FAQs for patients and the public
Chiropractors are concerned with the musculoskeletal system, which is the framework of bones and muscles that support the body. Musculoskeletal problems can be caused by accidents, stress, poor posture, lack of exercise and everyday wear-and-tear.
Depending on your condition, your chiropractor will offer advice on exercise, diet and lifestyle and may offer a wide range of interventions including, but not limited to, manual therapy (soft-tissue techniques, mobilisation and spinal manipulation) and exercise rehabilitation.
Manipulation, or ‘adjustment’, involves precisely handling or moving joints, or parts of the spine.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces guidelines for health professionals, helping them provide the most effective care for their patients. NICE guidance is based upon evidence and is reviewed regularly. Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for visiting a chiropractor and the NICE Low Back Pain and Sciatica Guideline ‘NG59’ provides clear recommendations for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, which always includes exercise and may include manual therapy (spinal manipulation, mobilisation or soft tissue techniques such as massage) as part of a treatment package, with or without psychological therapy.
Mobilisation and soft tissue techniques are performed by a wide variety of practitioners; whereas spinal manipulation is usually performed by chiropractors or osteopaths, and by doctors or physiotherapists who have undergone additional training in manipulation.
The evidence base for the care chiropractors provide (Clar et al, 2014) is common to that for physiotherapists and osteopaths in respect of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. Thus, like physiotherapists and osteopaths, chiropractors provide care for a wide range of MSK problems.
Based on all evidence submitted and reviewed to date, the Advertising Standards Authority accepts that chiropractors may claim to treat the following musculoskeletal conditions:
– Ankle sprain (short term management)
– Elbow pain and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck, but not isolated occurrences
– Headache arising from the neck (cervicogenic)
– Joint pains
– Joint pains including hip and knee pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core OA treatments and exercise
– General, acute & chronic backache, back pain (not arising from injury or accident)
– Generalised aches and pains
– Mechanical neck pain
– Migraine prevention
– Minor sports injuries
– Muscle spasms
– Plantar fasciitis
– Rotator cuff injuries, disease or disorders
– Shoulder complaints
– Soft tissue disorders of the shoulder
– Tension and inability to relax
All chiropractors are trained to select the most appropriate technique for a patient’s condition.
Yes, it is. The General Chiropractic Council (GCC) is the statutory body which regulates the chiropractic profession. All chiropractors have to be registered with the GCC to practice legally in the United Kingdom. The GCC is responsible for the overall regulation and development of the profession. It sets standards to make sure that chiropractors practise safely, that their education and training is thorough and that their behaviour is professional.
It is illegal for anyone to call themselves a chiropractor unless they are registered with the GCC. You can search the register here to check that your chiropractor is registered.
Yes, chiropractic care is safe when provided by a registered chiropractor. Chiropractors are trained to recognise when you may need to be referred elsewhere, and can treat you even after surgery (although they may need to change your treatment plan).
Chiropractic care isn’t usually available on the NHS. However, it is worth checking with your GP as some practices do offer it.
The cost varies throughout the country and it is always a good idea to check this before attending.
Some private health insurers do cover the cost of chiropractic care. Check your policy or contact your insurer directly for advice.
No, you don’t need a GP referral to visit a chiropractor.
More and more GPs are recognising that chiropractic care is effective, particularly for back pain.
Many health insurance companies cover chiropractic care. Please check the details of your policy.
The General Chiropractic Council, which regulates chiropractic in the UK, publishes an online register of chiropractors that you can search by name, location etc. You can access the register by visiting https://www.gcc-uk.org/ and clicking ‘Find A Chiropractor’.
Some chiropractors focus on areas of special interest and have undertaken additional qualifications in these areas. The RCC publishes registers of those practitioners who have satisfied its requirements for membership of ‘Specialist Faculty’ groups in Sport, Pregnancy & Paediatrics, Pain, Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, and Animal practice. These registers can be accessed here: https://rcc-uk.org/specialist-faculties/
No. Your treatment programme will be tailored to your specific needs.
These are common, general terms often used to describe a number of different conditions. Your chiropractor will aim to make a specific diagnosis and explain their findings to you after a thorough consultation and examination.
X-rays are only taken when it is clinically necessary. All practitioners using x-ray equipment or requesting x-rays from hospitals must comply with Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations.
Your chiropractor will take as long as is appropriate to treat you effectively. This means that a session could be as little as ten minutes or as long as an hour. Your practitioner will advise you how long your course of treatment is likely to last.
Your recovery is dependent on many factors – the problem, the length of time you have had it, your general health and your own commitment to any rehabilitative exercises and maintenance visits that your chiropractor may recommend.
Every case is assessed individually, and an estimate of the number of visits could be made. It is important to keep your appointments, and make regular visits when necessary. Discuss this with your chiropractor, who will explain your treatment programme to you.
Because chiropractic training prepares practitioners to recognise conditions that are not appropriate for chiropractic care, it is safe for any patient to go directly to a chiropractor if they wish. If appropriate, your chiropractor will refer you to another suitably qualified healthcare practitioner.
When the two surfaces of a joint are moved rapidly, as happens in some chiropractic manipulations, there is a change of pressure within the joint space. This may sometimes cause a bubble of gas to ‘pop’ – but this sound is not significant and does not hurt.
Manipulation and manual therapy, when carried out correctly by a qualified practitioner, do not normally cause discomfort. Sometimes, if you have had a problem for some time, you may experience post-treatment soreness in the early stages of your treatment plan.
Some chiropractors undertake further training to enable them to treat animals. Animal chiropractors are able to select and apply the correct care plan and provision for each individual animal in question. Animal chiropractors must gain veterinary consent before embarking on any assessment or treatment of the animal, unless the animal in question is a fit competition animal that is receiving routine appointments to maintain fitness and performance, or the animal is receiving routine maintenance appointments.