Chiropractic Adjustment

Releases joint restrictions allowing for improved movements of the spine with less pain.

Chiropractic Adjustment

What does a chiropractor do?

Spinal manipulation, aka chiropractic adjustment, is a therapy used to remove restrictions and release tension from the spine's joints. Because joints are beneath muscles, this therapy has the potential to address deeper levels than a stretch or massage. Additionally, by optimizing spine movement, adjustments enhance the synchronicity of the entire body.

Evolution of chiropractors

The word chiropractic translates as "done by hands." Traditionally, chiropractors have focused entirely on spinal adjustments to promote a healing response.

More forward-thinking chiropractors combine several hands-on therapies such as myofascial release, stretching, and acupuncture. These modern chiropractors also emphasize a holistic approach to rehabilitation and corrective exercises. 

Chiropractic techniques are used worldwide for everything from pain relief to sports performance. For example, most professional sports teams utilize a team chiropractor for musculoskeletal health benefits.

What is a chiropractic adjustment?

Chiropractic adjustment and spinal manipulation are different words that describe the same therapy. Although chiropractic adjustment is commonly said, spinal manipulation is the more medically accepted term used in research.

Chiropractic adjustments (spinal manipulations) are a form of therapy in which a chiropractor precisely positions spine joints and then adds a small impulse to remove restrictions and increase mobility.

In the earlier years of chiropractic, it was thought that adjustments would help to realign the spine. The idea was that bones of the spine (vertebrae) developed subtle misalignments (subluxations). For many years, chiropractors believed they were putting bones back in place.

However, recent advances in research have given a more in-depth understanding of how adjustments relieve pain and enhance movement. 

How do chiropractic adjustments really work?

The most up-to-date understanding of how chiropractic adjustments work is that they relieve pain, relax muscles, and enhance coordinated movement through nervous system reflexes and joint mobilizations. 

Nervous system reflexes (Reboot for the central nervous system)

Our joints, muscles, and tendons all have tiny nerve receptors that work like position sensors, letting us know where our body is in space. For example, if you close your eyes, you can still touch your nose with a finger. All along the spine are dense amounts of these position sensor nerve receptors. Spinal manipulations stimulate these receptors, causing a beneficial reflex in the spinal cord. These reflexes relax surrounding muscles, release pain-relieving chemicals, and improve muscle coordination. Many researchers have likened these reflexes to a reset or reboot for the central nervous system.

Spine alignment

There are more than 50 joints in the spine column (backbone). When all of those joints move in unison, the body as a whole can move optimally. However, it's more common to have specific areas of the spine that become tense. When tension and restrictions occur in one area of the spine, it disrupts the coordinated movement of the entire spine. Spinal manipulations remove those restrictions, allowing for better movement in the spine and body.

Different types of chiropractic adjustments?

There is a wide variety of techniques that chiropractors utilize to adjust the spine. Some traditional adjustments use more forceful movements that create cracks and pops within joints. Yet, other gentle mobilizations do not require aggressive movements at all. Ultimately, the goal is to reset the nervous system and enhance spine mobility. The amount of force used will depend on several factors, most notably the client's preference.

Select chiropractors are also performing new styles of decompression adjustments such as Y strap and cox flexion distraction. These styles of adjustments release joint restrictions from a different angle that some clients find more comfortable.

What is the pop with chiropractic adjustments?

The cracking sounds associated with adjustments are not coming from the bones; they have more to do with stretching joint spaces. To understand what's happening, you need to know there is a fluid (synovial fluid) between the joints. When the joint space expands during an adjustment, the synovial fluid pressure decreases, pulling gas from the synovial fluid. Although some people think the popping noise is necessary for therapeutic benefits, that is not the case. Relaxation and mobility can still be acquired from an adjustment without the pop.

How do chiropractors know where to adjust?

Chiropractors have developed specific palpation skills to locate areas of muscle tension and joint restrictions. When particular back regions lose sufficient mobility, it interferes with quality movement elsewhere. Chiropractors use palpation to check for the areas of restrictions (decreased mobility). 

Are chiropractic adjustments safe?

Chiropractic care is considered a safe and non-invasive therapy for low back and neck pain. The most common side effects are that a patient might feel sore after the first 1-2 treatments. The soreness is similar to the soreness experienced the day after a new exercise routine.

Some people's biggest fear regarding spinal manipulations is that they believe they can cause strokes. This fear is understandable, given that strokes have been reported after neck adjustments. However, the incident is so rare that many researchers believe neck adjustment may aggravate a stroke already occurring but not cause strokes. 

There are risks associated with almost every type of medical treatment, including chiropractic care. However, to highlight the risk of using a chiropractor vs. other medical procedures, it is helpful to consider each profession's malpractice insurance. Chiropractors have some of the lowest malpractice insurance premiums compared to other health physicians. In our office, we make every attempt to minimize risks of injury, explain each procedure and give patients options every step of the way.

What do chiropractors treat?

The best chiropractors combine several healing therapies to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. For example, neck pain caused by arthritis, pinched nerves, muscle strains, and headaches can be treated with chiropractic therapies. Low back pain and sciatica caused by a disc bulge can be treated with decompression by a chiropractor. More forward thinking chiropractors are also excellent at treating extremities such as shoulder pain and hip pain.

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