Myths vs. Facts About Chiropractic

It is important to separate chiropractic care facts from myths especially when it comes to patient safety. Chiropractic care has proven year after year to be safe for children and adults. Chiropractic care does more than just alleviate back pain, it helps remove pressure on the nervous system to allow the body to function at its best.

There is a myth that chiropractic care is dangerous and unsafe, especially for children. Could you please explain why this is not true?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Where did you hear such a thing? No, I’m just kidding. It really is one of the most important myths to dispel and kind of debunk this thing. The fact that they say chiropractic is dangerous or unsafe for children couldn’t be farther from the truth. Chiropractic is safe and effective for adults and children, and it’s actually safer to work on infants and children than adults because they haven’t had stress, tension, poor posture, accidents or falls in most cases, hopefully, right? And in most cases, the infant or child’s spines, ligaments and tendons are way more flexible and they have a lot less comorbidities, right? They don’t have high blood pressure, they don’t have diabetes, they don’t have all these complicating factors or other health issues.

So, chiropractic is very safe. When we work on children, particularly infants, we use about the same amount of pressure you use to touch the outside of your eye. So, if you closed your eyes and just kind of touched your eyeballs, that’s about all the pressure it requires. Because you’ve got to remember these children are very malleable. They’re designed to be compressed and come through the birth canal. And they’re so flexible that it takes very little pressure to realign a vertebrae in an infant or a child. So, it’s super safe.

The thing is that chiropractic as a profession, I’ll put our safety record up against any other profession because our malpractice insurance only on average costs about $2,300 a year. It costs more to insure my car in New York City than it does to insure my practice. And just to give you an idea, the rates of malpractice are determined by malpractice carriers, not by the chiropractors themselves. And if you look at a medical doctor, an average annual medical practice, anywhere from 4 to $12,000, which is easily, double, triple or quadruple what we pay. Surgeons in some states pay as high as $50,000. OBGYNs can pay in excess of $200,000 for malpractice. So, it’s really dependent on how often your profession injures people and how often your profession gets sued. And based on those numbers themselves, chiropractic only paying $2,300 a year, it’s just crazy to think that it’s unsafe because the insurance companies who have the most to lose base it on the safety of your profession. So based on that fact alone, again, I put the chiropractic safety record up against any other profession.

When you look at statistics and you look at medical errors versus people who get injured or pass away from chiropractic care, I did a lot of Googling and research, and what was interesting to me is that on average, medicine has about 250,000 iatrogenic causes of death, meaning that it’s caused by the treatment itself. In chiropractic, in the past 10 years, maybe there’s been 26. So, it’s super safe. I see numbers that people getting hurt in chiropractic are lower than one in a million. So, these things are absolutely mythical in the how blown up out of proportion it is. Everyone thinks that what we do is so unsafe, but if it was unsafe, our malpractice rates wouldn’t be low. And if people were getting injured in chiropractic offices, it would be all over the news. You’d see it on the front page of the Times. It would be on every news story and everything.

So really, chiropractic is safe, gentle, and effective for adults and children. There are minimal negative side effects. And I think the most common side effect is people get a little stiff or sore in the area where we introduce some of the adjustments, but usually those people are already in pain, and we have to move some structures. And if we’re moving structures or putting movement into joints that are achy and sore, you might see some post adjustment soreness, but that’s really about it.

So again, I put our safety record up against any other profession. Anyone wants to challenge these statistics, I’m here and ready to debate.

Another myth about chiropractic care is that people can perform self adjustments and don’t need to go to a chiropractor to have adjustments done. What do people need to know?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, number one, performing self adjustments I think is near impossible. It’s great that people try to self adjust, but I just can’t see how it’s possible, because the reason to adjust the spine is if it’s subluxated, meaning that the vertebrae is misaligned, it’s fixed or stuck in an abnormal position. And when it’s in that abnormal position, it’s irritating the neural structures that they’re designed to protect. So, that’s the reason to adjust the spine. If it’s fixed or stuck in an abnormal position, typically it needs a fulcrum to kind of move around. And that’s where the chiropractor’s hand comes into play, right? So, we’re actually going to contact that specific vertebrae, and using my hand as a fulcrum, that’s where we’re going to introduce the energy. But you really have to do an analysis. And without any training, you can’t self adjust or try and adjust someone else or so-called crack their back if you don’t know how to analyze the spine.

So, we’re specifically looking for the vertebrae that’s misaligned, fixed or stuck and irritating the nerves. If all three criteria aren’t met, I’m not going to introduce a force and put an adjustment into that spine. You have to have those three criteria. Someone who’s giving you a bear hug or leaning you up against a wall, or someone who’s like trying to whip their leg around, they’re not going to get that fulcrum. They’re not going to actually be specific in correcting the one bone that’s misaligned, fixed or stuck. They might hear some clicks or pops and feel like a little bit of a release and be like, “Ah, that felt good,” but they’re really not doing anything towards improving the alignment or correcting a subluxation.

So, correcting a subluxation is really only done by a chiropractor after specific analysis. There’s no way that one can analyze themselves. You can’t adjust yourself. People always ask me, “Oh doctor, you adjust yourself?” And I’m like, “No, just like you guys, I leave my office, go to a colleague’s office and I get checked twice a month no matter what’s going on.” So, a person can make their spine go click or pop, but it lacks the intent and the direction to actually call it an adjustment, so you can’t really self adjust. And that’s pretty much all I have to say on that.

Some say that chiropractors only treat spinal disorders. Please explain why this myth is false.

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: What’s interesting to me is that if you go up to nine out of 10 people on the street and you ask them what a chiropractor does, they’re usually going to say something like they pop your back or crack your back or they’re back doctors. And really, what I preach and teach in my office is that we’re not back doctors, we’re really nerve system doctors. The bones of your spine stack up on top of each other. There are 33. They’re separated by the discs. And your spine is really designed to do three things. It affords your mobility because it’s broken up into segments, it protects your central nervous system, right? You can’t get at your brain or the spinal cord. It’s totally cased in bone. It affords you mobility, it protects the central nervous system, and the last thing it does is give your body support and hold you upright.

It does those three things and it protects your central nervous system. So, when those bones misalign, they actually irritate the nerves. Now, the nerves leave from the spinal area and they travel down the legs, they go down through the neck into the arms, but they also connect up and control your heart, your lungs, your kidneys, your spleen, and your intestines. Since your nerve system is that master system controlling all the other systems, if you have pressure on the nerves that go to the stomach, it might irritate those nerves enough where you might have indigestion. If you irritate the nerves that go to the intestines, well you might have constipation or diarrhea. If you irritate the nerves that are supposed to be telling your pancreas what to do, well, you might get difficult regulation or dysregulation in the nerve system.

So, it’s not only where the bones misalign or irritate the nerve, it’s where do those nerves go and what effect does it have on the rest of the body? So, it’s so important to understand that really, what we’re trying to affect is the nerve system, just the spine is our avenue of approach. And don’t get me wrong, I’m happy when we adjust the spine and Nancy’s neck pain goes away and Suzy’s sciatica gets better and Billy’s back feels better. But the primary reason to make those adjustments is to remove the interference or the pressure on the nerve to allow the body to return to normal communication because our nerve system is just a communication center sending messages from the brain to the body. And if you impede or stop those impulses, well then, the body doesn’t function properly.

A classic example of that, we might have even talked about this before, is a guy like Chris Reeves or someone who has a spinal cord injury and they put so much pressure on the cord that only 50% of the messages get through. Even though there’s nothing wrong with their legs, these people can’t walk because the connection isn’t there. There’s nothing wrong with their lungs, but they can’t breathe on their own because the connection isn’t there. And that connection to the body is important because that connection also runs your immune system, which allows your body to heal.

Your nerve system controls all the running and regulating. So, by improving the function of the nerve system, by correcting alignment to the spine, that’s where true health comes from and allows your body to work optimally. It’s kind of like running a computer on a DSL or a T1 line as opposed to that crappy dial up that we used to have 20 years ago.

A big myth is that once you receive chiropractic care, you have to keep going for life. How would you respond to this myth?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: I hate to tell you, Liz, but it’s not a myth. It’s one hundred percent true. You should be going and caring for your spine for the rest of your life. You brush your teeth every day, you floss every day, I hope, and you go to the dentist a couple of times a year. When is it that you’re going to stop seeing your dentist, right? You’re going to go either when of you dies or you lose all your teeth. Well, the bones of the spine have moving parts. They need to be maintained. We’ve all seen that 70 year old guy all hunched over. He didn’t just wake up one day look in the mirror and say, “Oh crud, what happened to me?” It happens slowly over time.

So, prevention and maintenance is the key. Now, the whole idea of prevention and maintenance, the dental profession got it down, right? Because you go back three generations to my great grandparents, they didn’t really take great care of their teeth. They didn’t go to a dentist unless they couldn’t bite into an apple. And subsequently, most people in that generation lost all or nearly all of their teeth at 65 or 70. And they all thought it was normal, but they just didn’t know how to care for their teeth because they didn’t go to the dentist. Now, we come down three generations, most of us aren’t losing any of our teeth because we’ve learned to care for our teeth a little bit at a time throughout the course of our lifetime.

Well, the bones of the spine are made of the same stuff. They degenerate in a similar fashion. That’s what spinal or osteoarthritis is. And the better you care for it throughout the course of your lifetime, the longer it’s going to last and the better shape it’s in. Just like my car, if I keep changing the oil and I make sure I have good pressure in the tires and I make sure the alignment’s good and I bring it to a mechanic every now and again and fix the little things, my car’s going to run great for much longer and going to get better performance. Isn’t that what you would want for your spine once we do the initial correction? So, that’s what we preach and teach here. You should be getting your spine checked for the rest of your life. Now, I’m not going to be holding a gun to your head and telling you that you have to do it. I have no power over my patients. I explain to them just like I explained to you guys, and then they make the best decisions that are right for them.

Do I wish everyone would care for their spine for the rest of their lives? Yes, because there’d be a lot less pain and suffering, a lot less sickness and disease. And that’s what I feel is important. So, I want all these things from my community, but I have to get out there and deliver that message. And that’s why me and you are on the call doing these blogs and these reports.

People think you need a referral from a medical doctor to see a chiropractor. Is this true?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: So, the only reason you would need a referral from a medical doctor to see a chiropractor is only if your health insurance company requires it, right? Anyone has access to chiropractic. We’re called what’s a portal of entry in healthcare, meaning that we’re trained in diagnosis and treatment of many things. We can recognize all kinds of things that are in our scope and things that are out of our scope of practice. So, obviously if someone comes in with a collarbone fracture, I’m not going to treat that patient, we’re sending them to the ER. So, you don’t need a referral from a medical doctor unless it’s required for your insurance carrier for payment. But, generally speaking, anyone can walk through my office and get treated whether they use insurance or not, and we keep our fees affordable. So, we’re not an insurance dependent office because we believe everyone has the right to receive chiropractic care and improve their lives from a natural health standpoint.

In chiropractic, we don’t use drugs or surgery. So, when there are things that are outside the scope of the practice, we think that you need those things, you’ll certainly be referred to a medical doctor. You do not need a medical doctor’s referral to come to a chiropractor.

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