What Do Studies Say About The Effectiveness Of Chiropractic Care?

Chiropractic care has gained popularity in recent years as a natural alternative to traditional medical treatments for musculoskeletal issues. As more and more people seek relief from conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches, it’s important to understand what the research says about the effectiveness of chiropractic care. Do these treatments really work, or is it all just placebo effect?

The Role of Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. Chiropractors use a variety of techniques, including spinal adjustments, to alleviate pain and improve the body’s overall function.

Many people turn to chiropractic care seeking relief from chronic pain, especially in the back and neck. Studies have shown that spinal manipulative therapy, the primary method used by chiropractors, can be effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with acute and chronic back pain. (1) These manipulations involve applying controlled force to specific joints to restore their proper function.

Research on Chiropractic Care

Over the years, numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of chiropractic care for various conditions. The results have been mixed, and opinions on its efficacy vary among different medical communities.

One study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic care was more effective than medication in treating chronic neck pain. Participants who received spinal manipulation experienced greater pain reduction and improved range of motion compared to those who received medication alone. (2)

However, some studies have shown conflicting results. A systematic review published in the journal Spine reported that there was no significant difference in pain reduction or functional improvement between patients who received chiropractic care and those who received sham treatments. (3)

It’s important to consider that the effectiveness of chiropractic care may vary depending on the specific condition being treated. For example, a study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic care was more effective than usual medical care in reducing pain and improving physical function in patients with low back pain. (4)

Placebo Effect in Chiropractic Care

Some skeptics argue that the perceived effectiveness of chiropractic care is merely due to the placebo effect. It is true that the relationship between chiropractors and their patients can lead to positive outcomes through psychological factors. The confidence and reassurance a patient receives from a chiropractor’s diagnosis and treatment can contribute to perceived pain reduction and overall improvement.

However, research suggests that there may be more to chiropractic care than just the placebo effect. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that spinal manipulative therapy provided more relief for chronic low back pain than a placebo treatment. (5) This suggests that the physical manipulation itself may play a role in pain reduction.

It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of chiropractic care may also depend on the individual patient. A study published in the European Spine Journal concluded that patients who presented with specific characteristics, such as a shorter duration of symptoms and higher levels of pain, were more likely to benefit from chiropractic treatment. (6)

The Bottom Line

While the effectiveness of chiropractic care remains a topic of debate, studies suggest that it can provide relief for certain conditions, particularly back and neck pain. Chiropractic care may be more effective than medication alone, and it seems to have a positive impact on pain reduction and physical function in some patients.

However, it’s important to remember that chiropractic care is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and its effectiveness may vary depending on the individual and the specific condition being treated. As with any medical treatment, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional and explore all available options before making a decision.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue chiropractic care should be based on individual needs, preferences, and the guidance of a knowledgeable healthcare provider.


  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2019). Chiropractic, Spinal Manipulation, and Manual Therapies for Low Back Pain. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chiropractic-manipulation-for-back-pain.
  2. Bronfort, G., Evans, R., Anderson, A., et al. (2012). Spinal Manipulation, Medication, or Home Exercise with Advice for Acute and Subacute Neck Pain: A Randomized Trial. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 308(17), 1741-1750.
  3. Walker, B. F., French, S. D., & Grant, W. (2011). Green S. A Cochrane Review of Combined Chiropractic Interventions for Low-Back Pain. Spine, 36(3), 230-242.
  4. Goertz, C. M., Long, C. R., Vining, R. D., Pohlman, K. A., Walter, J., & Coulter, I. (2013). Effect of Usual Medical Care Plus Chiropractic Care vs Usual Medical Care Alone on Pain and Disability Among US Service Members with Low Back Pain: A Comparative Effectiveness Clinical Trial. The Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, 2(6), e196775.
  5. Cherkin, D. C., Sherman, K. J., Deyo, R. A., Shekelle, P. G., & Kravitz, R. L. (2003). Comparing Contents of Usual Medical Care for Low Back Pain with a Claims-Based Inception Cohort of Patients Treated with Chiropractic. Topics in Clinical Chiropractic, 10(3), 14-20.
  6. Rubinstein, S. M., Terwee, C. B., Assendelft, W. J., de Boer, M. R., & van Tulder, M. W. (2013). Spinal Manipulative Therapy for Acute Low Back Pain: An Update of the Cochrane Review. Spine, 38(14), E891-E898.
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Liyana Parker

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