Chiropractic is a hands-on complementary therapy that aims to help your body heal itself. Chiropractors adjust or manipulate your spine to treat conditions of the nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments).
A chiropractor can’t prescribe drugs or perform surgery, but they can do many of the other things that doctors do. For example, they can:
- examine you
- diagnose health conditions
- develop an individual treatment plan
The main type of chiropractic treatment is called an adjustment or manipulation. Chiropractors realign your joints and spine by putting varying amounts of pressure on these areas, using their hands or special instruments.
They also stretch sore muscles, which can lessen spasm around joints.
Chiropractors treat many different conditions, including:
- low back and neck pain
- joint pain, including arthritis
- muscle injuries
People with different types of arthritis may benefit from a chiropractor’s care. This treatment can help to:
- relieve soreness
- prevent muscle spasms
- realign joints to help them work better
- improve movement
Whether it can help specifically for psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is less clear. More research needs to be done on this topic.
And, of course, chiropractic manipulation shouldn’t be the main treatment for arthritis. It’s intended as an addition to traditional therapies that relieve symptoms and put the disease into remission, including:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- biologics and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- prescription pain medications, such as gabapentin, pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta)
Your first visit with a chiropractor should be similar to your first visit with a medical doctor. The chiropractor will ask about your medical history and arthritis symptoms. Then they’ll perform an exam.
The chiropractor will examine the areas of your spine that are causing you trouble, like your neck. They may run you through tests to check your range of motion, muscle strength, and reflexes. They may also send you for X-rays of your spine.
After all these tests are complete, the chiropractor will give you a treatment plan to help meet your goals — for example, to relieve pain.
During each treatment, your chiropractor will use thrusting motions to adjust and align specific joints, such as those in your:
Usually, you’ll have a series of adjustments, each one spaced a few days apart. You’ll see your chiropractor for a few weeks until your pain and function improve.
Chiropractors also use other types of therapies that don’t involve manipulation, including:
- heat or ice
- electrical stimulation
- advice on diet and weight loss
Chiropractic care is helpful for pain, but it doesn’t seem to improve long-term function. In the past, doctors weren’t sold on the benefits of chiropractic care for arthritis. That opinion has started to change.
In a 2013 study, patient education plus chiropractic treatments twice per week for 6 weeks were more effective for hip OA than daily stretching or education alone.
Whether chiropractic helps people with PsA is less clear. There isn’t any research to show that it works.
It’s OK to try chiropractic treatment, but avoid getting adjustments when you’re experiencing a flare. This treatment isn’t recommended for people who have active inflammation because it could cause injury.
Chiropractic also isn’t a good idea for anyone with arthritis or osteoporosis of the neck.
Osteoporosis weakens bones, making them more likely to fracture under pressure. If arthritis is present in the cervical spine, there is a risk of spinal cord injury with forceful manipulation.
Before you try chiropractic or any other new treatment, check with the doctor who treats your arthritis. Be wary of any chiropractor who claims they can treat or “cure” your arthritis. They can’t.
Look for a chiropractor who uses a variety of techniques. You can find a reputable chiropractor in your area on the American Chiropractic Association website.
If you don’t feel any better after 4 to 10 sessions, this treatment probably isn’t going to help you. Either switch to another chiropractor or try a different treatment.