What can chiropractors treat?

Chiropractic is a primary health-care profession that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of neuromusculoskeletal conditions that are due to mechanical dysfunction of the joints and muscles. The profession has statutory regulation through the General Chiropractic Council (GCC); it is illegal to practise as a chiropractor without being registered with the GCC. www.gcc- uk.org

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) is the largest and longest-standing association for chiropractors in the UK, requiring the highest standards of education, training and conduct from its members.


A primary health care profession with statutory regulation 


Diagnosis is reached only after proper examination and observation of the patient, including:

  • Case history
  • Physical examination
  • Standard orthopaedic and neurological tests
  • Observation of posture to assess biomechanical stresses
  • Examination of individual joints
  • X-rays (when clinically necessary)


Treatment consists of a wide range of manipulative techniques appropriate to the patient and his/her condition, designed to improve the function of the joints, relieving pain and muscle spasm. Such skilled manipulation is very specific and directed at individual joints in order to restore optimal joint and muscle function.

Patient management

BCA chiropractors support the treatment they offer with individual advice about the patient’s lifestyle, work and exercise, in order to help in managing the condition and preventing a recurrence of the problem.

X-rays may be used in the diagnostic process. Some chiropractors use other treatment modalities, eg ultrasound and interferential, soft tissue or massage techniques and many incorporate functional rehabilitation exercises.

Conditions suitable for treatment

95% of back pain is mechanical in origin, and can be treated by a chiropractor – with full responsibility for the patient – in a primary care setting. However, a letter of referral from the patient’s GP, together with details of any previous investigations, treatment or X-ray findings, is helpful, and a report from the chiropractor will follow. Chiropractors treat patients from newborn to the elderly and conditions suitable for chiropractic treatment include:

  • Neck pain due to posterior joint and ligament strain with referred pain or paraesthesia. This might involve nerve root irritation which could be discogenic or related to degenerative spondylosis.
  • Migraine of cervicogenic origin.
  • Tension headaches due to dysfunction of the upper cervical spine and muscle spasm.
  • Thoracic spine pain with involvement of the costo-vertebral joints which might also affect other body systems.
  • Disc herniation with nerve root involvement, tension signs and even mild neurological deficits.
  • Low back pain due to facet and sacro-iliac irritation, muscle strain, ligament sprainswith associated muscle spasm and referred pain which might also affect other body systems.
  • Nerve root irritation due to lateral spinal canal stenosis with degenerative changes,and even when there are signs of neurogenic claudication.
  • Peripheral joint problems such as shoulder capsulitis and rotator cuff tendonitis,medial/lateral epicondylitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions present as local problems but can involve the cervical spine and may benefit from treatment of both areas.
  • Knee ligament sprains and mild meniscal tears.
  • Ankle injuries.
  • Dysfunction of the joints of the hands and feet.Reproduced with permission. 2011 © British Chiropractic Association. All rights reserved.