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Chiropractic Myths

Although the practice of Chiropractic medicine has become more mainstream over the last 10 years there are still a lot of misconceptions about it.  Everyday in clinical practice I encounter new patients with false beliefs about the services that I provide or with a preconceived notion as to reasoning for providing such services.  Below is a short list of the most common “Chiropractic Myths” that I would like to elaborate on.

What is the “Cracking Sound?”

Manipulation of a joint may or may not result in a cavitation ("cracking sound"). A cavitation occurs when gas stored between two joint surfaces is released. This cavitation is exactly the same as when you "crack" your knuckles. The noise is caused by the change of pressure within the joint due to the release of the gas. Bones are not actually "CRACKED."

How much school is required to become a Chiropractor?*

Educational requirements for doctors of chiropractic are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions. The typical applicant at a chiropractic college has already acquired nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Chiropractic colleges now require that all graduating doctors obtain a Bachelors degree prior to admission/ graduation.

Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding - four academic years of professional study is the standard. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic, and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training. In total, the chiropractic curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency that is fully recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

I've heard once you go to a Chiropractor you must return multiple times, is this true?

The fact that chiropractic treatment is preformed via a hands-on approach may require patients to visit the chiropractor multiple times. Contrasting chiropractic treatment to that of a medical doctor thus will involve more frequent visits to the chiropractic office.

Traditionally, medical doctors often pre-establish plans that are conducted by the patient at home: (i.e. taking a course of antibiotics once a day for a couple of weeks). A chiropractor may establish a similar plan for acute or chronic care thus making a certain number of visits sometimes necessary. Your duration of care and frequency is dependant the severity of your presenting complaints. Many patients enjoy spinal adjustments and therefore continue to receive them on a regular basis, and new research has shown that maintenance treatment may provide benefit (3).

Do I need an X-ray to be seen by a Chiropractor?

The short answer is no, but they can be helpful. Unless there was a trauma involved (slip and fall, automobile accident, etc.) or “Red Flags” are present during the initial history and physical examination of the patient; the medical literature recommends 4-6 weeks of conservative care prior to ordering X-rays or any other diagnostic studies (1). One study did demonstrate however that patients that receiving X-rays are more satisfied with their care (2). I have changed my opinion over the years about the importance of X-rays. I used to order them very rarely (I was young and naive) but I can honestly say now that a picture is truly worth 1000 words. In my opinion it is very helpful to actually show the patient an image of their spine to help them appreciate the extent of their spinal health / degeneration.

Dr. Mexico is a Chiropractic physician and owner of Synaptic Chiropractic Center, which is a private practice with offices in Baldwinville, MA. He can be reached at (978) 939-8700 or at drmexico@synapticchiro.com.

  1. Kinkade, S. Evaluation and treatment of acute low back pain.  Am Fam Physician. 2007 Apr 15;75(8):1181-8.
  2. Kindrick, D. The role of radiography in primary care patients with low back pain of at least 6 weeks duration: a randomised (unblinded) controlled trial. Health Technol Assess. 2001;5(30):1-69.
  3. Senna MK, Machaly SA. Does maintained Spinal manipulation therapy for chronic non-specific low back pain result in better long-term outcome? 
    Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011 Jan 17.

*Question above adapted from the American Chiropractic Association

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