Is Chiropractic Safe? — Podcast Interview with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein

Topic: Is Chiropractic Safe?

Is chiropractic care safe?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, everyone wants to know if chiropractic is safe and I think part of it really comes just from the fear of the unknown. They’ve never been; they hear stories like, “Oh the chiropractor is going to crack your back or crack your neck;” that it’s dangerous and things like that. Really, what I like to do is just kind of give people the facts. The first thing I like to talk to people a little bit is about education because there are people out there who say, “Oh, chiropractors aren’t real doctors.” While it’s true that I’m not an MD, I’m not a Medical Doctor, I am a Doctor of Chiropractic and I’m fully licensed professional. I’ve passed rigorous state board examinations, national board examinations. I get at least 12 hours of continuing education every year.

When you look at chiropractic, our safety record really speaks for itself especially when you look at malpractice rates because our malpractice rates is so low. Those rates are based on how often your profession gets sued or how often you hurt people. Really, I’m proud to say that. I’ll tell people I pay $2,800 year for my malpractice insurance, where a medical doctor pays closer to $8-$10,000 because again there’s more risk and more adverse reactions to what they do than to what we do.

Really, chiropractic is very safe so I explain to them the education process. And you know, if you compare an MD’s education to a chiropractor’s education, I mean chiropractors have 520 hours of anatomy where medical doctors have 508. X-ray: chiropractor has an average of 217 hours of x-ray in their chiropractic curriculum where a medical doctor has 148. When you look at orthopedics in chiropractics, we study orthopedics of the spine, we get 225 hours where your regular medical education has about 156. There’s plenty of other subjects that, you know, doctors of chiropractic focus on, the adjustment, manipulation, kinesiology, things that medical doctors don’t go through and there are subjects that they study that we don’t study like pharmacology, immunology, general surgery and things like that we don’t do. But the core of the education, it’s very similar. When people say, “Oh you’re not real doctors.” We are, we just don’t prescribe medication or do those other things, and it’s a doctor of chiropractic – works just like a DDS who is a doctor of dental surgery.

Though, I usually kind of tell them about our education and our safety record and our malpractice things. That’s really the most important points I can bring across that usually settle people down and get them to understand.

What are some common misconceptions about chiropractic care that lead people to ask?

Well, there are many misconceptions when it comes to chiropractic and I wish we had more time because we’d go through them all but maybe that will be a topic for another discussion. You know, when I go out into my community and we do spinal screenings or educational lectures, I often hear statements like, “My mother’s brother’s cousin’s sister’s friend was paralyzed by a chiropractor.” It’s always like something so distant. It’s never anyone that anyone ever knows or knew personally. The truth is, if chiropractors paralyzed people, it would be on the front page of The New York Times. Besides that, it would take such extreme negligence on a chiropractor’s part to really injure someone because what we do is so simple and so safe. You know, you would have to like totally disregard – like, if someone came in after a bad car accident and you didn’t bother to x-ray and there was an unstable fracture and you adjusted an unstable bone and drove a bone fragment into her spinal cord. Yeah, you could definitely hurt somebody that way but when those people come into your office … first of all, those people almost never come into a chiropractor, they’re usually in the hospital if there’s a bone fracture because they’re in so much pain, they can’t turn or they can’t move so it’s a very different thing. The reality is that it just doesn’t happen and if it was happening it would be on the front page in The New York Times.

Chiropractic is very safe. Going back to what we pay for malpractice. It’s almost nothing because it’s really based on how often your profession gets paid so the misconception that it’s not safe and that chiropractors can hurt you is just simply not true. And that’s really the biggest one when it comes to safety. I always talk to people about that and in our office we always do a proper exam. We almost always take x-rays unless it’s an expecting mom because obviously you can’t take x-rays then. As long as you do a proper examination and proper x-rays, you’re going to find out if there’s something that’s unstable and if treating that patient would be dangerous to them and then you make the appropriate referral. We’re very well-trained. We have the education. If you follow the protocols, you’re almost never going to hurt someone.

Describe a couple of the most common chiropractic treatments that you perform on patients and explain how safe and effective they are.

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. You know, the most common form of chiropractic treatment is what we call the chiropractic adjustment. However, there are many different techniques ranging from no-force techniques to moderate-force techniques that are usually determined by the practitioner’s comfort level and what they expect to gain from the patient and what’s going to be appropriate from that individual patient. An infant doesn’t really require a lot of energy to adjust. They’re generally very, very healthy. Their bones are cartilaginous – they’re not true bone yet – and they haven’t been on the planet for a long time so it doesn’t take a lot of force to move a small infant. A big, athletic guy who lifts heavy weights and weighs 200 pounds, well he may require a more energetic technique to get his bones to move into the proper place. It would be different for a 110 pound ballet dancer.

My simple answer to that question is that all chiropractic techniques are safe, some of them are just more appropriate for different people. You know, if someone had a history of stroke or cardiovascular disease, then you might lean towards low-force or no-force techniques. A good practitioner is always going to assess the patient, assess his skills and techniques to make sure what he’s doing is appropriate on that specific occasion for that specific patient. Also you have to understand that you may not be able to help every single person and sometimes if someone comes in that might not do well with chiropractic, it might be wise to refer that patient out to another practitioner or sometimes even to another chiropractor that uses a different technique that might be safer for that patient.

Your practice treats infants, children and pregnant women. What special accommodations do you make for these sensitive patients to ensure their safety during treatments?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, we always do a proper examination. That’s always going to be first and foremost. You take their history, find out if there’s been any trauma. Let’s start with an expecting mom. Well, an expecting mom is not going to be able to lie down flat on something that’s hard. She can’t lie on her stomach to sleep on a bed. We have a very special table that has like an abdominal piece that just drops out on a spring load so the mom can lay face down so we can do a proper assessment. Then, with a mom who might be in a later part of her pregnancy – if she’s in the 8th or 9th month –  sometimes a lot of rotation isn’t going to be the best thing for that type of adjustment. So you’ll try a different type of adjustment with her that requires less rotation and so you can make certain accommodations with that.

With small children, we talked about it before. They haven’t been on the planet that long. They don’t have a lot of junk or arthritis built-up in their spine. It takes almost no energy to get an infant’s spine to adjust and very little energy as the kids start to get older. A spine that’s been well-cared for throughout the course of the lifetime, will always be easier to adjust. You just use lower-force techniques, less rotation and less energy when you’re working with someone that is just not your 200 pound body-builder. There are different drop techniques that are very effective and there are other light-touch techniques or what people call tonal-techniques which work with the nerve system as well with just very light touch or vibratory touch that can also accomplish the same goal.

It’s just about sizing up who your patient is, what their condition is and what the practitioner thinks he needs to do to get them going. There are many different techniques and many modifications that you can do to all these techniques so that you can work on anyone from a 1-month-old to a 100-year-old person with osteoporosis and still have chiropractic be safe and effective.

How important is it for people to try safe and natural healthcare over prescription medication and surgery whenever possible?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: It’s really much more about prevention in chiropractic. Granted, it’s a lot more difficult to have someone come in like a 40-year-old guy who is overweight with a herniated disc.  It’s going to be hard to bring him back to health because there are some changes that have already taken place in the spine. And that’s why we do pediatric and family care. We want to try and bring these kids up in a natural way and keep the spine healthy. When people start taking prescriptive drugs, drugs only cover up symptoms and symptoms are our bodies’ warning sign. If you are feeling tired and you’re in pain, that’s your body telling you, “Hey, go lay down and rest so you can heal.” As we discussed in a previous interview, the body only heals when it’s at rest. If you take drugs, you take a pain killer, it shuts off the pain message but the pain message is there to tell you to slow down, relax and take care of the problem otherwise it’s going to get significantly worse.

The analogy I always use is like, well if my house was on fire and I hear that nasty smoke alarm going off,  I can go up there and pull the battery out and I won’t hear that blaring noise but my house is still on fire. Drugs only cover up or block symptoms from actually expressing themselves. And that’s really important to understand that we have our own immune system which is designed to keep us healthy. We were designed to be healthy not designed to be sick. If you shut off those warning signs and ignore them, probably inevitably it’s just going to get worse. Though, you know, resorting to drugs and surgery should be your last step. You should try the natural stuff first and then if that’s not working then you can step up to the harder things.

RC: Great, okay. Thank you so, so much Dr. Rubinstein. We know you’re really busy, so we just want to thank you for all of your time and help today.

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: True honor to be here with you, Liz, thank you for your time as well.

RC: For our listeners across the country, if you’re interested in speaking with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein you can either go online to or call (917) 534-6484 to schedule an appointment.

On behalf of our entire team we want to thank you for listening, and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading experts.

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