- Chiropractic care is a treatment option used to relieve pain and improve spinal motion and physical function of the body.
- Popular chiropractors on TikTok say they’ve noticed more stress, anxiety, and physical pain in patients due to a more sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic.
Cracking the neck or popping the back can give off a loud crunching noise. While those sounds may come off as either terrifying or oddly satisfying, it’s quite normal for people like Donovan Smolich, DC. That’s because cracking backs, necks, feet, shoulders and other parts of the body is what he does as a chiropractor.
Chiropractic care, also known as spinal manipulation, is a form of manual therapy that aims to relieve pain, increase mobility, and enhance general well-being.
Smolich is a Croatian, Filipino, and American licensed chiropractor based in Tukwila, Washington, and a medical TikToker. He told very well that chiropractic is the only treatment option that changed his life after suffering from a serious injury.
“When I was younger, I used to break dance. I accidentally bent my spine in half when I was in a handstand and I was temporarily paralyzed,” Smolich said. “I was having muscle spasms on the floor from midnight till 10 in the morning.”
But after receiving an adjustment from his father’s friend, who’s a chiropractor, he was “instantly walking” again.
It’s a similar story for Tyler Bigenho, DC, an Indonesian-American licensed chiropractor based in Newport Beach, California. Bigenho has amassed 1.7 million followers on TikTok with videos of his work and tips on pain relief.
When Bigenho graduated in September 2019, he felt the need to sell himself as “young and intelligent chiropractor.” Creating TikToks about his practice and educating his viewers about exercises they could do at home helped him gain more recognition and credibility.
Growing up, Bigenho would see a chiropractor once in a while because of the pain he was feeling from playing sports. But it was mainly his father who would seek treatment because of constant back problems.
Knowing the impact chiropractic adjustments could have on someone’s life, both Smolich and Bigenho said they wanted to provide that same care and help to other people.
“Chiropractic can speed up healing or it can open new ways for people to heal naturally,” Smolich said. “I experienced it.”
Verywell Health spoke with Smolich and Bigenho to give readers an inside look at common misconceptions about the field, what they both have noticed in their patients since the start of the pandemic, and signs to look out for to determine if chiropractic care is right for you .
Common misconceptions about chiropractic care
According to Bigenho, one of the most common misconceptions about chiropractic care is that after your first visit, you have to go two to three times a week for life.
However, he said every treatment plan will vary from person to person based on the level of pain or injury. For example, if someone is suffering from a physical injury, they may require more adjustments compared to a patient who has back pain from sitting all day.
Chiropractic care is like working out, according to Smolich, because it tears up muscle fibers and changes the body.
“Similarly, when you’re getting adjusted, you’re making a change in the body, tearing up tissue and moving the joints in a way it hasn’t moved in years,” Smolich said. “That’s why getting adjusted may not completely heal or treat you in one visit, healing actually takes time.”
But a lot of patients do see results in just a few visits, he added.
In addition, Bigenho said some people think seeing a chiropractor costs hundreds of dollars, but that’s not always the case. In general, chiropractic services can cost anywhere between $30 to several hundred, but it all depends on the patients and their personal needs. Some insurance plans offer partial coverage as well.
Another myth about chiropractic care is that it’s not safe, although all medical interventions or procedures carry some risk. Bigenho said that chiropractic care is a safer option compared to other treatments like surgery, steroids, or medications.
Although someone can die from a chiropractic adjustment, it’s extremely rare. A 2017 review suggested that serious adverse events from chiropractic care ranged from one out of every 2 million to 13 per 10,000 patients.
Bigenho said chiropractors are ultimately responsible for patient safety. “It can be easy to figure out if somebody’s having an aneurysm or stroke, all you have to do is ask the right questions,” Bigenho said. “But a lot of chiropractors don’t ask the right questions, and in the end, that’s the school’s fault.”
Chiropractic Patients Seem More Stressed Than Before
A poll conducted by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) in 2020 found that more than 90% of respondents had increased musculoskeletal issues since they had to stay home more often because of the pandemic.
Smolich said he noticed that many of his work-from-home patients have hunched over bodies and inflammation in their shoulders. Most of their pain came from “stress and the poor posture from sitting down too long,” he added.
When he was practicing in San Francisco, his patients had neck and back pain but they weren’t “as stressed.”
“A lot of the patients are also just in their late 20s and 30s. They are pretty young but they’re all extremely stressed and their bodies are very tense,” Smolich said.
For Bigenho, he’s noticed more patients are also seeking chiropractic care because of depression, anxiety, anger, stress, nervousness, and other mental illnesses.
“I do a lot of emotional energy work. For some people who are depressed or going through mental health, I can feel that energy in their body,” Bigenho said. “I think this is coming from some type of emotion that’s being stored in the body and it’s coming out as pain.”
What This Means For You
Seeking chiropractic care can be an option for you if you are experiencing symptoms of pain, discomfort, or even headaches. Listen to your body and speak with trusted healthcare professionals to determine if seeing a chiropractor is right for your needs.
When Should You See a Chiropractor?
If you’re experiencing constant muscle or joint pain, frequent headaches, intense back pain, limited mobility, or poor posture, Smolich said those could be signs that you need to see a chiropractor. However, you don’t necessarily need to show any symptoms or pain to seek this type of care.
If you’re an athlete or work out intensely every day, chiropractic care can be an option.
“Anytime you’re doing a very stressful activity every single day, your body breaks down over time—even people that are doing cleaning jobs or people that are hunched over from looking down at their phones,” Smolich said.
Nevertheless, deciding whether to see a chiropractor should be made on a case-by-case basis. Spinal manipulation is not recommended for patients with severe osteoporosis, increased risk of stroke, cancer in the spine, or spinal abnormalities.
“Pay attention to your body and your body will tell you when something is wrong, but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean pain,” Bigenho said. “Also, not all chiropractors are the same, so go to someone you can trust.”