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Chiropractic Myths

Over the years a number of myths pertaining to chiropractic have been created, mostly by economic competitors and those with differing philosophies. While the majority of myths have no basis, they do exist and cause some confusion to individuals unfamiliar with chiropractic care.

People Discuss Chiropractic Myths


Myth #1: Chiropractors Are Only “Back Doctors” and Only Treat Back Pain

Chiropractors are technically nervous system doctors. Due to the fact the nervous system runs down the spine, this is our main area of concern. If the nervous system ran through the left elbow, most people would probably refer to us as “left elbow doctors.”

The spine is our focus in that it is the main area in the body to misalign and cause resultant nerve pressure. The spine, at birth, consists of thirty-three, bones called vertebrae. By adulthood these bones will shrink down to twenty-six in total due to the fusion of nine bones into two (the sacrum and coccyx). These twenty-six bones give the body support, provide the majority of the body’s height, and most importantly protect the very delicate spinal cord. The spine along with the skull, were designed to be very dense and sturdy to encase the nervous system.
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These vertebrae are like building blocks in that each one is stacked on one another. In viewing the spine from behind, these blocks should be aligned one on top of the other. The strongest the spine will be in this view will be straight up and down. Scoliosis (crooked spine) wreaks havoc on the spine due to the weakness it possesses by not being straight.

(Chiropractic health care is the best strategy for scoliosis if caught early enough.) The spine from the side view should be curved. Like bridges and large buildings, curves are important to maintain strength. The same is true with the spine from this angle. When these curves are lost or exaggerated (hunch-back, sway-back, and straight-neck), the spine is weak and vulnerable to injury.

The spine is further separated into sections. The neck (cervical spine) consists of seven unique bones. The mid-back (thoracic spine) consists of twelve bones each attached to a pair of ribs. The low-back (lumbar spine) consists of five bones. The pelvis consists of two lilac bones and the sacrum (the bone you sit on). The coccyx (tailbone) is connected at the end of the spine.

The bones are separated from each other by discs. These are cushions between the bones. They act like jelly doughnuts in that there is a jelly inside and a surrounding cover outside. People often hear about bulging or herniated discs. To make it simple, discs are in either one of three stages: (1) normal, (2) contained herniation (bulged), or (3) non-contained herniation (ruptured). With a bulged disc (contained herniation), chiropractic care has shown to be very effective. A non-contained herniation (rupture) usually necessitates surgery.

Chiropractors provide effective treatment for all types of soft tissue disorders and not just back and neck ailments. This includes conditions of the joints of the extremities like the ankle, knee and shoulder.

What you may not be aware of is chiropractic’s success in treating a number of non-soft tissue conditions like dysmenorrhea (painful menses), ulcers, migraine headaches, and ear infections in children. While we cannot claim to cure these conditions, we believe that many of these problems can be mimicked, aggravated and sometimes caused by disruptions in the nervous system as a result of spinal abnormalities. By correcting these spinal abnormalities like the vertebral subluxation, chiropractic has helped thousands of individuals overcome these conditions and regain control of their lives.

The spine in summary is a very complex joint system with approximately 110 joints designed to protect the nervous system. It is also the main area in the body where if structurally altered, can affect the body’s health by causing nerve irritation.

A number of studies have also supported these findings. In one such study, spinal manipulative therapy was compared with standard medical treatments in the treatment of duodenal ulcers. The researchers Pikalov, MD, and Kharin, MD, found those subjects receiving spinal manipulations took an average of 16 days to heal vs. 26 days to heal in the standard medical treatment group.

JMPT 1994; 17(5):310-313


Myth #2: Spinal Adjustments Hurt

Many patients experience immediate relief following their chiropractic treatments. Some others, after that, experience improvement within days. If patients are suffering from severe bouts of neck or back pain, they may feel some temporary discomfort because of their existing condition, though this is uncommon. Most of our practice members look forward to the relief they experience with their treatments.


Myth #3: Spinal Adjustments Are Dangerous

On the contrary…Chiropractic adjustments are among the least invasive and safe treatments for most neck and back problems. When performed by a licensed chiropractor, spinal adjustments are extremely safe.

According to a 1993 Ontario Ministry of Health Commissioned Study:

“There is no clinical or case-control study that demonstrates or even implies that chiropractic spinal manipulation is unsafe in the treatment of low-back pain. Some medical treatments are equally safe, but, others are unsafe and generate iatrogenic (doctor-induced) complications for low-back pain patients. Our reading of the literature suggests that chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low-back pain.”
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Pran Manga, Ph.D., who was the lead investigator of the study, did warn that spinal adjustments that were performed by health care professionals other than qualified doctors of chiropractic were less effective and potentially harmful:

“Indeed, several existing medical therapies of low-back pain are generally contraindicated on the basis of the existing clinical trials. There is also some evidence in the literature to suggest that spinal manipulations are less safe and less effective when performed by non-chiropractic professionals.”

On December 8, 1994, The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services released clinical practice guidelines for the management of acute low-back pain. Their findings included:

  • The risk of serious complications from lumbar spinal manipulation is rare.
  • Conservative treatment such as spinal manipulation should be pursued in most cases before considering surgical intervention.
  • Prescription drugs such as oral steroids, antidepressant medications and colchicines are not recommended for acute low-back problems.

Myth #4: Chiropractic Doctors Lack Education Compared With Medical Doctors

The education and training that chiropractors endure is extensive and demanding. Their education, with the exception of surgery and pharmacology, is very similar to that of medical doctors. After completing 3-4 years of pre-med undergraduate studies, the chiropractic student must then complete 4-5 years of academic studies at a chiropractic college. Their studies at Chiropractic College include extensive training in neurology, physiology, anatomy, nutrition, pathology, radiology, differential diagnosis, biomechanics, chiropractic adjustment techniques, and other health-related studies.

The chiropractic student must successfully complete several hundred clinical hours of “real” patient management prior to graduation. This must be done under professional supervision in a clinical setting. Most students must also participate in a clinical externship program which places them in an actual chiropractic office. This gives them hands-on experience, helping enhance their skills in a clinical setting.
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Prior to obtaining their chiropractic license to practice chiropractic, students must complete extremely rigorous National and State Board examinations. They must successfully complete these soon after graduation. Most states require that after they pass these exams and obtain their license, the students must receive continuing education on an annual basis to make sure that a high-level of competency is maintained.


Myth #5: Chiropractic Is Not Scientific

Compared to the medical profession, the chiropractic profession has conducted and accumulated a far greater number of scientific trials for many of the treatments rendered by medical doctors.

According to David M. Edy, M. D., Ph. D., professor of health policy and management with Duke University, North Carolina, only 15 percent of all medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence. Scary, right?

Paul G. Shekelle, M.D., M.P.H., of the RAND Corporation made the following statement on ABC’s 20/20:

“There are considerably more randomized controlled trials which show benefit of this (chiropractic care) than there are for many, many other things which physicians and neurosurgeons do all the time.”
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Through scientific research, chiropractic health care has presented and established itself to be effective, safe and cost effective for the last 20 years. Currently, there are many studies underway being performed by medical doctors and government researchers in both the U.S. as well as several other countries. The chiropractic profession is continually dedicated to conducting scientific studies which improves their treatment techniques and diagnostic methods. Dr. Harrigan seeks and continuously educates himself to provide the most effective and safe, natural healing methods for his patients.


Myth #6: Chiropractic Care Is Expensive

This myth is clearly disproven by research. In a number of government and workers’ compensation board studies, chiropractic care has been shown to be extremely cost effective.

According to The Manga Report, a 1993 Canadian Government commissioned study:

“There would be highly significant cost savings if more management of low-back pain was transferred from physicians to chiropractors… Users of chiropractic care have substantially lower healthcare costs, especially inpatient costs, than those who use medical care only.”
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According to an economic analysis conducted in Richmond, Virginia:

“By every test of cost and effectiveness, the general weight of evidence shows chiropractic to provide important therapeutic benefits, at economical costs. Additionally, these benefits are achieved with apparently minimal, even negligible, impacts on the costs of health insurance.”

When the State of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Board conducted research in 1988 on treatment costs associated with injured workers who received care from either chiropractic doctors or medical doctors, they found chiropractic treatment costs were 58.8 percent of the treatment costs rendered by medical doctors ($558 vs. $1,100 per case).

As you can see, not only is chiropractic a safe and natural approach to wellness, it is also significantly less expensive than medical treatments. Dr. Harrigan, Chiropractic Physician is committed to provide an affordable and effective treatment to all of his patients in Tucson.


Myth #7: You’ll Have to Continue Chiropractic Care For The Rest Of Your Life

It is our job to guide you to better health. Just like your dentist recommends that you have periodic checkups to ensure healthy teeth, Dr. Harrigan, Chiropractic Physician recommends continuous wellness checks to ensure a healthy spine. Because your nervous system controls every aspect of your health, if only makes sense to make it a priority. Our body and spinal tissues undergo daily stressors in a variety of ways. Depending on your lifestyle and health history, these stressors could be in the form of bad postural habits, psychological stress, physical or chemical stress, to name just a few. If you went to the dentist once in your lifetime, do you believe that you would have healthy teeth for the rest of your life?… of course not.

Dr. Harrigan, Chiropractic Physician promotes a preventative type of lifestyle to ensure a long a healthy life. For patients who have acute problems, those will be addressed as well as a game plan to minimize the likelihood of future recurrences or problems to develop. The preventative approach through chiropractic treatments has been gaining much recognition. There has been a significant increase of recommendations from the medical community and health insurance industry to incorporate preventative health care programs into mainstream medicine.

Chiropractic is a safe, natural approach to prevent future problems. We need to take care of our nervous system first and foremost, to ensure that we can possibly avoid future health issues. Dr. Harrigan, Chiropractic Physician is committed to guide his patients through the steps to preventative health and wellness the natural way!

Contact our Tucson chiropractic office to schedule an appointment so we can help you and your family!


Synergy Wellness | (520) 818-8857

Providing Quality Chiropractic and Wellness Care to people in Tucson, Vail, Marana and Oro Valley, AZ