The official Chiropractor for
Oxford Harlequins RFC
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Side Effects and Risks

Occasionally in the press someone states very publicly that Chiropractic treatment, or more specifically Chiropractic manipulation of the neck, is dangerous and carries many risks to the patient.

The British Chiropractic Association advise chiropractors to inform patients about following risks & findings:

-Treatments employed by chiropractors are actually statistically safer than many other conservative treatment options (such as ibuprofen and other pain killers). There are very few medical interventions, if any, that carry no risk at all. For example, taking anti-inflammatory medication (such as Ibuprofen) for two months has been suggested to cause death from stomach bleeds in 1 in 1200 patients (Pain 2000; 85:169-182)

- Chiropractic is a very safe form of treatment but, like most health treatment interventions, some side effects may occur. Most often this would be temporary symptoms such as pain, redness, soreness or, more unusually, swelling, around the area being treated.

- A UK research study, published in Spine in 2007, studied 50,000 neck manipulations received by nearly 20,000 chiropractic patients. There were no serious adverse events identified. 

- A major study of chiropractic neck manipulations in the UK was carried out and reported on in 2007 (Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2007 Oct 1;32(21):2375-8) found no serious adverse side effects with neck manipulations across 50,000 treatments. To put this in context, a 'significant risk' for any therapeutic intervention (such as pain medication) is defined as 1 in 10,000.

- In the UK, Chiropractors are regulated by law and are required to adhere to strict Codes of Practice, in the same way as dentists and doctors. The profession is statutorily regulated through the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). Chiropractors undergo a minimum of four years training in the UK at Masters Degree level to qualify before joining the statutory register. Members of the public therefore can be assured they are seeking care from a professional who meets stringent standards of education and practice.

-    In the UK, Chiropractors are regulated by law and are required to adhere to strict Codes of Practice, in exactly the same way as dentists and doctors. This gives members of the public the assurance they are seeking care from a professional who meets stringent standards of education and practice. I am registered with the regulator.

-    Chiropractors are trained to identify risk factors and do not proceed with treatment if there is any doubt as to the patient's suitability.

-    Any potential risks from treatment would always be discussed with my patients and treatment would not proceed without informed consent

Previous studies have reported that there may be a link to a vertebral or carotid artery dissection and stroke following cervical manipulation. Although Chiropractic treatment (ie that the person had been to a Chiropractor before the incident) is associated with these studies they never conclude that Chiropractic treatment had been the ultimate cause of the stroke. Mainly it is a coincidence and in fact that patient would have suffered a stroke anyway due to a genetic soft tissue dysfunction.

Some important research into the safety and benefits of neck manipulation has shown that Chiropractic neck manipulation is a very low-risk treatment if performed by a skilled manipulator, such as a Chiropractor. 

Further reading: http://www.chiro.org/chimages/chiropage/cva-1.html

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John Bradford DC MSc BSc (Hons)

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