There is statutory regulation of chiropractic in the UK.
Chiropractic is one of two complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) that operate under statutory regulation. The other is osteopathy.
Statutory regulation of chiropractic works in the same way as regulation for conventional medical doctors.
This means it is illegal to practise chiropractic or call yourself a chiropractor unless you are registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).
The GCC only accepts registration from practitioners who have certain qualifications in chiropractic and who agree to comply with their code of practice.
Regulation aims to protect patient safety, by setting and monitoring standards of training, practice and conduct. It does not mean that there is scientific evidence that the treatment provided is effective.
Chiropractors in the UK must adhere to standards of practice laid down by the GCC. If you use a chiropractor and they do not adhere to this standard of practice you can complain to the GCC, which has a duty to investigate the complaint.
You can read more about the qualifications required of chiropractors and the code of practice they must adhere to at the General Chiropractic Council website. You can also use this website to find a registered practitioner.
Never use an unregistered practitioner.
Minor adverse effects after spinal manipulation are reported in up to 60% of patients. The most commonly reported adverse effects are:
These effects usually develop within four hours of a session and typically resolve themselves within 24 hours.
Serious complications that have been linked to spinal manipulation include tearing of an artery wall leading to stroke, injury to the spinal column leading to paralysis, and build-up of blood between the skull and the outer layers of the brain, which can result in coma or death. These events usually occurred after spinal manipulation involving the neck. Some of these events may have occurred due to a pre-existing health condition, and not the spinal manipulation itself.
These more serious complications of spinal manipulation are rare. Estimates of the rates of serious complications range widely, from 1 in tens of thousands to one in millions.
The use of chiropractic is not recommended in cases where there is an increased risk of damage to the spine or other bones, or the nerves.
This means that people with certain health conditions may not be able to have chiropractic. They include people with:
- severe osteoporosis
- primary cancer of the bone or a secondary cancer that has spread to the bone
- poorly controlled arthritis or gout
- poorly controlled diabetic neuropathy
- compression of the nerves in the spinal cord
Chiropractic is also not recommended if you are taking blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin.