Chiropractic Manipulation Shown to Cause Herniated Discs

By Dean Moyer
Author of Rebuild Your Back

While more research needs to be done into the negative aspects of chiropractic manipulation, there is now sufficient evidence to prove what many of us have suspected all along.

Not only does HVLA (High velocity, low amplitude) manipulation contribute to degenerative disc disease, but also recent studies have shown conclusively that it causes herniated discs and even nerve damage.

Here are some of the studies your chiropractor doesn't want you to know about:

This report describes four patients with cervical myelopathy and/or radiculopathy caused or aggravated by spinal manipulation. In one patient, magnetic resonance scans before and after chiropractic treatment strongly suggests that the disc prolapse syndrome experienced by the patient was provoked by the spinal manipulation. [2]
Complications caused by manipulation therapy… resulted in marked worsening of the patient's condition. The mechanism of disc damage has been determined intraoperatively. The authors conclude that manual therapy… is highly hazardous. [3]
Five cases of acute rupture of lumbar intervertebral disc caused by violent manipulation are reported… The operations found that the annulus fibrosus had ruptured and the nerve root or cauda equina was constricted by the nucleus pulposus which had entered into the spinal canal. [4]
Lumbar spine manipulation had caused disc herniation in six patients, of whom three had severe persistent problems. Of the 14 patients who had undergone manipulation of the sacroiliac joint, six had disc herniation which was operated with varying outcome. [7]

And this information is not just coming from conventional research scientists, here is what some former chiropractors are saying:

Because of the incidence of disk tears post manipulation I'm inclined to think that HVLA thrusts are too forceful and not safe for stretching intervertebral disks. [5]
… spinal manipulation is very risky. It can cause irreversible neurological damage... [9]
The common practice of chiropractors targeting and manipulating degenerating lumbar disks predisposes them to disk herniation. [1]

We will never know how many herniated discs were the result of chiropractic manipulation. There is no way to determine how many people went to a chiropractor for a simple back sprain and ended up with ruptured discs and/or nerve damage because they were treated with this foolish and totally unnecessary procedure.

However, as bad as herniated discs can be, that is nothing when compared to the real risk factor of trusting your health to a chiropractor...

Next: Cervical Manipulation Can Cause Neurological Damage and Stroke


Table of Contents:

About the Author

Dean Moyer is the author of the books, Rebuild Your Back, Rebuild Your Neck and The Pain Relief Manual. Copies of his books are available exclusively through this website. Read more...

Rebuild Your Back
Rebuild Your Back
Second Edition
Rebuild Your Neck
Rebuild Your Neck
The Pain Relief Manual
The Pain Relief Manual


  1. Botnick A. Manipulation and Hypermobility, Chirotalk May 14, 2004 (Link no longer available.)
  2. Padua L, Padua R, LoMonaco M, Tonali PA. Radiculomedullary complications of cervical spinal manipulation. Spinal Cord. 1996 Aug;34(8):488-92.
    PubMed: Disc Prolapse Caused by Manipulation
  3. Malawski S, Milecki M, Nowak-Misiak M, Sokolski B, Szlapin M. Complications of vertebral disc and spinal diseases after manipulation therapy. Chir Narzadow Ruchu Ortop Pol. 1993;58(2):3-7. PubMed: Manipulation Highly Hazardous
  4. Li JS. Acute rupture of lumbar intervertebral disc caused by violent manipulation. Zhonghua Wai Ke Za Zhi. 1989 Aug;27(8):477-8, 509.
    PubMed: Manipulation Causes Ruptured Discs
  5. Botnick A. Why adjustments cause neck hypermob and stroke. Chirotalk May 4, 2004 (Link no longer available.)
  6. Keys S. Back in Action: Straight answers to back pain and its relief. Allen and Unwin [2002] (p. 87-99)
  7. Rydell N, Raf L. Spinal manipulation--treatment associated with a high risk of complications. Lakartidningen. 1999 Aug 25;96(34):3536-40.
  8. Coulter, et al. The Appropriateness of Manipulation and Mobilization of the Cervical Spine. Santa Monica, CA, Rand Corp, 1996
  9. Sanders, M. Take it from a DC: A Lot of Chiropractic is a Sham. Medical Economics Sept. 19, 1990
  10. Barrett S, Don't Let Chiropractors Fool You. Quackwatch Sept. 17, 1999
  11. Lee KP, et al. Neurologic complications following chiropractic manipulation: a survey of California neurologists. Neurology 45:1213-1215, 1995.
  12. Di Fabio R. Manipulation of the cervical spine: Risks and benefits. Physical Therapy 79:50-65, 1999.
  13. Barrett S. Chiropractic's Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulation and Strokes. Quackwatch, revised May 11, 2002.
  14. Gallinaro P, Cartesegna M. Three cases of lumbar disc rupture and one of cauda equina associated with spinal manipulation (chiropraxis). Lancet 1983;1:411.
  15. Markowitz HD, Dolce DT. Cauda equina syndrome due to sequestrated recurrent disk herniation after chiropractic manipulation. Orthopedics 1997;20:652-3.
  16. Saal JA. Natural history and nonoperative treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Spine 1996;21:2S-9S.
  17. Jagbandhansingh MP. Most common causes of chiropractic malpractice lawsuits. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1997;20:60-4.
  18. Fardon DF, Millette PC. Nomenclature and classification of lumbar disc pathology. Recommendations of the Combined Task Forces of the North American Spine Society, American Society of Spine Radiology, and American Society of Neuroradiology.

Last updated: Sept 15, 2006