Adjustments, or manipulation as they’re sometimes referred to is the minor movement of vertebrae in the spine. The objective of this movement is to realign vertebrae that have moved out of place for a number of reasons ranging from normal daily activity to trauma such as a car accident.
When these vertebrae are out of place, it has an overall systemic effect from muscular to the central nervous system. Without proper alignment and flow of all nerves and systems in the body from the brain, we can’t function at our peak.
An adjustment is often a pressure from the chiropractor utilizing the hands or an instrument to move a vertebrae back into place. This happens with a quick movement and is often without discomfort. You may hear a noise that sounds like you’re cracking your knuckles referred to as joint cavitation. It is the release of gases such as oxygen and nitrogen from the joint.
Overall, adjustments are an excellent way to keep the body functioning at its highest level. When the body is in alignment, the body is able to respond and perform as it was designed to.
Chiropractic adjustments are performed to treat a wide variety of conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain disorders
- Chronic muscle pain and stiffness
- Most musculoskeletal and sports-related injuries
- Nerve disorders
- Pain and stiffness in the back, chest, abdomen, neck, hips and shoulders, as well as extremities, such as arms, legs, and feet
- Sciatica pain
- Whiplash and other traumatic injuries
Adjustments can be performed while sitting, standing, or lying down. Some adjustments involve special instruments or tables.
Some common adjustment techniques include:
- Instrument adjustments, which involve a spring-loaded device.
- Lumbar roll, in which the chiropractor applies a firm, yet quick thrust to a misaligned vertebra while the patient lies on his or her side.
- Motion palpation, a hand technique the chiropractor uses to determine if your vertebrae are properly aligned.
- Release work, in which the chiropractor uses gentle pressure with the fingers to separate the vertebrae.
- Table adjustments, which entail lying on a specially designed table that drops when pressure is applied to a specific area. The dropping motion allows more gentle adjustments than some manual adjustments do.
- Toggle drop, which entails firm pressure applied on a specific area of the spine by using crossed hands.
Chiropractors take many factors—including size, weight, and muscle structure—into consideration when deciding on which adjustment to make. Sometimes, ice, electrical stimulation, or massage therapy (including traction massage) are used prior to a spinal manipulation in order to relax the muscles.
In some cases, it may necessary to perform an adjustment while you are sedated.
Spinal manipulation under anesthesia, which is considered a very safe procedure, is usually reserved for patients with conditions such as chronic neck, back, and joint pain, muscle spasm, shortened muscles, and fibrous adhesions.
Another form of adjustment called craniosacral therapy, or “CST,” involves exerting very mild pressure to the body’s craniosacral system, which is comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. This includes cranium—which is composed of the skull, face and mouth, and the “sacrum,” or tailbone.
CST has been shown to provide relief from chronic neck and back pain, scoliosis, brain and spinal cord injuries, migraines, chronic fatigue, nervous system disorders, jaw joint problems, and stress disorders. (Conditions such as aneurysm and intracranial hemorrhage prohibit this kind of therapy.)
Adjustments almost always do not involve any pain or discomfort. The important thing for a patient to keep in mind is to remain relaxed, because stiffening up may impede the adjustment process. Popping sounds are sometimes heard during adjustments; these are usually pockets of air being released behind a joint or other bony structure.
Adjustments can leave you with a greater sense of well-being, calm, and most importantly, on the road to a life without pain. Following an adjustment, some patients experience mild aching or soreness in their spinal joints or muscles, which can usually be relieved by an ice or heat pack.
Adjustments have been shown to:
- Increase blood flow
- Increase pain tolerance levels
- Increase range of motion
- Increase the body’s secretion of “good” chemicals, such as melatonin and endorphins
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce tension and muscle pressure