Frequently Asked Questions About Chiropractic

Here are some of the most common questions we are asked about Chiropractic. The answers we’ve provided for you below have been provided by The British Chiropractic Association and General Chiropractic Council.

The word “Chiropractic” is taken from two Greek words and literally means “manual practice”; or, in other words, treatment by manipulation.
Chiropractic is an independent branch of health care that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the joints, particularly those of the spine. X-rays are sometimes used in the diagnosis and a Chiropractor carries out treatment by specific manipulation and other treatment techniques.  Drugs and surgery are not used.

No. It is illegal for anyone in the UK to use the title ‘Chiropractor’ or to imply that they are a Chiropractor unless they are registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).

By law, the GCC must

  • check those who apply for registration to make sure that they have a Chiropractic qualification, are of good character and are physically and mentally fit
  • set and monitor standards of education and training
  • set standards of practice and conduct
  • deal with any complaints about the conduct or practice of Chiropractors.
Chiropractors are mainly involved in the treatment of common musculoskeletal complaints. About half of all patients who consult a Chiropractor do so because of lower back pain.

During the first consultation a full case history is taken. As well as asking details about your principal disorder, your Chiropractor will want to know details of your past medical history. He/she will examine carefully the area that is giving you trouble and other areas that are relevant. His/her examination will vary according to your particular problem, and may consider X-ray examination if visual information is needed.  X-ray examination is actually usually unnecessary. We may ask for other diagnostic tests like ultrasound scans, MRI scans, and may also refer you to other professionals, for tests or future management.

Following your examination a full explanation of your problem a treatment regime proposal will be discussed. Occasionally, you may be advised to return to your GP or Consultant.  We can refer you directly to a Consultant, for privately funded appointments.  Most Insurance companies require a GP referral for Consultant appointment.

Treatment will be appropriate to your age and condition and may be manipulation of joints, massage, therapeutic ultrasound and or laser, exercise and lifestyle advice. It is a myth that Chiropractors only manipulate joints and have extensive training at undergraduate and postgraduate level in appropriate treatments for mechanical spinal and muscle/joint pain and dysfunction.

Visit our ‘What to Expect’ page for further information.

The number of treatments varies considerably. Results of a survey show that a patient with low-back pain attends a chiropractor, on average, for eight treatments. This varies considerably and may be greater in number, especially in chronic cases, or less in others.

Some patients feel energetic following treatment and others feel extreme relaxation or tiredness due to the sudden release of muscular tension.  Various forms of treatment may have differing effects on you.  Most are painless or only mildly uncomfortable.  Some techniques may be more uncomfortable or painful.  Rehabilitation Exercises often cause muscle and joint pain whilst the area being treated.  Manipulation can cause temporary pain and structures away from the area of treatment occasionally ache for a while.  This is often to do with postural changes as your bodys’ mechanics are being adjusted.  There is a very rare risk of stroke that has been associated with upper neck manipulation.  Evidence for and against this is still controversial.

Patients seldom get better at a constant rate, so it is not unusual for a patient who has been getting better to suffer a temporary relapse before treatment continues again.
Some patients who improve slowly to begin with suddenly reach a stage where they improve rapidly. Others who improve quickly to begin with may take longer to recover fully.
Following a course of treatment, some patients request an occasional check-up to make sure they maintain their improvement.
Some patients who do not benefit are those who expect immediate improvement and failing to respond at once, discontinue treatment. The chances of improvement are always helped by following your chiropractor’s advice.

Most patients consult a Chiropractor directly, usually after personal recommendation. In recent years, general practitioners have increasingly been referring patients for chiropractic treatment. Even so, many GPs are not aware of the GMC guidelines and others remain poorly informed about chiropractic. Homewood Chiropractic treated NHS patients for 12 years from three Health Authority areas.   Funding changes to the NHS have now removed this benefit.

In most countries, Chiropractors are better known and more numerous than Osteopaths. Their forms of treatment have similarities, but there are important differences.

Chiropractors use high velocity and low amplitude thrusts to mobilise joints in a specific direction, and Osteopaths tend to use long lever manipulation. Some  practitioners use conventional electrotherapy equipment like ultrasound and laser as additional treatment modalities. Both professions use accompanying soft tissue techniques including exercise and stretching, as well as a broad spectrum of lifestyle advice.

Chiropractors use X-rays about five times more frequently than Osteopaths and also make fuller use of other diagnostic tests. Differences in theory are mostly historical: early Osteopaths believed that the effect of their treatment was on the blood circulation; whereas chiropractors emphasised the role of the nervous system. Research is more and more demonstrating, both are correct. Both strive to help the musculoskeletal system work as effectively as possible.

It is probably true to say that the practical differences have become fewer over the years and both professions suffer from misconceptions about their counterpart’s work.

Your Chiropractor will only recommend that an x-ray be taken if there is a valid clinical reason for doing so. Like all health professionals, Chiropractors must comply with the legislation that governs the use of x-rays – the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2000. If you are offered X-rays as part of a special offer, please think carefully about accepting, X-rays should NEVER be used routinely.

Patients are asked to note that any x-rays or other medical images taken or ordered by a Chiropractor must be retained by the Chiropractor as part of your health record for a period of 8 years after the date of your last visit. This is one of the legal requirements of the Code of Practice published by the General Chiropractic Council, which is the statutory regulator for Chiropractors in the United Kingdom.

There may be occasions when you want another health professional to look at your x-rays or other medical images. In these circumstances your Chiropractor will be willing to release them to you or (with your consent) to your health professional of choice, a CD copy can be made available to you for a nominal charge.

Under the Data Protection Act, you are entitled to a copy of your health record, including any x-rays or other medical images, and your Chiropractor may make a reasonable charge for the copy. The maximum charge that can be made is £50.

Do please ask your Chiropractor if you have any questions about the information set out in this notice.

For a free copy of the Code of Practice please telephone 0845 601 1796 or visit

(Issued by the General Chiropractic Council, September 2005 (updated February 2006)

It is always worth asking your GP, your local Primary Care Trust or Health Board if NHS funding is available for chiropractic. As yet, it is not widespread even though Chiropractic care is included in the Musculoskeletal Services Framework published by the Department of Health. There is also a pilot scheme in Northern  that includes funding for chiropractic. Perhaps what is needed now is the application of ‘patient power’ so that the choice of Chiropractic care is open to more of those who can benefit from it. Recent NHS trials in Hampshire using a variety of professions to treat musculoskelteal conditions seem to be being brought to an end.

Chiropractors sometimes use the traditional honorary title of Dr of Chiropractic.  They do not hold medical qualifications unless stated separately.

Homewood Chiropractic Clinic in Fareham, Southampton


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