Chiropractic Care versus Acupuncture

There is no doubt that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been growing at an exponential rate. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), in 2007, approximately 38 percent of American adults reported using some sort of CAM treatment in the previous year. Furthermore, 83 million American adults spent almost $34 billion out of pocket on CAM treatments (11.2 percent of all out of pocket health care costs for 2007). This translates into 354 million visits to CAM practitioners per year. Chiropractic care was the most popular CAM treatment, with 18.7 million people spending $151 million on chiropractic treatment.

Given these figures, it should not be surprising that Dr. Nathen Horst is seeing more patients who are actively seeking out alternative health care treatments. Such patients are also far more likely to have done their initial research before coming to see Dr. Horst, so may have a variety of questions for him. One of the most common questions from patients is the difference between chiropractic and acupuncture for treatment of illness and injury.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is concerned, first and foremost, with the joints of the body and their surrounding ligaments and tendons. Although most people may think chiropractic care is only concerned with the spine, this is not necessarily true. While chiropractors believe that the spine is the root cause of many ailments and injuries, they may also treat knees, ankles, shoulders, and wrists, among other joints in the body. The basis of chiropractic care is in treating subluxations, or misalignment, of the joints. Misaligned joints can pinch nerves, causing pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. A chiropractic adjustment will shift the joint back into proper alignment, relieving pressure on nerves, ligaments, and tendons around the joint.


Acupuncture is targets a specific series of points on the body (both front and back) that, if stimulated, can manipulate the body’s natural energy, or qi (pronounced chee), to heal itself. The basis of acupuncture lies in finding the proper balance between the yin and yang. If the qi is out of balance (too much or too little yin or yang), the patient may suffer health effects.

In most cases, acupuncture is performed with fine needles that penetrate the skin at the specific acupuncture point locations. Depending upon the acupuncture method, the needles may be gently rotated to further stimulate the qi. Other types of treatment may involve stimulating the acupuncture points with lasers or direct pressure without penetrating the skin. Treatment may also include the use of herbs to further improve ailments or promote healing.

In many ways, chiropractic care and acupuncture share common ground in terms of taking a non-invasive, safe, holistic approach to health and wellness. Both chiropractic care and acupuncture aim to treat the root cause of illness and injury, rather than just treating the symptoms. The difference between the two is the treatment approach. Chiropractic focuses on manipulation of joints to promote health and healing, while acupuncture relies on stimulating specific points on the body to manipulate its own natural qi as a means to wellness.

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