Chiropractic Care: Is It for You?

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Practically Mainstream

More than 30 million people in the U.S. visited chiropractors last year to address a variety of health issues, including back pain and other problems with muscles, joints, and bones, according to the American Chiropractic Association. In a 2002 national survey, 40 percent of patients receiving chiropractic care complained of back or lower-back problems. Other conditions often treated by chiropractors include:

  • neck pain
  • headaches
  • sports injuries
  • repetitive strains
  • arthritis

Pregnancy & Chiropractic Care: Are your aches and pains pregnancy-related? Pain in the lower and upper back and neck regions are common during pregnancy as a woman's weight and posture change. In the last decade, may chiropractors have expanded their practices to include services for women during and after pregnancy -- when your body has to accommodate lifting and toting an infant.

Benefits and Risks

Most chiropractic adjustments for pain don't cause any side effects following treatment. Typical minor complaints sometimes include temporary aching in the part of the body that was manipulated, or headaches and tiredness, but they usually disappear within a couple of days.

Higher risks are associated with neck adjustments, such as reported incidents of stroke, but these serious complications are rare and the risks are believed to be minimal.

Pain Relief: In studies of chiropractic care, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2003 concluded in a review of the research literature that there were some benefits to individuals who received adjustments for low-back pain, but generally patient outcomes weren't any better or worse than individuals using more traditional treatments. Pain relief was the major benefit cited. However, reviewers at NIH were careful to point out their review only focused on the benefits of manipulation, when many chiropractors include additional non-manual treatments as part of their overall care plans.

Osteoporosis Warning: Women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis should be warned about one study that found they could be at greater risk for injury with certain types of adjustments compared with other patients with healthier bones. Women who know they have osteoporosis should inform a chiropractor of their condition before agreeing to any treatment plan.

It's important for all women to discuss family health history -- whether a family member has or had osteoporosis, for example -- prior to beginning any kind of medical treatment. A healthcare professional can also help determine if you're at risk for a specific condition and determine if treatment is appropriate or if additional medical testing might be necessary before beginning treatment.

Insurance Coverage

Reimbursement by insurance companies for chiropractic services is more likely -- and more generous -- than for most other types of complementary or alternative care now available such as naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, biofeedback, and reiki, for example. One 2002 study found that more than half of all health maintenance organizations and more than three-quarters of all private healthcare plans provide coverage for chiropractic services. The federal Medicare program permits chiropractors to bill the government for reimbursement, and at least two dozen state Medicaid programs include such coverage, according to the same report.

However, you might find limits on choice. Many healthcare plans will allow members to choose a chiropractor only from the list of providers already on the plans' approved lists. If you have insurance, check with your heath plan to see if they offer coverage and ask if there's a restricted list of providers you are permitted to visit within the terms of your plan.

Continued on page 3:  Resources


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