How to Know if You Need a Chiropractor

5 reasons why you should book that appointment with your local chiro

Credit: iStock/lisafx


Chiropractors are trained to manipulate the spine and treat a multitude of conditions

There are over 6,500 practicing chiropractors in Canada, but how do you know if you really need to see one?

Chiropractors are doctors who specialize in musculoskeletal health.

They are primarily back care specialists trained to assess and manipulate the spine and surrounding joints and tissues, but are also qualified to treat a wide range of conditions from back spasms to sports-related tissue damage to migraine headaches and even discomfort and pain associated with pregnancy.

Aside from traditional chiropractic adjustments, a good chiropractor will employ a number of different techniques and non-invasive therapies including therapeutic exercise prescription, laser therapy, and soft tissue therapy known as Active Release Techniques (ART).

According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association there are over 6,500 practicing chiropractors in Canada with about 4.5 million Canadians using their services each year.

How do you know if you should see a chiropractor to treat an injury, alleviate discomfort, or maintain overall health? The following list will help steer you in the right direction when you’re not sure where to turn.

1. Joint Pain

(Image: Flickr/Randen Pederson)

According to the BC Chiropractic Association, back pain is one of the leading causes of missed work days and visits to a health care provider. The first health care provider that often comes to mind in association with back pain relief is a chiropractor.

Chiropractors are back pain experts and employ a number of techniques, usually starting with manual manipulation of the vertebrae, to realign the spine and reduce pain. But their advanced knowledge of the skeletal and muscular systems can be used throughout the body to treat any joints experiencing pain from the knees to the shoulders to the feet and ankles.

2. Migraines and Headaches

(Image: Flickr/Sasha Wolff)

Although a number of triggers are recognized, the exact cause of migraine headaches isn’t fully understood. But sufferers know the onset of a migraine can result in hours or even days of excruciating pain, lost wages, and missing out on regular daily activities.

A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulation improves migraine headaches, and researchers at the Northwestern College of Chiropractic found that chiropractic adjustment was as effective at treating migraines as a commonly used drug called amitriptyline.

3. Sports Injuries

Image: (Flickr/johnthescone)

Whether a professional athlete, recreational sports enthusiast, or weekend warrior, the demands of intense physical activity inevitably result in the occasional injury.

Podiatrist Dr. Robert Duggan recommends laser therapy – which is often administered by a chiropractic doctor – for plantar fasciitis, a common running injury. And as CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favro reported, the Toronto Raptors have benefitted from treatment with laser therapy as well.

Another therapy widely used by chiropractors is the soft tissue therapy called Active Release Techniques, or ART, that treats issues with the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. University of Calgary researcher Dr. Conrad Tang is studying ART’s ability to treat long-standing injuries, like chronic knee pain. ART is also the official Soft Tissue Massage partner of the grueling Ironman triathlon.

4. Pregnancy

(Image: Flickr/mahalie stackpole)

According to Health Canada, an average healthy weight gain during pregnancy is about 30 pounds. This additional weight (or more, in some cases) places stress on the feet, ankles, knees and back – from the increased curve in the lower back due to the weight of the growing belly to a pronounced hunch in the upper back in response to the increasing weight of the breasts. Changes can also occur in the pelvis during pregnancy and a misaligned pelvis can make delivery difficult.

A chiropractor can treat the pain and discomfort associated with pregnancy through spinal adjustment, therapeutic exercises and stretches, and soft tissue therapy. A study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that the soft tissue therapy ART was effective as part of a treatment plan to alleviate groin pain during pregnancy, and researchers at the University of Sheffield have shown an improvement in pregnancy-related lower back pain through chiropractic treatment. 

5. Motor Vehicle Accident-related Injuries

(Image: Flickr/Cha Già José)

Whiplash describes the injuries sustained after a rapid succession of flexion and extension of the neck and head, which often occurs during a motor vehicle accident (MVA). Whiplash or other MVA-related injuries can include pain in the neck and jaw, numbness, headache, impaired vision, ringing in the ears, and upper back pain.

A team of Canadian researchers has shown that chiropractic care is effective at treating whiplash. A chiropractor can help manage pain and improve mobility by administering soft tissue therapy like ART, spinal adjustment treatments, and prescription of exercises for the neck and upper back. ART is useful in treating whiplash because it is able to break up scar tissue, or adhesions, and spinal adjustments work to realign the vertebrae that were disrupted by the accident.

Where to Find a Chiropractor

To find the best chiropractor for you, start by asking friends and family for a referral to their own chiropractor.

Otherwise, search for BC or Vancouver chiropractors through local associations like the BC Chiropractic Association or the Canadian Chiropractic Association.