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Edmonton Chiropractor: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Chiropractic icon_with_question_mark_hi.JPG

We love sharing information about Chiropractic and the many health benefits it can offer you and your family.  Please contact one of our friendly staff members if you feel you have any questions that are not answered below.  Phone 780.482.2738 or e-mail us.

Public Outreach Talks

Dr. Collins is also available to give talks to community organizations, groups, or businesses on subjects such as how to improve human health and performance, the consequences of long term STRESS, and ergonomics.  If you are involved with an organization or business and are interested in scheduling Dr. Collins for a talk, please contact us.  We would be happy to discuss what health topics would be relevant to you and your organization.

What happens during a Chiropractic treatment?

Do the adjustments hurt?

Are the adjustments safe?

Are neck adjustments safe? I am worried about getting a stroke from a neck adjustment.

Why would a neck adjustment have an effect on anything other than neck pain or headache?

Are all neck adjustment techniques equally safe?

How much education and training do chiropractors have?

Are Chiropractors "real" doctors?

Do I need a referral from my MD to see a Chiropractor?

What is the activator?

How many adjustments will I need? How often should I have an adjustment?

Why should I continue with Chiropractic care if I'm feeling better?

If I go to a Chiropractor will I  become addicted and always have to go?

Is it safe for pregnant patients to have chiropractic care?

Why would a newborn get chiropractic adjustments?

Are Chiropractors trained to treat children?

Is it safe to "crack" my own back?

Is Chiropractic care covered by Alberta Health Care?

Is Physiotherapy and Chiropractic the same? 



What happens during a Chiropractic treatment?

Regular treatments begin after doing a thorough consultation and examination and with the patient's consent.  Depending on the circumstance, treatments begin at the end of the first visit or the second visit. 

Primarily, chiropractors use a hands-on approach by giving patients Chiropractic adjustments.  Light or deep pressure/force is applied to specific bones of the spine in a precise direction to correct subluxations (nerve interference and spinal misalignment).  In other words, the adjustment reestablishes mobility and alignment to the spine to optimize the function of the nervous system. 

Chiropractors learn and use a variety of adjusting techniques so that they can perform safe and specific adjustments tailored to the patient's age, condition, and comfort level.  Some techniques involve the use of mechanical adjusting instruments like the activator or the arthrostim. 

In addition to adjustments, chiropractors also help patients with nutrition, lifestyle and exercise.

A chiropractor will not prescribe drugs or recommend surgery.


Do the adjustments hurt?

It is rare to feel pain during the adjustment.  If the patient tenses up and is not relaxed during the adjustment, resistance can build up and sometimes that can create brief and temporary pain.  If there is a lot of swelling with an acute injury, sometimes the adjustments can be painful.  Most people feel an amazing sense of relief and well-being after an adjustment.

On the rare occasion, there are people that get sore after adjustments.  When muscles and ligaments are stiff and have scar tissue adhesions, the adjustments can stretch these tissues, breaking the adhesions up and creating swelling.  This is sometimes necessary in order to create better spinal alignment and mobility.

The "popping" or "cracking" sound that is often heard with manual hand-on techniques is caused by a change of pressure within the spinal joints resulting in gas bubbles being released.  It is normal to feel this and is not painful.  Some patient are still uncomfortable with the sound this type of adjustment makes.  In these cases, we simply change the adjusting technique so the patient is more comfortable and relaxed. 


Are the adjustments safe?

Chiropractic care has been considered one of the safest and most effective forms of health care in the world.  The World Health Organization states that, "When employed skillfully and appropriately, chiropractic care is safe and effective for the prevention and management of a number of health problems."  Three prominent studies, The Manga Report, The Agency on Health Care Policy and Research Study, and The New Zealand Commission Report, have all reported that Chiropractic is overwhelmingly safe and effective.  Click here for summary of studies


Chiropractic adjustments are a drug-free, non-invasive approach to help people improve and maximize their health potential.  As such, it is a low risk therapy. Complications arising from adjustments are rare.


Are neck adjustments safe? I am worried about getting a stroke from a neck adjustment.

Yes, it is. Millions of neck adjustments are performed safely and effectively every year in Canada. Neck adjustment is performed well within the normal turning range of the head. There is less movement that it takes to look over your shoulder.

One of the most recent studies into the safety of neck adjustment further confirms the safety of this procedure1.  This particular study, conducted in 2007, looked at over 19,000 chiropractic patients and tracked more than 50,000 neck adjustments. It found no instances of serious adverse effects. By way of comparison, neck adjustments are significantly safer than other commonly used health remedies. For example, long-term use of non-prescription pain relievers carries a far greater risk of serious complications than neck adjustments2.

Another study found that patients who visit a chiropractor are no more likely to experience a stroke than are patients who visit their family physician3. The study concludes that this type of stroke commonly begins with neck pain and/or headache which causes the patient to seek care from their chiropractor or family physician before the stroke fully develops.

This type of stroke is extremely rare and has been known to occur spontaneously. Research continues as to why in very rare cases, some people are susceptible when most of us are not.

Most patients experience immediate relief following an adjustment, however, some may experience temporary soreness, stiffness or slight swelling. In rare situations, patients may experience symptoms such as dizziness, local numbness, or radiating pain. If this happens to you, it is important to tell your chiropractor who can help you manage any effects of treatment.

Your chiropractor will do a detailed history and examination.  If there is any indication that you would be at risk, your chiropractor will not include neck adjustments in your treatment.

1. Safety of Chiropractic Manipulation of the Cervical Spine: a prospective national survey. Thiel HW, Spine, October 1, 2007, 32:21.    
2. American College of Gastroenterology
3. Risk of Vertebrobasilar Stroke and Chiropractic Care. Cassidy JD. et al. Spine, February 15, 2008, Volume 33, Issue 4S Supplement.


Why would a neck adjustment have an effect on anything other than neck pain or headache?


Pain or discomfort in one area of the body may be linked functionally to discomfort arising from another area. That is why treating a problem in one part of the body may relieve symptoms in another part. If you look at a model of the spine, you can see that the spine is an interconnected structure. Adjustment at various points along the structure may be needed to help reduce stress on other parts of the spine and relieve discomfort.

As well, the neck region of the spine has the most concentration of nerve fibers that are responsible, when moved with an adjustment and exercise, to "feed" the brain so it coordinate activities such as concentration and learning, emotions, motor control, and organ function (including immune organs).

1.Schmahmann, J. The Cerebellum and Cognition. Int Rev Neurobiology Vol 41
2.Chestnut, J.L. "The 14 Foundational Premises for the Scientific and Philosophical Validation of the Chiropractic Wellness Paradigm" 2002


Are all neck adjustment techniques equally safe?

Chiropractors are taught a variety of adjustment techniques and there is no evidence to suggest that any of these techniques is less safe than the others. Chiropractic techniques that are applied appropriately are effective and safe.


How much education and training do chiropractors have?

A minimum of 7 years comprising of at least 3 years of undergraduate university study and 4 years at an accredited chiropractic college.

Chiropractors are doctors so it will come as no surprise that the training and education is very rigorous and demanding.  Chiropractors must have the above requirements with no less than 4500 hours of classroom and clinical instruction at an institution approved by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCEC).  These hours work out to the same and in some cases more than becoming a general physician.  In addition to classroom hours, students must treat patients in a supervised clinic setting during their last year of education.

For a chiropractor to practice in Alberta, they must graduate from an accredited chiropractic college and pass stringent national and provincial board examinations. Chiropractors participate in annual practice reviews and an ongoing competence program to ensure they remain up-to-date with treatment protocols, clinical competency and professional knowledge.

For more information about what kind of courses and training chiropractors take, click here.   


Are Chiropractors "real" doctors?

Yes. Only health care providers, like chiropractors, who are regulated under Alberta's Health Professions Act are legally permitted to call themselves doctors.  All primary health professionals with the right and duty to diagnose can use the title of "Doctor".  Chiropractors fall under this umbrella and you do not require a referral from a medical doctor.  Others include dentists, physicians, optometrists, osteopaths, podiatrists, naturopaths, and psychologists.

Do I need a referral from my MD to see a Chiropractor?
No.  All primary health professionals with the right and duty to diagnose can use the title of "Doctor".  Chiropractors fall under this umbrella and you do not require a referral from a medical doctor.

What is the activator?

The activator is a mechanical adjusting instrument used on newborns and infants, people with osteoporosis, and people that prefer a lighter, low force adjustment.


How many adjustments will I need? How often should I have an adjustment?

The number and frequency of adjustments vary from patient to patient depending on the severity of the problem and how quickly you respond to care.  In most cases, Chiropractors see patients more frequently in the beginning of care to gain the momentum necessary to "peel" away the layers of accumulated damage to your spine and to retrain your nervous system to work properly.  As your spine becomes better aligned and more mobile and your nervous system functions better, the frequency of visits decreases.  Your chiropractor will work with you to come up with a recommended program of care based on your needs and health goals.

Even if you don't feel like you are having problems, the health of your spine and nervous system should be checked regularly like your teeth.  Subluxations (nerve interference and spinal misalignment), like cavities, can be present long before back pain or other symptoms appear.  Regular Chiropractic care (Wellness Care) over your lifetime is always recommended to keep your spine and nervous system healthy…so you stay healthy.  

Why should I continue with Chiropractic care if I'm feeling better?

Many people choose to continue with Chiropractic care after completing the recommended program of care.  Continued care, after your feeling better, helps support the final stages of healing so your spine and nervous system are working at peak performance.  It also helps detect and correct new problems that may arise before they become serious.

If I go to a Chiropractor will I  become addicted and always have to go?

No.  Being addicted means somebody is enslaved or controlled by a habit.  People that use Chiropractic regularly to function and perform better and keep well aren't enslaved by it, but make a conscious decision to keep doing it…meaning they are in control and not controlled by Chiropractic.  This type of person is on a wellness journey and is usually the type of person that also eats well, takes nutritional supplements, exercises regularly, and is a positive person that has a zest for life.  They feel and function so much better with regular Chiropractic care that they CHOOSE to fit it into their health regimen and their family's health regimen.  One could argue that anything can become an addiction and if people want to label Chiropractic as addicting so be it.  Having a healthy addiction is better than an unhealthy addiction.  Also, there are some patients that choose not to get adjusted regularly and use it primarily for relieving discomfort only as opposed to getting well and staying well.  Getting adjusted, no matter how many times, is healthier and safer than masking symptoms with drugs.

Is it safe for pregnant patients to have chiropractic care?

Yes. Pregnancy may be one of the best times to benefit from chiropractic care. While it's always best to have a properly working nervous system, it's especially helpful during pregnancy. Adjusting methods are modified to a mother's size, weight and condition.  During this time of weight gain and hormonal changes, many mothers seek chiropractic care because it is drug free.  Many report shorter and easier births.

Chiropractors usually have tables that can be adjusted so pregnant patients in their second to third trimester can lie face down.  Chiropractors trained in pediatrics usually are certified in the Webster's technique which is a specific chiropractic adjustment for pregnant mothers to help relieve intrauterine constraint so their baby can turn into the healthier vertex (upside down) position to prepare for birth.

Why would a newborn get chiropractic adjustments?

Adjustments help alleviate spinal subluxations (nerve interference and spinal misalignment) caused by intrauterine constraint, abnormal positioning in the uterus, and spinal distress from the journey through the birth canal or during the delivery process itself.  Ideally, babies should be checked and adjusted as soon as possible after birth.

It is important to note that 65 percent of neurological development (i.e. development of the brain and nervous system) occurs in your child's first year. It is therefore imperative to ensure your baby has every opportunity to maximize his or her nerve function during this critical period. Having your child checked and adjusted regularly gives them the best opportunity to develop and function optimally physically and mentally.  

Even today's "natural" childbirth methods can stress an infant's spine. Colic, poor appetite, ear infections or erratic sleeping habits may be signs of spinal distress from the birth process. Pediatric adjustments are gentle. Knowing exactly where to adjust, the amount of pressure applied is no more than you'd use to test the ripeness of a tomato.  Chiropractors also use low force mechanical adjusting instruments like the activator to adjust a baby's spine.

See our Chiropractic Care for Children section for more details.


Are Chiropractors trained to treat children?

Yes.  Chiropractors take Pediatric courses as part of their curriculum in Chiropractic College.   Some Chiropractors also take Pediatric courses for continuing education once they have graduated.  During their education they learn how to assess and adjust children of different sizes in a gentle manner.

Childhood is a very active stage of life.  The normal childhood activities of jumping, falling, and running can cause subluxations (spinal misalignments and nerve interference).  Often these subluxations are painless and can cause health problems if left uncorrected.  Sitting at a desk or computer, gymnastics, dance and other sporting activities also put stress on the spine.  Having your child's spine checked by a Chiropractor regularly can help detect and correct subluxations early so they are more resistant to headaches, colds and flus, ear infections, allergies, stomach aches, bed wetting, growing pains and other common childhood ailments.  Chiropractic adjustments can also help with proper brain and nerve development and mental and emotional issues such as ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, concentration, sleep problems, and anxiety.   

See our Chiropractic Care for Children section more details.


Is it safe to "crack" my own back?

Some people feel the need to "crack" or "pop" their neck or back to relieve the tension they feel.  Often the tension they feel is because a bone in their spine is subluxated (spinal misalignment and nerve interference) and they will have associated muscle tension.  When the bone is out of alignment and "stuck" the bones above and below can compensate and move too much causing this "cracking" or "popping".  Having your Chiropractor adjust the subluxation can free up the "stuck" bone allowing the spine to stabilize and return to its normal balanced state.   Even Chiropractors see their colleagues regularly to get their spines adjusted to help stay healthy.


Is Chiropractic care covered by Alberta Health Care?

No.  Due to government cutbacks Alberta Health Care no longer covers Chiropractic.  As a result, more options are available through extended health care insurance plans.


Is Physiotherapy and Chiropractic the same?

No.  Physiotherapists are focused on treating specific conditions and on rehabilitation exercises for that condition.  This is a reductionistic model of health.  Although many people seek us out initially for a specific condition, Chiropractors, as mentioned previously, correct subluxations via the adjustment to stimulate the nervous system and innate healing powers of the body to heal itself and function better as a WHOLE.  This is a vitalistic and wholistic model of health.  One of the great vitalistic and wholistic definitions of health is when all of the cells of our body are working in HARMONY with each other.  The chiropractic adjustment helps the cells in your body work in harmony with each other.  Being an expert in spinal adjustments for the above reason is what sets Chiropractic and Physiotherapy apart.

In saying all of this, there are similarities in some of the treatment approaches used with patients.  There are some Chiropractors that use modalities such as ultrasound therapy, electrotherapy, laser therapy, traction, soft tissue techniques, heat and ice, foot orthotics, rehabilitative exercises.  And there are some Physiotherapists that claim they do the same thing as Chiropractors by "manipulating" the spine.  But I want to stress that manipulation is different than adjusting the spine.  Manipulation differs from an adjustment as it does not imply the use of precision, specificity or the correction of spinal nerve interference. And their training for doing such maneuvers is minimal.

Other Differences:

  1. Physiotherapists, at present time, are not licensed to diagnose (therefore not able to use the title doctor).
  2. Physiotherapists are not able to take or read x-rays.
  3. Physiotherapists are not able to perform joint manipulation (unless they have taken post graduate work).

Most Physiotherapists and Chiropractors are willing to work together for the benefit of their patients.