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Chiropractic Adjustments and Spinal Mobilization

When most of us think about chiropractic adjustments, we have a specific image in mind; the patient lying down as the chiropractor holds the head and twists the neck, cracking the bones. In reality, there are more than one hundred adjustment techniques used by chiropractors around the world. Typically, chiropractors will focus on and utilize around eight to ten of these approaches in their practice.

The common goal of all chiropractic treatment is to restore or enhance joint function, with the result of resolving joint inflammation and reducing pain. Some adjustment techniques use force (spinal manipulation) while others are more gentle (spinal mobilization.)

Unless you’re particularly fragile, your chiropractor will likely use spinal manipulation to correct any subluxations, or misalignments, in your spine. The most frequently used spinal manipulation technique is called the high-velocity low-amplitude thrust. Before the adjustment, the patient’s body is placed in a specific position to optimize the adjustment of the spine. This manipulation often results in an audible “pop” or cracking sound as the chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply a controlled sudden force to a joint. 

Most of the research on chiropractic care, has been done on this high-velocity, low-altitude (HVLA) thrust. A 2010 review of clinical data concluded that it was effective for several conditions in addition to back pain, including headaches, migraines, neck pain, upper- and lower- extremity joint conditions and disorders associated with whiplash. 

Aside from HLVA spinal manipulation, there is a more gentle approach generally known as spinal mobilization. This may be employed due to patient preference (they don’t like or are scared of manipulation); patients with sensitive nervous systems that may cause reactive muscle spasms; patients with osteoporosis, bone disease, some forms of deformity, and some types of inflammatory arthritis; and obesity, which makes both the correct positioning of the patient and the manipulation procedures challenging for both the chiropractor and the patient. The chiropractor may also choose to use spinal mobilization techniques if the patient is in acute pain, as a traditional adjustment may be too painful.

Some chiropractors also simply prefer to use mild spinal mobilization techniques that do not involve twisting the body or forceful thrust, and don’t employ HVLA manipulations in their practice. The goal of spinal mobilization is the same as HVLA spinal manipulation - to restore or enhance joint function. However, unlike HLVA manipulation, spinal mobilization generally uses slow movement, usually to a firm endpoint, to mobilize the joint. 

However you get your adjustment, you can expect immediate relief that gets even better in the hours after your first appointment. With regular chiropractic care, you can experience healing of the root cause of your symptoms and live happily pain-free.

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