I've had problems with back-pain in the past, and as a result, I reluctantly went to a chiropractor. It's hard to tell if going to the chiropractor helped my problem, or if they went away on their own. There is a lot of information there talking about the health benefits of chiropractic care, and most of them seem implausible, but there are others that don't.

So, what evidence is there that chiropractic medicine provides real health benefits? How much of their claims have some validity, and how much are just unsubstantiated claims? Are subluxations real?

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    I wonder if it can have some benefits as massage? (everything else is woo, I believe)
    – Egle
    Mar 10, 2011 at 18:09
  • I suggest editing the tittle to be less subjective. Mar 10, 2011 at 18:19
  • @rjstelling Thanks for the suggestion. You are right.
    – Ustice
    Mar 10, 2011 at 18:43
  • If you want more anecdotal data, two of my friends (both intelligent and rational) strongly believe in chiropractic treatment for joint pain and the like. It may well be useful as a specialized form of massage. I've never seen evidence for anything more. Mar 11, 2011 at 2:55
  • “… more anecdotal data …” – But, but … but the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”! ;-) Mar 11, 2011 at 12:53

3 Answers 3


In general, chiropractics is theoretically unsound (the alleged mechanism contradicts conventional science) and many applications of chiropractic medicine could not be supported by studies.

That said, one of the very few exceptions is the treatment of lower back pain where chiropractic treatment does have a demonstrable effect, as supported by multiple studies.

On the other hand, this effect is not greater than that of conventional treatment and there are certain unique risks (see also the next section on that page, “Risk-benefit”) associated with chiropractic treatment.

(Sources of the above: Trick or Treatment by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh.)

Singh and Ernst also warn that chiropractors come in very different flavours, from serious practitioners to downright quacks, and advise that one makes sure to have a competent practitioner who doesn’t reject the basic fundaments of medicine before proceeding with any form of therapy.

  • "chiropractors come in very different flavours, from serious practitioners to downright quacks" Having spoken and interacted with many DC's, I can surely verify this. If you are looking into a Chiropractor for treatment and you get a quack vibe, you're probably right about it. Just move on and find a different guy who seems more earnest about medicine that works.
    – user11643
    Jul 28, 2016 at 20:16

Chiropractors are not medically trained doctors and the profession is essentially unregulated.


The hard-core practitioners claim to be manipulating the body's energy field(s). Given there is no clinical evidence for such an energy field or that it can be manipulated I would say that puts them squarely in the woo category.

Further reading: British Chiropractor's Association lost their lawsuit against Simon Singh (unable to present evidence of its effectiveness).

  • I'm not sure this answer is up to today's site standards.
    – user11643
    Jul 28, 2016 at 20:17

This summery is taken from Skeptoid.com.

Like so many non-evidence based alternative medicine systems, chiropractic was established and defined by a non-scientist during a time when almost nothing useful or true was known about medicine.

[...invented by] Daniel D. Palmer, a practitioner of New Age healing with magnets, when medicine was in the Dark Ages of 1895.

Palmer was soon arrested and convicted of practicing medicine without a license. His son, BJ Palmer, formed the first professional chiropractic association to cover legal expenses of the students he and his father trained.

[chiropractic] originally developed based on the purely mythical and supernatural conjecture of innate intelligence, the profession as a whole has evolved and generally accepted most anatomical discoveries of modern medicine.

The cornerstone of chiropractic is something they call a subluxation.

[...]chiropractic subluxation is a completely different phenomenon from an orthopedic subluxation, which is a real medical condition, and is unrelated.

A chiropractic subluxation, on the other hand, is theoretic and is not visible on an imaging study or otherwise verifiable through conventional medicine. The chiropractic profession has repeatedly redefined a subluxation over the years, and the current definition is "a complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system function and general health."

The site Science-Based Medicine has this:

The General Chiropractic Council, a UK-wide statutory body with regulatory powers, has just published a new position statement on the chiropractic subluxation complex:

"The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex is an historical concept but it remains a theoretical model. It is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease or health concerns."

The British Chiropractic Association website states:

All BCA chiropractors will have undergone a minimum four-year full-time internationally-accredited undergraduate course and are registered with the General Chiropractic Council, the UK's statutory regulator for the profession.

The General Chiropractic Council charge a fee of £1,250 to register.

The GCC also say:

It is a criminal offence in the UK to call yourself (expressly or by implication) any kind of chiropractor if you are not registered with the GCC.

See: Is Chiropractor a protected term, and if so where?

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    The claim from the BCA is to be taken with a grain of salt. While it’s true that all chiropractors are accredited by the BCA, this isn’t saying very much, to put it bluntly. Some of the claims solicited by the BCA are bogus. Mar 11, 2011 at 12:51

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