Chiropractic adjustments are the foundation of chiropractic treatment. Chiropractors use adjustments to correct mild vertebral subluxations, or dislocations and misalignments of the bones of the spine (vertebrae). The word “subluxation” has its origins in the Latin words “luxare” (to dislocate) and “sub” (mild). Subluxations may put pressure on or irritate nerves and blood vessels in the spine, and cause musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.
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 health and 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 doctors will thoroughly evaluate your case through collection of a health history, physical examinations, laboratory tests, imaging (such as X-rays) and other procedures. During the adjustment procedure itself, you may be lying down on a specially designed chiropractic table, sitting or standing – whichever is appropriate for your situation.
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 and where in the body the adjustment is needed. The position of both the chiropractor and the patient also contribute 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 medicine there may be some discomfort. The popping and cracking noises that occur during adjustments are due to the release of gas bubbles between the joints, and these sounds are perfectly normal. It is a similar phenomenon as when knuckles are cracked.
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 medical treatment if concurrent conditions are present.