What a Chiropractor Can't or Shouldn't Treat

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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If you have back, neck or joint pain, you may want to see a chiropractor. By adjusting your spine, chiropractors may be able to relieve many types of muscle, nerve and joint pain. They also believe these manipulations can help your body heal itself. 

Evidence-Based Treatment

Researchers have done studies to find out what conditions respond well to chiropractic care. Some evidence supports the use of chiropractic care for back pain, neck pain, joint pain, whiplash pain, and headaches. Some chiropractors also treat some conditions that have less evidence to support the use of chiropractic care. These include asthma and high blood pressure

If medication or surgery is a better treatment for your condition, your chiropractor should let you know. Chiropractors do not prescribe drugs or do surgery. Also, chiropractors do not treat: 

If you're thinking about seeing a chiropractor, it's important to know about conditions and situations that health experts generally believe should probably be treated by other medical professionals:

  • High Blood Pressure: Some chiropractors offer treatment for high blood pressure with spinal manipulation. Some reports suggest chiropractic neck treatments might lower blood pressure. However, a 2014 study compared chiropractic neck manipulation to fake chiropractic treatment in 51 people with high blood pressure. The study found no difference in blood pressure between the two groups after six weeks.
  • Asthma: Asthma is another common condition some chiropractors treat. A review of eight studies on chiropractic care for asthma concluded it should not be used in place of traditional medical treatment. 

Some studies have reported an association between chiropractic neck manipulation and a certain type of stroke that can be caused by damage to a cervical artery in the neck. However, the reported incidence is very low and the study authors do not consider the association clinically significant. Stroke is a loss of blood supply to your brain. Some types of stroke can be caused by damage to blood vessels in the neck.

Chiropractic Care Can Be Complementary

Remember that chiropractic care is about more than just spinal manipulation. Chiropractors also give advice on healthy lifestyle habits like exercise, diet and nutrition. It’s a very holistic, whole-body approach to your health and well-being. 

You may have a condition that is not treated best by chiropractic care, but you may still be able to use chiropractic care along with traditional medical care. 

Talk with your regular medical doctor about all types of complementary healthcare you might want to try. Tell your chiropractor about all your medical problems. They both want the best for you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 20
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Chiropractic: An Introduction. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chiropractic/introduction.htm
  2. Frequently Asked Questions. American Chiropractic Association. http://www.acatoday.org/level3_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61&T3ID=152
  3. Chiropractic for Hypertension in Patients (CHiP): A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Resaerchgate.net. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/262146582_Chiropractic_for_Hypertension_in_Patients_%28CHiP%...
  4. Chiropractic care for patients with asthma: A systematic review of the literature. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829683/
  5. Whedon JM, Song Y, Mackenzie TA, et al. Risk of Stroke After Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation in Medicare B Beneficiaries Aged 66 to 99 Years With Neck Pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2015;38(2):93-101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25596875
  6. Church EW, Sieg EP, Zalatimo O, et al. Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Chiropractic Care and Cervical Artery Dissection: No Evidence for Causation. Cureus. 2016;8(2):e498. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794386/