Research continues to show that certain chiropractic
techniques can help improve a number of health-related conditions.
For instance, one 2018
study published in the Chiropractic
Journal of Australia reported that use of the Torque Release Technique and
Activator Method helped an 18-year-old male cricketer resolve peripheral
neuropathy symptoms. These techniques also improved the patient’s physical
function, even after undergoing more than a year of physical therapy, a
therapeutic plan that had actually made his condition worse.
Another 2018 case study, this one published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, involved a 44-year-old female suffering from daily headaches that she described as being disabling in nature as she was unable to engage in daily living activities without the use of over-the-counter pain medication. During the study, the patient received chiropractic care via the Diversified Technique, in addition to engaging in ultrasound vibration therapy and using heat packs at home.
After three months of treatment, she reported that the
intensity of her headaches had reduced to between a three and five on a
10-point pain scale. Upon completing six months of treatment protocol, the
patient reported that her symptoms disappeared completely other than headaches
that sometimes occurred in conjunction with her menstrual cycle, but were
relieved by simply relaxing. Furthermore, she remained headache-free for a
period of six years with regular care.
While this is all positive for the field of chiropractic,
some DCs are increasing the effectiveness of their chiropractic techniques even
more by combining them with topical analgesics.
Topicals as a complement to IASTM and manual therapy
“I use topicals a lot in practice,” says Scott M. Schreiber,
DC, DACRB, DCBCN, MS, LN, Cert. MDT, CKTP, CNS, of MN Spine and Sport in Woodbury,
Minnesota. “They all work great,” he says.
As far as which chiropractic techniques he typically pairs
with topical analgesics, Schreiber says, “I use them when I am performing IASTM
[Instrument Aided Soft Tissue Manipulation] or along with manual therapy.” He
also adds that the type of topical he uses depends on the reasons why he needs
For instance, sometimes Schreiber uses a topical with
menthol, capsaicin, and methyl salicylate to warm areas prior to treatment. Research further
indicates that these types of ingredients also help reduce both acute and
Schreiber shares that he also uses a cooling topical if
patients prefer this type of effect, sometimes using topicals that contain
cannabidiol (CBD) if the goal is pain relief. “Patients generally like them,”
Topical analgesics pair with other chiropractic techniques
Diversified and Thompson Techniques and topical analgesics
“My office uses Diversified and Thompson Drop Techniques,”
says Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, of Montgomery
County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, Pennsylvania. He adds that his
office uses topical analgesics in conjunction with these techniques because
“the use of both together allows the muscle to relax which allows a better
adjustment, and the patients seem to hold their adjustments better as well.”
Conrad, who is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning
Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA),
explains that topicals help provide his patients relief in a couple different
ways. One involves aiding in the release of muscle spasms and the other is a
reduction in pain.
Additionally, if the patient has an acute muscle injury,
Conrad says he often applies topicals near the adjustment site during each
visit. This protocol continues for a period of two to four weeks, with injury
treatment three times a week during this time, followed by an exam to determine
how the patient is responding to the care plan.
Conrad adds that there are some times when topicals should
not be used in combination with chiropractic treatment, regardless of
Among them are when you have patients “with sensitive skin,
certain allergies including menthol or camphor, burned areas, [and] open wounds
or scars,” he says. In cases such as these, it’s better to skip topical use and
simply apply chiropractic care.
And if this is the first time you’re using topicals on a particular
patient, Conrad says that extra care should be taken to make sure they don’t
have an adverse reaction. This involves applying a very small drop to the
patient’s skin to ascertain his or her response.
“If redness or irritation of the area occurs after
monitoring the patient for ten minutes, wash area thoroughly with soap and
water and discontinue use,” he says.