Reward vs Risk, The Safety of Chiropractic. 

Written by Dr. Derek Larsen DC

Last Updated on February 15, 2024

This last week I struck up a conversation with a few people around Juneau. Amid the conversation the question “What do you do for work?” came up and I responded that I was a chiropractor. Oftentimes the response to that statement is good but in these two specific cases the individuals shuttered a bit at the sound of chiropractic. Taken slightly aback I asked for opinions on the topic. The first individual said that she was scared of chiropractic having never been. Her only experience with chiropractic was via internet videos of chiropractic adjustments. The other individual shook his body trying to wriggle away from the thought as he said that he didn’t like the sound of bones cracking. In both cases I assured the individuals that there was no reason to fear chiropractic because of how safe it is. Today I would like to reassure you of the safety of chiropractic. 

What does google say?

I put myself into the general public’s shoes for a second concerning safety of chiropractic topic. I asked myself “What would I do if I was trying to decide if I should see a chiropractor, and I wanted to know about chiropractic safety?” I assume I would likely take the treacherous path and consult who I like to call Dr. Google. With the knowledge I now have I would highly recommend avoiding the Dr Google consultation. Google is not a doctor and cannot treat or diagnose any disease. It is imperative that you seek a consultation with a trained professional rather than relying on a google search because it can be very dangerous. If you want to know about modern medicine go ask a medical doctor, if you want to know about the cuisine of Venice, Italy, Ask an italian chef, and if you want to know about Chiropractic, ask a chiropractor. Professionals within their particular fields are the experts. We do however have the convenience of google so I decided to do a quick google search, with the Key words “Is Chiropractic Safe” Just to see what comes up. I read the first 5 articles and honestly was surprised at what I read mostly because the majority was pro chiropractic. Here is a list of the first 5 articles from my google search “is chiropractic safe”; Web MD, Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today , Evolve Chiropractic, and  Harvard Health. There are a few points that I would like to talk about from these articles.

Let’s discuss these articles 

All 5 of these articles are basically blog posts similar to mine. An individual gathered some information, wrote about that information adding in their takeaways and published it. Most of them have valid peer reviewed articles linked to these articles but the actual articles that I linked above are not peer reviewed (same as my blogs). 4 of the articles were published by medical institutions so there is likely some bias to be found within those articles favoring the medical field. The one published by Evolve Chiropractic was published by a chiropractic practice so there will likely also be bias found there favoring the chiropractic world. They all make great points but they all also have a few flaws in my opinion. The general consensus of the 5 articles is that chiropractic is safe but as with life there are risks involved. The risks mentioned most often are the ones that are most severe. I don’t really know why that is, but maybe it is because writing about infrequent but severe adverse events get more reads, likes and clicks then do less severe events? Could be, or maybe there’s some bias against chiropractic care in these articles. Simply put it’s impossible to know the motives of the writers and that’s why it’s good to check multiple sources. 

Diving a bit deeper into the research.

Speaking of the severe adverse reactions, they do occur just very rarely. In a peer reviewed research article called Safety of Chiropractic interventions: a Systematic Review  written by Gouveia et al in 2009 they found after looking over a lot of other research that it is reported that serious adverse reactions happen 1.46 times per 10,000,000 adjustments. To put that into perspective according to this article you have a 1 in 17,000 chance of dying if you do 1-19 minutes of vigorous exercise per week! Just judging by those numbers it seems like a pretty safe bet. When we look at the studies about chiropractic care and adverse events most often the case is that individuals experience some sort of muscle or joint soreness following the adjustment. I’ve even experienced this kind of “adverse event” myself. Following my first major adjustment (read about that here) I was sore. I felt like I had played a 2 hour full contact american football game. Luckily I was prepared. My chiropractor told me to expect the soreness because we were moving bones that haven’t moved properly in a while. Muscles are attached to bones so if you move the bone you also move the muscle and if it hasn’t moved in a while it’s going to get sore. That’s the nature of the game of life. The severe adverse reactions simply do not happen that often. Here is a study on strokes and chiropractic care that says you are just as likely to suffer a stroke after visiting a medical doctor or a doctor of chiropractic. (link in that article

How we assure your safety at Happy Family Chiropractic 

As I mentioned before in my article about pediatric chiropractic, we learn to gage the precise amount of force needed to adjust a joint. This is a delicate process that takes time to learn, and develop. Then, in cases where I am unsure of the force an individual can withstand during an adjustment, I revert to an adjusting instrument that delivers a very low force quick adjustment. I also use this tool when people don’t want their bones “cracked”. Some people think that the adjustment doesn’t happen unless the joint makes a popping sound during the adjustment. That is simply false. The adjustment does not require a pop. The adjustment occurs when we restore joint motion not after we hear a crunch. 

What do the insurance companies think about chiropractic?

Another perspective I find curions is how much we have to pay for malpractice insurance. To give some context to this I want to point out how insurance companies make money. Insurance companies are simply risk evaluators. Car insurers evaluate the risk of a driver and then charge them accordingly, Life insurance providers evaluate the risk of individuals and then charge accordingly.The same is true for malpractice insurance providers. They evaluate the risk of the medicine to be practiced and then charge accordingly. Within chiropractic practices the averages are between $1,000 to $2,000 per year occasionally reaching up to $3,000 per year depending upon Insurance provider, state of practice and the practitioner. To put that into perspective according to leveragerx.com medical doctors who practice general surgery can expect to pay between $41,000 and $190,000 per year depending on location. Remember insurance rates go up depending on how risky the individual or practitioner being insured is. Based solely on this we can make the assumption that insurance companies find that chiropractic care is much less risky, relatively. 

The Reward is much greater than the Risk

In any decision we have to make in life there is a risk versus reward discussion that happens at the very least subconsciously. For example, a sunny day in Juneau means that there is an opportunity to get some much needed exposure to sunshine to increase vitamin D and therefore increase serotonin receptibility making it easier to experience happiness. There are a few risks however with going outside to experience the sunshine, sunny days also invite blood sucking beasts into the air, including my least favorite, The no see em. The bug that you can barely see until you feel it rip it’s jaws into your skin, which leaves an irritating feeling that lasts much longer than that bug’s life. This is the risk we have to assume when we venture outside to experience the beneficial effects of the sun. One risk that I will nearly always accept and continue my journeys outside anyway because in my opinion the reward is much greater. We take risks every day in life, especially in Alaska. Many of the activities we enjoy such as hiking, boating, and fishing claim live every year but we are still out hiking, boating and fishing. The reward is worth the risk and this applies to chiropractic care. I can assure you that at Happy Family Chiropractic we do all we can to mitigate those risks so that you can experience the reward of chiropractic care. Can’t wait to see you in downtown Juneau!


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