Evidence for its effectiveness
To be able to judge whether any health treatment is safe and effective, we need evidence.
Evidence on a treatment is gathered by conducting fair scientific tests.
Chiropractic is a health profession, rather than a single treatment. Evidence about chiropractic generally refers to one or more of the treatments that chiropractors can offer.
Studies that examine health treatments, including treatments offered by chiropractors, can reach different conclusions on whether the treatments are more effective. This can happen for various reasons, including differences in the design of the study, bias or simply chance. When this happens, more high-quality research is needed to determine whether the treatment is effective and safe.
There is good evidence available that chiropractic is an effective treatment for persistent lower back pain.
This means that scientific trials conducted to investigate the effect of chiropractic on lower back pain found that it did have a beneficial effect.
A 2011 Cochrane review of studies of chiropractic intervention – treatments offered by chiropractors, including spinal manipulation – found that it is not possible to confirm or refute that chiropractic treatments are any more effective than conventional treatments for persistent lower back pain.
Conventional treatments include painkillers, exercise and physiotherapy.
Some positive evidence
There is some evidence that manipulation of bones, joints and soft tissue, as practised by chiropractors, may be an effective treatment for some other musculoskeletal problems. These include:
- acute (new-onset) back pain
- acute and sub-acute neck pain
- chronic neck pain when combined with exercise
- shoulder girdle pain
- frozen shoulder
- tennis elbow
- hip osteoarthritis
- knee osteoarthritis – some kinds of knee pain and some kinds of heel pain
- migraine and headache