Chiropractic is a health profession specialising in the diagnosis, treatment and
prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the effects of
these disorders on the functioning of the nervous system and general health.
Chiropractic practitioners essentially rely upon non-invasive treatment methods and
will refer patients to medical practitioners should medication or surgery be indicated.
This approach is further reinforced by chiropractors in their promotion of healthy
lifestyles such as the avoidance of smoking and excess stress, proper diet and
Chiropractic education and training is extensive and in South Africa a Master’s
Degree in Chiropractic is awarded after a six year program.
Primary conditions treated
Back pain, neck pain and headaches are extremely common and can be very
debilitating symptoms. They are also the primary reason patients seek chiropractic
care. The distinguishing features of chiropractic care that has allowed for having
patient and public acceptance has been the ability to provide a readily available,
caring and sympathetic, low cost, low risk, non-invasive and natural healing approach
to relieving symptoms of back pain, neck pain and certain types of headache.
The basic treatment offered by chiropractors is relatively quick and inexpensive. In
South Africa the majority of medical schemes make provision for reimbursement of
chiropractic services. The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act
provides for complete reimbursement of cases treated by registered chiropractors.
The typical use of chiropractic care by knowledgeable patients is to seek care during
flare-ups of pain and limiting the care to a few treatments per episode. Using this
level of restraint, chiropractic care is less expensive than other treatment options
where a series of examinations, medication and diagnostic procedures are often
Cost effective care
Considering the high costs of medical care in the case of back related problems,
more often resulting in extensive diagnostic procedures, medication, surgery and
hospitalisation, it makes economical sense to encourage patients to seek a more cost
effective route which could save medical schemes millions of rands annually.
It is interesting to note that the Ministry of Health in Ontario, Canada, commissioned
a study by three health economists led by Professor Pran Manga to investigate the
cost of back related problems to the province. The 216-page report listed several
findings that could save Ontario billions of dollars (approximately $7 billion) annually
by utilising chiropractic services. Professor Manga stated, "There is an overwhelming
body of evidence indicating that chiropractic management of low-back pain is more
cost effective than medical management".
Lower back pain
Low back pain has reached epidemic proportions in virtually all industrialised nations
and is ranked second only to headaches as the most frequently reported cause of
pain. The results of several studies indicate that up to 90% of all people will
experience back pain at some stage of their lives and treatment has, in turn, become
the single biggest headache for the medical profession. The British orthopedic
surgeon Gordon Waddel, in his acclaimed new text "The Back Pain Revolution", states
that back pain is a 20th century medical disaster.
In national health care systems throughout the world back pain is common, poorly
managed and very expensive in terms of both direct treatment costs as well as the
indirect costs of disability and lost productivity.
Several professions share the responsibility of healthcare and each should be
considered equally in respect of the service rendered. Chiropractic fulfils a vital role in
healthcare and can substantially contribute to healthcare at an effective and cost-