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The WANTED Side Effects of Chiropractic Care

By Dr. Scott E. Rosenthal

Every day doctors and patients have to face the problem of drug side effects. Many times the potential benefits of a drug are worth the risks, and other times the use of a particular drug may be questionable or lead to regret. Several popularly prescribed drugs have been known to cause confusion, anxiety, constipation, joint pain, signs of liver damage, irregular heartbeat and more unwanted consequences. But the good news is, not all side effects are bad. Chiropractic care frequently results in side effects that patients are happy to experience!

One of the most common complaints that drives a person to the chiropractic office is back pain. 80% of the population experiences back pain at some time in their lives, and, at any given moment, 31 million Americans are presently suffering. Success with this common and often debilitating malady has given chiropractic a respectable reputation. Recent research has shown that chiropractic care for back pain costs up to 40% less than medical care. Best of all, many of the chiropractic patients get more than they bargained for… they get SIDE EFFECTS!

One Swedish study followed 1,504 chiropractic patients over a three-week period. About one in four of the people reported unexpected improvement in at least one of the below categories:

  • Easier to Breathe: 21%
  • Improved Digestive Function: 20%
  • Clearer/Better/Sharper Vision: 11%
  • Better Circulation: 7%
  • Changes in Heart Rhythm/Blood Pressure: 5%
  • Less Ringing in the Ears/Improved Hearing: 4%

After 18 years of practice, I will attest to similar observations in patients under care. It is typical to be asked “Doc, what did you do last visit? I am no longer constipated." or "I slept better than in years!” The most common changes that I see in people after chiropractic care are increased energy, better sleep, improved bowel regularity and decreased symptoms of sinusitis. In children it tends to be fewer ear infections or colic. Aside from the typical improvements like flexibility (measured by computerized inclinometry) and gains in height after postural rebuilding, lung capacity measured at the start of care showed increases by 5-10%. Frequent comments also relate to a general sense of improved well being.

If you are like so many who are new to the world of chiropractic, you are probably wondering what the back has to do with so many other functions within a person. How can different activities of the body be impacted after realigning the spine and other structures with chiropractic adjustments?

I'll tell you the chiropractic life-story, but will keep it short and sweet and leave out the family album! Chiropractic was founded in 1895 in Iowa following the first adjustment (the common treatment utilized in chiropractic) with the unexpected result of the return of patient Harvey Lilliard’s hearing. From that point, a system was created that followed a specific philosophy and understanding of biology:

1.        The body is a self-healing organism.

2.        Sickness occurs when there is interference to the body’s ability to heal itself.

3.        Healing and function of the body are directed by the nervous system.

4.        A common interference to healing is caused by damage in the nervous system created by a misalignment or fixation in the spine and/or pelvis.  This is called in chiropractic a vertebral subluxation.

5.        By removing the vertebral subluxation with a gentle adjustment, proper nerve flow is restored and the body will again be able to heal and problem(s) will often resolve… naturally!

6.        Health is achieved when the body is optimally functional, not just pain-free.

7.        Living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining the integrity of the spine and nervous system is good prevention, and that helps people reach their full potential.

Imagine being interrupted while watching your favorite TV show. The volume level surges. Colors flash. This time it’s not for a commercial pitch for the new pill, laundry detergent or hottest car, but for chiropractic care. The announcer gets to the final seconds, and like a drug ad, he reads the required list of reactions. “When using chiropractic care you may experience better digestion, increased energy and a more optimal blood pressure!” That day may not come to network broadcasting soon, but, hopefully, these and many other GOOD side effects will be yours after your next chiropractic visit!


-Cost of Care for Common Back Pain Conditions Initiated With Chiropractic Doctor vs Medical Doctor/Doctor of Osteopathy as First Physician: Experience of One Tennessee-Based General Health Insurer. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2010 (Nov);   33 (9):   640–643

- The types and frequencies of improved nonmusculoskeletal symptoms reported after chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Nov-Dec;22(9):559-64.