Chiropractic Adjustment

1 What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Chiropractic adjustment is a procedure in which a trained specialist (chiropractor) uses his or her hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint.

The aim of chiropractic adjustment, which can also be referred to as spinal manipulation, is to correct the structural alignment and make an improvement to your body's physical function.

2 Reasons for Procedure

The most common reasons for which individuals seek chiropractic adjustment are:

3 Potential Risks

Generally, there are no potential risks to undergo a chiropractic adjustment as long as it is performed by a trained and licensed professional.

Serious complications associated with chiropractic adjustment are quite rare, but may include the following:

  • A herniated disk or worsening of an already existing disk herniation.
  • Compression of nerves in the lower spinal column (cauda aquina syndrome).
  • A certain type of stroke (vertebral artery dissection) after neck manipulation.

Do not seek chiropractic adjustment if you have the following:

  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Numbness, tingling or significant loss of strength in an arm or leg
  • Cancer in your spine
  • An increased risk of stroke
  • Excessive motion in the spine (instability)

4 Preparing for your Procedure

There are no special preparations before a chiropractic adjustment.

Chiropractic treatment may require a series of visits to your chiropractor. It is important to ask your care provider about the frequency of visits and also be prepared to work them into your schedule.

It might be a good idea to bring your calendar along or have an idea of when in your schedule you can fit in visits to the chiropractic office.

Many health insurance policies cover chiropractic care, but you might want to check to see the number of treatments covered in a given period of time.

5 What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your chiropractic adjustment procedure.

At your initial visit

Your chiropractor will ask questions about your health history and perform a physical exam, with particular attention to your spine. Your chiropractor may also recommend other examinations or tests, such as X-rays.

During the adjustment

  • During a typical chiropractic adjustment, your chiropractor places you in specific positions to treat affected areas.
  • Often, you're positioned lying face down on a specially designed, padded chiropractic table.
  • The chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply a controlled, sudden force to a joint, pushing it beyond its usual range of motion. You may hear popping or cracking sounds as your chiropractor moves your joints during the treatment session.

Additional therapies

Your chiropractor may recommend other treatment approaches in combination with chiropractic adjustment, such as:

  • Heat or ice
  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss

After the adjustment

Some people experience minor side effects for a few days after chiropractic adjustment. These may include headache, fatigue or pain in the parts of the body that were treated.

6 Procedure Results

If you do not understand your chiropractic adjustment results, consult with your doctor.

Chiropractic adjustment can be a very effective procedure in the treatment of lower back pain, although most of the research done shows only a modest benefit similar to the results of more conventional treatments.

Some studies have shown that spinal manipulation may also be effective for headaches and other spine-related conditions, such as neck pain.

Not everyone has the capability of responding to a chiropractic adjustment. A lot depends on your individual situation. If your symptoms do not start to improve after several weeks of treatment, chiropractic adjustment might not be the best option in your case.