Chiropractic adjustments are the foundation of a chiropractic treatment. Chiropractors use adjustments to correct vertebral subluxations, or dislocations and misalignments of the bones of the spine, also known as vertebrae.
The word subluxation has its origins in the Latin words luxare (to dislocate) and sub (partial). Subluxations may put pressure on or irritate nerves and blood vessels in the spine and cause musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.
Chiropractic adjustments, also known as spinal manipulation, involve the use of a certain amount of controlled force, applied in a specific direction, to a joint that is not moving properly. Adjustments are usually carried out manually by the doctor, or by using an instrument.
Chiropractic adjustments help return your vertebrae to their natural position and range of motion, with the goal of restoring normal functioning. In addition to restoring joint mobility, adjustments can also allow healing of tissue injuries involving inflammation and pain.
Before carrying out an adjustment, your chiropractic doctor will thoroughly evaluate your case through collection of a health history, physical examinations, imaging studies, (such as X-rays) and possibly other procedures such as lab work.
During the adjustment procedure itself, you may be lying down on a specially designed chiropractic table. Your chiropractor will apply the adjustment in a controlled, sudden manner, pushing your joint beyond its normal range of motion.
There are over 96 individual chiropractic maneuvers your doctor may choose from for your adjustment. Factors in this decision include how much force is needed, where in the body the adjustment is needed, and the experience and training of the doctor. The position of both the chiropractor and the patient are also contributing factors to the selection of the best type of adjustment for your particular condition.
Adjustments may be used to treat back pain, neck pain, or pain in other areas of the body such as arms, legs, and shoulders. The procedure rarely causes pain; however if there is recent trauma or if you are new to chiropractic there may be some mild discomfort usually in the form of soreness.
The popping and cracking noises that occur during adjustments are due to the release of gas bubbles between the joints are known as cavitations. These sounds are perfectly normal but not necessary for a proper correction. It is a similar phenomenon to knuckles being “popped.”
In many cases, chiropractic care is all that is needed to treat a certain kind of problem, such as lower back pain. However, adjustments may be complemented by other physical therapy modalities or medical treatment depending on the individual.