How do chiropractic adjustments work: Understanding what a chiropractic adjustment does and why. (2022)

Chiropractic is a common approach to health care that has been around for more than 100 years, and has been shown to be effective for a wide range of health complaints.

(Video) What is a Chiropractic Adjustment? (From Chiropractor)

There are many types of chiropractors and chiropractic specialties, but the one commonality among all of them is the primary use of the chiropractic adjustment or spinal manipulation in patient treatment and care.

How do chiropractic adjustments work: Understanding what a chiropractic adjustment does and why. (1)

What is a chiropractic adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment is a spinal manipulation or joint manipulation administered by a chiropractor (spinal specialist) to realign or restore proper joint motion in the body, most commonly in the spine.

Classically done by hand, although sometimes also with a small instrument called an activator, a high velocity low amplitude controlled force or thrust is applied to the misaligned or stuck vertebra to improve spinal motion, joint alignment, and to decrease nerve irritation and associated pain.

Techniques of joint manipulation have evolved over time to include not only adjustments in the neck, back, or spine of the patient, but to also include misaligned extremity joints as well.

What is a Spinal Misalignment and what causes it?

A spinal misalignment is a condition in which one or more vertebrae are out of place. This may be the result of an injury, chronic tension, or other issue.

Spinal misalignment can be caused by a number of factors, including: injury such as from a car accident or fall; muscle contractions from chronic tension that pull your joints out of alignment; poor posture (either while awake or while sleeping); and repetitive motions.

When the spine is misaligned or stuck, this can create inflammation and irritate spinal nerves, causing pain and other problems. Chiropractic adjustments or spinal manipulation are a chiropractic treatment used to correct spinal misalignments.

How do chiropractic adjustments work: Understanding what a chiropractic adjustment does and why. (2)

How do chiropractic adjustments work?

A chiropractic adjustment works by a chiropractor applying a high velocity, low amplitude thrust to a stuck or misaligned spinal joint or vertebra, sometimes referred to as a vertebral subluxation.

This restores spinal motion and function to the restricted joint, decreasing localized inflammation and nerve irritation, decreasing pain and associated local muscle spasm.

The adjustment or spinal manipulation is often accompanied by a popping sound, termed a joint cavitation, which is caused by a pressure change in the joint capsule and the release of nitrogen gas.

(Video) Chiropractic Adjustments EXPLAINED!

This release of joint pressure with the adjustment will often also be accompanied by an immediate feeling of pain relief and an immediate improvement in the spinal movement and overall mobility in the area of the adjustment.

There are a number of different approaches or techniques of adjustments. Some of the most common chiropractic adjustment techniques are Gonstead, Diversified, Thompson, Activator and Chiropractic Biophysics.

In our Toronto chiropractic clinic Transform Chiropractic, we utilize all of these techniques, depending on the specific needs of the patient.

Almost all adjustments have the goal to correct spinal and vertebral misalignment and to restore movement. Because each individual patient is unique, each chiropractor adjustment will be customized to the particular patient.

Chiropractic manipulation has been demonstrated to decrease pain, decrease inflammation, restore joint biomechanics, and to decrease localized muscle spasm. When combined with other chiropractic treatments, it has also been shown to improve overall global spinal movement and improve posture.

How do chiropractors know where to adjust?

Chiropractors use a variety of techniques to determine where to adjust a patient’s spine. This includes, but is not limited to, taking a patient’s medical history, discussing their symptoms, and examining the patient.

They may also use diagnostic tests such as palpation, posture analysis, range of motion, leg length measurement and analysis, gait, and advanced imaging tests like x-rays and MRIs to help them better understand the condition of the spine and identify any areas that may need adjusting.

How do chiropractic adjustments work: Understanding what a chiropractic adjustment does and why. (3)

A chiropractor will use palpation to test for any stiff or misaligned trouble spots. By applying gentle pressure along the spine, the chiropractor can look for restricted or misaligned vertebra.

This information is used to create a treatment plan that will help to restore normal motion and realign the spine to decrease pain and improve the patient’s health over time.

How does a chiropractor perform a chiropractic adjustment?

Originally done exclusively by hand, although sometimes more recently with a small instrument called an activator, a chiropractic adjustment is classically a high velocity low amplitude controlled force or thrust to a misaligned or stuck vertebra (often termed a vertebral subluxation).

(Video) How do chiropractors know where to adjust? | chiropractic adjustments

This spinal manipulation thrust is designed to improve spinal motion, joint alignment, and to decrease nerve irritation, inflammation and associated pain.

The chiropractor applies a quick, short force to the joint, which will then release the muscle tension and allow the joint to go back into its proper place. The chiropractor is able to do this by understanding how each of your muscles attach to certain bones and joints.

Chiropractors are able to adjust the spine without producing a sound and still provide significant therapeutic benefits. The audible pop that is sometimes heard during an adjustment (termed a joint cavitation) is not necessary for the chiropractic manipulation to be effective.

Many people report feeling better after just one adjustment, regardless of whether or not there was an audible pop.

There are numerous chiropractic adjusting approaches or techniques, although most will have a similar outcome or goal. To restore movement in stuck spinal joints (or in some cases extremity joints), restore proper alignment, allowing the spine and nervous system to function better, resulting in less pain and improved health for the chiropractic patient.

Do chiropractors actually adjust anything?

Yes, chiropractors do adjust spinal joints (and in some cases extremity joints in other areas of the body). The term “adjust” is defined as “to alter or move something slightly in order to achieve the desired result”.

Chiropractic adjustments have been demonstrated on both x-ray and fluoroscopy (a medical procedure that shows real-time movement in the body) to achieve specific movement in restricted spinal joints with a thrust to the misaligned vertebra, as per the definition of “adjust”.

How do I keep my chiropractic adjustment in place?

After you begin chiropractic care and starting receiving chiropractic adjustments, your body at first may not be used to it’s new aligned posture and movement patterns. Some of your postural habits and muscle adaptation has likely been present for years, and it will take time to form new postural and movement habits.

During this early stage of chiropractic treatment, while your body is in a transitional stage, your spinal muscles and nervous system are not used to this new posture, and may start to slowly pull and return the misalignment vertebrae back into their old position.

To help your chiropractic adjustment to stay in place and “hold” better, we recommend patients walk after every chiropractic adjustment for five to ten minutes, in order to reinforce some of the new movement patterns.

(Video) Cervical Chiropractic Adjustment

At our chiropractic clinic in Toronto, we also provide specific stabilization exercises to patients, to help strengthen their spine, which will help to keep their adjustments in place for longer. Addressing chronic postural problems is critical for this. If poor posture is left unaddressed, this will pull the adjustments out of place faster.

How do chiropractic adjustments work: Understanding what a chiropractic adjustment does and why. (4)

As per the Chiropractic Biophysics technique, we also provide specific corrective postural exercises and stretches, along with spinal traction devices (Denneroll spinal orthotic), customized to the x-ray results of the patient.

These take home exercises and traction devices help to change the patient’s soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) over time, allowing for the structural changes from the chiropractic adjustments to stay in place for longer, and for the patient to achieve better and more long lasting symptomatic improvements.

How do chiropractors adjust themselves?

Chiropractors are not able to adjust themselves. In order to have their spine properly assessed and adjusted, they would need a proper chiropractic examination (posture analysis, leg length/gait analysis, palpation, range of motion, special imaging) and another chiropractor to perform the chiropractic adjustment.

Who can benefit from a chiropractic adjustment?

Chiropractic adjustments have been shown in multiple research studies to be beneficial for patients experiencing a number of conditions: lower back pain, neck pain, sciatica, arthritis, disc herniations, chronic pain, bad posture and headaches.

Chiropractic treatment can benefit a wide number of patients as the adjustment has been shown to decrease pain, increase movement and flexibility, decrease inflammation, minimize joint and muscle injuries and improve posture.

Is spinal manipulation and chiropractic care an effective form of treatment for back pain, neck pain and joint pain?

Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care are considered effective forms of treatment for low back pain, neck pain, joint pain and overall musculoskeletal pain. Chiropractors use spinal manipulation or a specific adjusting technique to restore proper spinal alignment to relieve pressure on a given nerve or soft tissue, help to restore normal movement, provide pain relief and improve overall function.

If you have any questions, or we can help in any other way, please feel free to contact us at our Toronto chiropractor clinic.

Dr. Byron Mackay

FAQs

How does a chiropractor know what to adjust? ›

Here are four ways chiropractors identify areas that need an adjustment.
  1. Range of Motion. During your initial visit, the chiropractor will ask you to complete various movements to assess the range of motion of each joint. ...
  2. Joint and Body Palpation. ...
  3. Gait and Posture Assessment. ...
  4. Symptom and Lab Analysis.

How does chiropractic adjustment work? ›

Chiropractic adjustment is a procedure in which trained specialists (chiropractors) use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. The goal of this procedure, also known as spinal manipulation, is to improve spinal motion and improve your body's physical function.

Why do chiropractors adjust? ›

Improves your posture. Reduces pain and improves range of motion of your spine and other joints. Reduces symptoms of chronic conditions like osteoarthritis. Treats minor neck or spine injuries, especially whiplash.

What happens to your body during an adjustment? ›

During an adjustment, a chiropractor applies controlled force to areas of the spinal joint that aren't functioning normally, are in pain, or have an abnormal range of motion. This gentle force promotes proper alignment of the spine, which reduces symptoms of pain, limited mobility, and stiffness.

When should you stop chiropractic treatment? ›

In general, it is advised to discontinue chiropractic care if any of the following is true:
  1. Increased pain. It is not uncommon to note mild discomfort after the initial manipulation treatment for the first 24 to 48 hours (similar to starting a new exercise). ...
  2. No improvement within 2 to 4 weeks. ...
  3. Symptoms have gone away.

How long does toxin release after chiropractic last? ›

How Long Does Toxic Release Last After Chiropractic Adjustment? The length of time that toxins are released after an adjustment depends on the individual. For some people, the release may only last for a few days after the adjustment period, while others may experience a more prolonged detoxification process.

What is the popping sound during a chiropractic adjustment? ›

During an adjustment, the spinal joints are separated very slightly, causing a drop in pressure in the synovial fluid between joints, the release of a gas bubble, and that signature “POP” sound.

What happens to your body after a chiropractic adjustment? ›

After your adjustment you may feel amazing, as range of motion is improved, circulation begins to be restored to affected areas, and your muscles begin to relax. You might also experience some tenderness, as your body begins to move into the correct positions.

Are chiropractic adjustments good for you? ›

An adjustment from chiropractor services can significantly reduce your back and neck pain via a non-invasive technique. Chiropractic treatment is also cheaper than other methods of back pain management. You'll be able to save yourself from both mild and chronic pain while also reducing your medical costs.

Why do chiropractors require so many visits? ›

Common Chiropractic Adjustment Frequencies

To achieve maximum benefits, most injury and pain types will need somewhere between four and twelve sessions. Ongoing maintenance is used to prevent pain from coming back and to prevent additional injuries from forming due to a misalignment of the spine.

How often should you get chiropractic adjustment? ›

Common Treatment Plans
  1. Week 1 and 2: Between 3 and 4 adjustments per week.
  2. Week 3 to 10: Between 2 and 3 adjustments per week.
  3. Week 10 and on: Once per week or every other week for maintenance.
16 Jan 2022

How often should you go to the chiropractor? ›

Chiropractors advocate for a holistic approach to health that includes routine visits for longterm benefits. In other words, it's good to visit the chiropractor before you feel pain. Going to an appointment at least once a month can be an effective approach when you know your body will be under stress.

What does it feel like to get adjusted? ›

There is little to no pain involved in an adjustment. You may feel pops and cracks, but you should not feel any intense pain. Typically, if you weren't in pain prior to the adjustment, you won't be after. Some chiropractic patients do experience some mild soreness or minor aches after a visit.

What are the disadvantages of chiropractic therapy? ›

Disadvantages:
  • Spinal and joint manipulation has a chance to go wrong and may cause unwanted fractures or injuries. So it is important that you only have an appointment with an experienced chiropractor.
  • The cost of treatment can be quite high.
  • Some insurance companies do not have coverage for chiropractic care.
28 Feb 2011

How long does it take for chiropractic adjustments to work? ›

Depending on the extent of the problem, chiropractic care helps patients feel noticeably better shortly after receiving treatment. The general rule of improvement is within 1 to 4 weeks from starting chiropractic therapy. However, this is for non-complex musculoskeletal conditions.

Why do chiropractors want you to keep coming back? ›

Changing your posture, changing your spine's ability to move, changing your muscle health and structure take time. Months in fact. All muscles have memory and your body wants to go back to its old patterns instead of creating new healthy ones. That is why adjustments need to be repeated again and again.

Is it true once you go to a chiropractor? ›

It's important to realize that even with setbacks and extended adjustment schedules, the need for chiropractic isn't forever. That said, many people choose to continue seeing a chiropractor after their adjustment schedule is complete because they see it as a holistic form of self-care.

Why are chiropractic appointments so short? ›

They are built in protection. When these fibers are stretched quickly, these specialized fibers inhibit (turn off) that particular muscle. This is hugely important to the understanding of chiropractic. In fact, this is one of the reasons that a chiropractic visit is so quick when compared to other therapies.

Why do I feel so good after a chiropractic adjustment? ›

Second, your brain releases endorphins, which give us the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These endorphins also help block pain signals, and stick around a long time after the adjustment to help us keep feeling good. This, in a nutshell, is the basic science of why the adjustment feels so good.

What does toxin release feel like? ›

If you do experience toxic release (and the vast majority of chiropractic patients do not), the symptoms include fatigue, headache, night sweaters, tight muscles, and diarrhea. Feeling fatigued after an adjustment is also common because the body is adjusting to the way the nervous system responds to treatment.

Why do I cry after chiropractor? ›

As tension releases from your spine, it is common for some people to have an emotional discharge. Emotions may naturally gush forth, freeing you from their weight and control. Laughter and tears are common in people of all ages, as subluxations patterns are eliminated.

What does it mean if a chiropractor can't crack your back? ›

With a really good chiropractic adjustment, you may not hear any cracking or popping sounds at all. If you don't hear any cracking or popping, it's because the specific stretches are gently adjusting the problem area, without any need for force or twisting.

Why do you need to drink water after a chiropractic adjustment? ›

If you don't drink enough water after a chiropractic adjustment, your ligaments can lose elasticity and strength due to dehydration. This can leave you sore or worse. So, it's imperative to drink water after an adjustment and to, of course, always stay hydrated.

What gas is released during a chiropractic adjustment? ›

A chiropractic adjustment typically involves a high velocity, low amplitude thrust to a misaligned vertebra and can include an accompanying, audible release of gas (joint cavitation) that is caused by the release of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide which releases joint pressure.

Does cracking your back release toxins? ›

Contrary to what you might have read or been told, the popping noise is not a toxic release. What you're actually hearing are the tiny air pockets that naturally exist in your spinal joints and the subsequent release of nitrogen oxide. While it's normal to feel or hear “pop”, don't worry if you don't experience it.

Can chiropractic adjustment help with bowel movements? ›

Not only does chiropractic treatment increase the frequency of bowel movements, but it also makes the stool softer. According to a study, chiropractic treatment resulted in increased bowel movements from zero to five movements every week. There were immediate results of chiropractic treatment in relieving constipation.

Why does my back feel worse after chiropractor? ›

When you get an adjustment, your vertebrae are being moved slightly. Your muscles have to adapt to the movement of the bone, so they may end up lengthening or shortening slightly, which can lead to soreness. The soreness is related to the movement of the bones and not to the pressure utilized by the chiropractor.

How does a chiropractor adjust your neck? ›

The chiropractor gently pulls on the neck, stretching the cervical spine often varying the angle between flexion (forward) and extension (backward), based on comfort and searching for the correct angle to most efficiently reduce the tightness.

Is it true once you go to a chiropractor? ›

It's important to realize that even with setbacks and extended adjustment schedules, the need for chiropractic isn't forever. That said, many people choose to continue seeing a chiropractor after their adjustment schedule is complete because they see it as a holistic form of self-care.

What happens to your body after a chiropractic adjustment? ›

After your adjustment you may feel amazing, as range of motion is improved, circulation begins to be restored to affected areas, and your muscles begin to relax. You might also experience some tenderness, as your body begins to move into the correct positions.

What is the popping sound during a chiropractic adjustment? ›

During an adjustment, the spinal joints are separated very slightly, causing a drop in pressure in the synovial fluid between joints, the release of a gas bubble, and that signature “POP” sound.

How do you know if a chiropractor is working? ›

How To Know If Chiropractic Is Working
  1. You Are Feeling Less Pain. One of the most common reasons people seek out chiropractic care is because they are in pain. ...
  2. You Are Sleeping Better. ...
  3. You Have More Energy. ...
  4. You Are Feeling More Relaxed. ...
  5. Your Immune System Is Improving.

Why do chiropractors require so many visits? ›

Common Chiropractic Adjustment Frequencies

To achieve maximum benefits, most injury and pain types will need somewhere between four and twelve sessions. Ongoing maintenance is used to prevent pain from coming back and to prevent additional injuries from forming due to a misalignment of the spine.

Why are chiropractic appointments so short? ›

They are built in protection. When these fibers are stretched quickly, these specialized fibers inhibit (turn off) that particular muscle. This is hugely important to the understanding of chiropractic. In fact, this is one of the reasons that a chiropractic visit is so quick when compared to other therapies.

What can you do instead of a chiropractor? ›

Many people with back or neck pain seek alternative and complementary treatments—such as massage, spinal manipulation, or yoga—in addition to standard medical treatments.
...
Some examples include:
  • Breathing exercises. Try slow, controlled breathing until you start feeling yourself relax. ...
  • Altered focus. ...
  • Pain movement.

What is happening when a chiropractor cracks your back? ›

What that pop or crack actually is is gas releasing from the joint, not actually the joint itself. A chiropractic adjustment improves motion in a joint that's been stuck to the point where it's causing interference in your nerve signals.

How often should you get adjusted? ›

Week 1 and 2: Between 3 and 4 adjustments per week. Week 3 to 10: Between 2 and 3 adjustments per week. Week 10 and on: Once per week or every other week for maintenance.

How often should you go to the chiropractor? ›

Chiropractors advocate for a holistic approach to health that includes routine visits for longterm benefits. In other words, it's good to visit the chiropractor before you feel pain. Going to an appointment at least once a month can be an effective approach when you know your body will be under stress.

Why do you need to drink water after a chiropractic adjustment? ›

If you don't drink enough water after a chiropractic adjustment, your ligaments can lose elasticity and strength due to dehydration. This can leave you sore or worse. So, it's imperative to drink water after an adjustment and to, of course, always stay hydrated.

What happens when a chiropractor pops your ears? ›

Ear adjustment is when your chiropractor will manipulate the ear by hand, essentially causing it to “pop” and releasing the pressure and tension in the ear immediately. The Cranial Sacral Technique is performed specifically to address the sinuses.

What gas is released during a chiropractic adjustment? ›

A chiropractic adjustment typically involves a high velocity, low amplitude thrust to a misaligned vertebra and can include an accompanying, audible release of gas (joint cavitation) that is caused by the release of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide which releases joint pressure.

How long does it take to realign your spine? ›

Chiropractic appointments, and the time it takes to realign your spine through a chiropractic adjustment, tend to be quite short for the most part. Appointments typically range from 15-45 minutes. Because your first chiropractic appointment will involve a full needs assessment, expect to be there for around 45 minutes.

How long does it take for a chiropractic adjustment to work? ›

The general rule of improvement is within 1 to 4 weeks from starting chiropractic therapy. However, this is for non-complex musculoskeletal conditions. During the first visits, the patient will typically feel pain reduction of 40% to 80%.

How long does it take for a chiropractor to fix your posture? ›

Adjustments plus exercises could help your posture in 2-4 weeks. For some, it could take years. And for others, surgery may be necessary to help correct the spine. It's always best to consult a local chiropractor for a consultation.

Videos

1. Spine Surgeon Reacts to Chiropractic Manipulation | Is Cracking your Neck/Back Bad?
(Antonio J. Webb, M.D.)
2. Chiropractic Spinal Evaluation and Adjustments Explained and Demonstrated
(Ask Dr. P)
3. New Studies Adjust Our Thinking on Spinal Manipulation
(Healthcare Triage)
4. Chiropractic Adjustment of the Neck
(Cumberland Chiropractic and Sports Medicine)
5. How do chiropractic adjustments work? - Back to Health Wellness Centre. Ottawa ON
(Back to Health Wellness Centre)
6. SPINE SURGEON Goes to the Chiropractor | Here's how it went....
(Antonio J. Webb, M.D.)

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