How Effective is Chiropractic Treatment?

For many people, chiropractic treatment is an effective tool in their pain management toolbox. Chiropractic may also be utilized for improving mechanics, form, and function in relation to activities of daily living as well and recreation and sport. While certain conditions such as lower back pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and neck pain may prompt some patients to seek chiropractic care, others may seek chiropractic treatment in support of functional goals such as improving tolerance to the demands of work or sport.

So, just how effective is chiropractic treatment? Keep reading to learn more about this type of discipline and how it can work for you.

What is chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care was developed in the late-1800s when DJ Palmer reportedly successfully used manual adjustive techniques in an effort to help a patient with hearing difficulties.

The word “chiropractic” literally means “done by hand,” which is traditionally how chiropractic practitioners have applied treatment to their patients.  The characteristic manual adjustment -the manipulation of a joint using the practitioner’s hands, is sometimes still used in chiropractic treatments. However, multiple strategies and techniques have emerged as alternatives and adjuncts to the manual adjustment. Many more gentle and even instrument-assisted joint mobilization techniques are offered by chiropractors as well as a plethora of soft tissue techniques. These soft tissue techniques include but are not limited to Active Release Techniques, Graston technique, acupuncture and dry needling, shockwave therapy, laser therapy, kinesiotaping, and rehabilitation exercise prescription.

An adjunct to the medical management of pain

Many of the techniques used by chiropractors aim to decrease pain by increasing blood flow in the area being treated. This increase in circulation can be an effective tool in pain management and cellular regeneration. As a result, chiropractic treatment can be used to help modulate pain either as a stand-alone option or as part of a more broad and collaborative strategy for pain management.

Improved pain management may result in increased tolerance and capacity for the demands of activities of daily living as well as work, recreation, and sports performance. In so doing, functional activity levels may increase which in some cases may result in a decreased or delayed need for pharmaceutical and medical interventions including surgeries. The American College of Physicians set guidelines that encourage physicians and other healthcare professionals to utilize non-medical treatments, such as chiropractic treatment, for chronic pain, further demonstrating its effectiveness in such cases.

What’s it like to visit a chiropractor?

When you meet with a chiropractor for your first visit, they will thoroughly assess the symptoms, determine the source of the pain you’re experiencing, and its possible root causes. This assessment includes an in-depth health history and physical exam as well as education and discussion of the results of the exam and suspected diagnosis and proposed treatment.

Treatment options, including possible risks, benefits, and alternatives may involve techniques aimed at joint mobilization or manipulation, or, at soft tissue release, or, both. Possible treatment options include joint manipulation/mobilization, Active Release Therapy (ART), Graston technique, shockwave therapy, kinesiotaping, dry needling/acupuncture, laser, and rehabilitation exercise prescription.

Some patients may feel improvement and relief from their symptoms relatively quickly following treatment while others may feel that their symptoms remain about the same or even slightly aggravated for a short time after treatment. However, improvement in both symptoms and function is typically reported within a few visits, with longer-lasting results occurring upon completion of prescribed treatment plans.

Due to the fact that chiropractic care often concurrently improves pain symptoms as well as function or performance, patients sometimes report not only reduced pain but also improved movement and an enhanced quality of life.


How effective is chiropractic treatment for common types of pain?

In addition to clinical evidence, there exists a growing body of empirical evidence that supports the use of chiropractic care for certain patients and conditions. Numerous studies have shown that chiropractic treatment is safe and effective.

For example, one such study noted that using a chiropractor for lower back pain reduced the need for opioid use in both the short and long term. Another study showed that chiropractic treatment improved migraines in adults. Other research has shown that chiropractic care may help with reducing blood pressure and helping with neck pain in females.

Some common conditions for which people seek chiropractic care are outlined, below:

Acute neck pain

Neck pain may result from sensitivity originating in the joints, muscles and connective tissues, or discs of the cervical spine.

A visit to the chiropractor for relief of neck pain may include treatment at or in relation to such structures using adjustments/manipulations/mobilizations, laser, shockwave therapy, Graston technique, or Active Release Therapy. These strategies can help ease the discomfort as well as improve function in the long term.

Shoulder pain

Shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of conditions and injuries. For example, overuse injuries may result in tendonitis or impairments in the function of the rotator cuff. Such injuries have the ability to impact quality of life by interfering with work, recreation, and activities of daily living.

Chiropractic care for shoulder pain may involve various examinations to ascertain the root cause of the pain as well as provision of therapeutic techniques that help treat it. In addition to symptomatic relief, patients may also experience improvements in function and ability as a result of active care techniques provided by the practitioner.

Lower back pain and sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for chiropractic consultation. While there are many possible causes and contributors to such pain, a restricted range of motion at the sacroiliac (SI) joint is often implicated.

When you visit the chiropractor with this type of pain, the practitioner may provide education regarding this condition and offer options for treatment including manual adjustments/mobilizations/manipulations to restore joint motion as well as acupuncture, Active Release Therapy, and other modalities to address the soft tissues that support the joint.

Other conditions helped by chiropractic treatment

Although neck pain, shoulder pain, and lower back pain are some of the more commonly treated conditions by chiropractors, they also treat other injuries and pain points, including:

  • Hip Pain
  • Knee Pain
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries (i.e., tennis and golfer’s elbow)
  • Chronic Headaches ​


What are some benefits of chiropractic care?

Chiropractors often seek to address both symptomatic and functional issues related to a particular diagnosis. As such, in addition to assessing and treating the pain associated with a condition, your chiropractor will include recommendations to improve functional and performance capacity as well as your overall health. Such recommendations might involve education and instruction on rehabilitation exercises and physical activity, sleeping patterns, and even eating habits. As a result of this more inclusive, wholistic approach, patients of chiropractic care may perceive an increased quality of life.

Research has shown that people who receive chiropractic care often have high overall satisfaction with the treatment and feel it met or exceeded their expectations for results. One study showed that over 80% of people who visited a chiropractor for treatment experienced improvements in their pain and mobility.

These benefits add testimony to the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment as an option for pain management, functional and performance improvement, and quality of life.


Is chiropractic treatment right for you?

Due to the fact that chiropractors are neuromusculoskeletal experts who use a diverse range of techniques and modalities to address pain and dysfunction, the treatment is safe and can be effective for a multitude of people and conditions. For example, while sports injuries and overuse injuries might be treated with manual therapies, shockwave, and exercise, conditions such as osteoporosis or fracture might be treated with laser and education. Your chiropractor will work closely with you, and if necessary your medical doctor or other care providers, to assess, diagnose, and treat your condition according to what is most safe, appropriate, and effective in your particular case.


Research has shown that chiropractic care is a popular and effective way to treat numerous injuries and conditions. Chiropractors are neuromusculoskeletal experts with advanced education in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of such conditions. Therefore, it is an excellent option for individuals who want to address pain, dysfunction, and overall health.


Written by: Dr. Mike Belding
Chiropractor, B.Sc, ART