What Goes into a Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment?

Spinal adjustment, also known as chiropractic adjustment or spinal manipulation, is a procedure in which a trained medical professional, usually a chiropractor, osteopathic physician or physical therapist, manually applies controlled or sudden force to adjust the joints of the spine. The purpose is to properly align musculoskeletal structure to restore mobility after sudden injury or stress from repetitive motion. Twenty-two million Americans annually seek spinal adjustments from a chiropractor to relieve back or neck pain, or headaches.

How to prepare for a spinal adjustment

No special preparations are necessary before a spinal adjustment. Your state health department is likely to offer guidance on choosing a licensed chiropractor in your area, or contact your primary care physician or health insurance provider for a recommendation. Depending upon your condition, you will likely require several appointments. Many health insurance companies include chiropractic care as a covered benefit.

What to expect

At your initial visit, your chiropractor will ask you a series of questions to establish your health history and determine whether your symptoms are best treated with a spinal adjustment.  He or she may also perform a brief physical exam, or perform x-rays.

During the adjustment

A typical spinal adjustment involves you lying face down or on your side on a specially designed padded table. If you have muscle tightness or spasms, your chiropractor may first apply heat, an electrical current, or an ultrasound device to relax your muscles before beginning the spinal adjustment.  Your chiropractor will assist you into positions best suited to treating your specific symptoms. Your chiropractor will use his or her hands to apply pressure to a particular joint or assemblage of joints. This will range from gentle, directed pressure to strong, sudden force. You might hear cracking or popping of your joints during the adjustment. This is normal and harmless, and is caused by small pockets of air or bubbles in the fluid surrounding your joints.

Your chiropractor may also recommend additional treatments for the relief of your specific symptoms. These additional treatments may include:

  • The application of a heating pad or ice pack
  • Massage
  • Stretching exercises
  • Electrical stimulation

After the adjustment

You may experience minor side effects following a spinal adjustment. These side effects may include headache, and stiffness, soreness or fatigue in the treatment area. Serious side effects are very rare, but you should seek the guidance of your primary care physician before seeking any form of treatment, especially if you suffer from any injury to the spine, osteoporosis, or inflammatory arthritis, or if you take blood-thinning medications.  

Story Credit

Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Christopher Johnson