Chiropractors and chiropractic treatment
- A chiropractor is an allied health professional. They offer treatment for conditions affecting your muscles and bones (musculoskeletal system).
- Chiropractors use therapies, such as chiropractic manipulation and massage, to treat and prevent musculoskeletal problems. They often also provide lifestyle advice and guidance on ergonomics and how you move.
- Chiropractors are nationally registered healthcare workers and can form part of your allied health team.
- Depending on your health condition, your GP may recommend that a team of healthcare workers treat you.
- Before a chiropractor treats you, ask them what to expect from treatment. Also ask them about the treatment’s potential benefits and risks, and how many sessions you will likely need.
What is a chiropractor?
A chiropractor is an allied health professional who offers treatment for muscles and bones conditions. Chiropractic treatment can include:
- chiropractic manipulation
- ergonomic advice (for example, guidance on how to set up your workstation)
Chiropractors are nationally registered allied healthcare workers. They can form part of your allied healthcare team, alongside physiotherapists or occupational therapists. Chiropractors are not medical doctors.
What conditions do chiropractors treat?
Chiropractors offer treatment for a range of conditions, including low back pain, migraine headaches and neck pain.
Are chiropractic treatments effective?
The effectiveness of any chiropractic treatment is based on many factors. These include the condition you are diagnosed with and your health status. For most health conditions, it is best to see your GP for a comprehensive diagnosis before starting a treatment program.
Large studies have shown mixed results on how well chiropractic treatment works. Low back pain has been shown to respond to chiropractic treatment. It may help to reduce pain and disability in the short term and reduce pain in the medium term.
While some people use chiropractic therapy as a way to treat their migraines, no rigorous evidence shows that it is effective.
The scientific evidence on the role of chiropractic treatment to treat neck pain is inconclusive.
Do I need a referral for a chiropractor?
Many chiropractors will treat people privately, without a referral. But if you have a chronic health condition that has been diagnosed by a GP, you may be eligible for Medicare-funded chiropractic sessions.
Your GP can work with you to develop a chronic-disease-management plan for you. They can also refer you to a chiropractor (as part of a team of healthcare workers) for up to 5 visits.
What can I expect during a chiropractic session?
Chiropractors use therapies, such as manipulation and massage to prevent and treat problems with the musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones). Chiropractors often also provide lifestyle advice. They can guide you on ergonomics and how you move. Many chiropractors support wellness and prevention approaches.
Your chiropractor may also refer you to another healthcare practitioner if they are better suited to treat your condition.
What should I ask my chiropractor?
Before your appointment with a chiropractor, you may like to ask some of the following questions:
- Why do you recommend this treatment? What are the potential benefits of this treatment?
- What are the potential risks or side effects associated with this treatment?
- What is the evidence for its effectiveness?
- How long will my treatment take? How many sessions will I need?
- Should I discuss this treatment plan with my doctor first?
It is also important to let your chiropractor know of any medical condition that may affect your treatment or put you at higher risk of side effects from spinal manipulation.
You may be more at risk of having complications if you have:
- a medical condition that affects your bones and joints, such as osteoporosis, arthritis or hypermobility (extra stretchy joints)
- medicines and conditions that increase your risk of bleeding
- medicines and conditions that weaken the skin
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.
Where do I find a registered chiropractor?
All chiropractors must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA). They must be qualified, have insurance and take courses to continue their education.
You can check if your chiropractor is registered or make a complaint about a chiropractor on the AHPRA website.
Use the healthdirect Service Finder tool to find a registered chiropractor near you:
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
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Last reviewed: May 2022