What conditions respond well to chiropractic? Treatment of musculoskeletal pain—primarily back pain, neck pain, and headaches— is the mainstay of chiropractic practice. Research supports the use of chiropractic for each of these conditions. Low back pain guidelines in many nations endorse the use of spinal manipulation, as do the 2007 guidelines jointly endorsed by the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society.1 Pain in the shoulders and other joints of the arms and legs is also frequently responsive to manipulation and other therapies employed by chiropractors. Chiropractic is widely utilized for sports injuries, with chiropractors serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) medical staff and on the staffs of numerous professional sports teams. As of 2011, the top two positions on the USOC medical staff are filled by chiropractors, Drs. Michael Reed and Bill Moreau.
Chiropractic success in treating internal organ problems is far less predictable and has not been thoroughly researched, though virtually all chiropractors have seen individual cases of dramatic improvement that appear to be attributable to chiropractic treatment. Conditions in this category include but are not limited to hypertension,2 infantile colic,3 and ear infections in children.4
How can I find a qualified practitioner? All 50 states license and regulate doctors of chiropractic (DC), who undergo a minimum of six years of rigorous, college-level studies to become healthcare professionals. Your doctor may refer you directly to a chiropractic physician. If you decide to consult a chiropractor on your own, you can obtain a list of practitioners in your area from the American Chiropractic Association (800-986-4636 or www.amerchiro.org) or International Chiropractors Association (800-423-4690 or www.chiropractic.org).
Will insurance cover chiropractic? In the United States, chiropractic services are covered by most group health insurance policies, including most managed care policies, although the amount of reimbursement varies widely. Automobile accident insurance generally covers chiropractic treatment. Medicare provides partial coverage. Medicaid and workers’ compensation coverage varies from state to state.
1. Chou R, Huffman LH. Nonpharmacologic therapies for acute and chronic low back pain: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline. Ann Intern Med. Oct 2 2007;147(7):492-504.
2. Bakris G, Dickholtz M, Sr., Meyer PM, et al. Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study. J Hum Hypertens. May 2007;21(5):347-352.
3. Wiberg JM, Nordsteen J, Nilsson N. The short-term effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of infantile colic: a randomized controlled clinical trial with a blinded observer. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999;22(8):517-522.
4. Fallon J, Edelman MJ. Chiropractic Care of 401 Children With Otitis Media: A Pilot Study. Altern Ther Health Med. 1998;4(2):93.
Daniel Redwood, DC is a Professor at Cleveland Chiropractic College - Kansas City. He is editor-in-chief of Health Insights Today (www.healthinsightstoday.com) and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and Topics in Integrative Healthcare.