What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a profession that concerns itself with diagnosing, treating and managing musculoskeletal conditions. These are, usually, painful problems with your muscles and joints.

Below, you can read about:

  • Chiropractic concept and origins
  • Regulation of chiropractic in the UK
  • Scope of practice
  • What kind of treatments chiropractors use
  • How effective chiropractic is
  • What kind of side effects may occur


Concept: origins and the future

Chiropractic is considered a form of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) which means it is not a conventional medical treatment yet the profession is being increasingly recognised and incorporated within the NHS. It was established in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer. Much like all of medicine, it has come a long way since then and has strong leadership from groups like the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) and the Royal College of Chiropractors (RCC) who work hard to promote the evidence based practice of chiropractic and fund further research into how and where it is most effective.

Chiropractic regulation

The Chiropractors Act of 1994 made it a legal requirement to be registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) to use the title "chiropractor". To be registered you must pass the GCC's requirements for qualification which usually takes the form of a Masters Degree in Chiropractic and abide by the GCC's Code of Practice & Standards of Proficiency (CoPSoP).

The GCC is a body there to protect the public by ensuring your chiropractor is held to a high standard compared to an unregulated profession. If you find yourself concerned with a chiropractor's behaviour or care then you can complain to the GCC. In almost all cases it is worth bringing your concern to the chiropractor first to see if there has been a misunderstanding or reach a resolution.

Scope of practice

Chiropractic concerns itself with focussing on musculoskeletal complaints, check out our list of what chiropractors treat.

Some chiropractors do practice based on outdated philosophical models with little empirical evidence to support them. Often these chiropractors claim to treat conditions that would not be supported by their professional associations or governing bodies. Whilst our patients experience an impact on all sorts of aspects of their healthcare we may not understand, we cannot make direct claims on these as healthcare is incredibly complicated and there are often factors outside of our treatment that may change when someone decides to take on chiropractic care.

Treatments used by chiropractors

Chiropractors will mostly use their hands to perform all treatments. The most typical treatment used is a "manipulation" or "adjustment". A very quick, precise push is applied to a joint to improve it's function or movement. When applied correctly and in the right circumstance, these often provide an almost immediate response in symptoms.

Other treatments used are typically directed at soft tissues, usually muscles. These may include massage, trigger point therapy or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM). Some chiropractors may use machines to do massage work or use acupuncture/dry needling. At YMYB, we do not use any machines for massage nor any acupuncture.

Effectiveness of chiropractic

At YMYB, we obviously find chiropractic to be very effective for our patients. Otherwise we wouldn't practice it and our patients wouldn't be so happy or write us wonderful reviews!

That being said, we pride ourselves on practicing Evidence Based Chiropractic (EBC). Whilst research is an ongoing process, a major report on the effectiveness of manual therapies was published in 2010 which demonstrated that spinal and extremity manipulation is effective in adults for:

  • Acute, subacute and chronic low back pain
  • Migraine
  • Cervicogenic headache
  • Cervicogenic dizziness
  • Several extremity joint conditions
  • Acute/subacute neck pain

It also showed that massage is effective in adults for:

  • Chronic low back pain
  • Chronic neck pain

This is why we often focus on combining manipulation and soft tissue work and why we pride ourselves on good results.

Risks and side effects

Chiropractic is generally very safe when performed correctly by a trained and registered chiropractor. The most common side effects are:

  • increased achiness
  • stiffness
  • tiredness

These are usually very mild and short lived. To minimise the impact of any side effects chiropractors will often prescribe exercises and stretches for home use. These also provide you with some control over your symptoms so that you are less reliant on treatment as a sole resolution.