- Hot and cold packs
- Electrical stimulation
A Closer Look at a Chiropractor
Chiropractors go through four years of training at accredited institutions. They are trained in the classroom on theory and knowledge and then gain hands-on training in clinics. Many chiropractors also participate in two- or three-year residencies in order to specialize in certain practice areas. Chiropractors are required to have a license in order to practice.
If you are considering including chiropractic care in your pain management plan, you should:
- Talk to your doctor, family, and friends to get referrals for good chiropractic care.
- Find out if your health insurance program covers chiropractic care. Many do, but you may need a referral from your primary care doctor.
- Ask the chiropractors you are considering about their training, certification, and areas of specialization.
It is okay to shop around until you find a chiropractor you like and who is convenient for you to visit. Pain management will require an ongoing relationship, so you want to make a good match.