Chiropractic adjustments and spinal adjustments are commonly terms used by chiropractic practitioners to describe their methods for spinal manipulation, and sometimes, some osteopaths, who use the word adjustment to define their treatment. Chiropractic is often considered as a complementary therapy to medicine, and the goal of the chiropractor is to treat the body holistically, not just treat a symptom or condition. Chiropractic adjustments are also referred to as spinal manipulations. The concept of chiropractic is based on a medical principle that states the spine is the framework through which the entire nervous system is connected.
Chiropractic is related to other health care sciences such as physical therapy, pathology, neurology, homeopathy, radiology, and endocrinology. The objective of chiropractic is to align the skeletal and muscular structure of the spine so that subluxations do not occur, thus permitting proper communication between the nervous system and the rest of the body. When spinal adjustments are made, synovial fluid that resides in the sac around the spine is moved, or “manifested”, into the joints and soft tissue. This helps to reduce pain, improve functioning, and treat the underlying cause of the problem.
Chiropractic practitioners believe that the nervous system controls most illnesses and diseases, and that when one or more areas of the nervous system are out of balance, a person will suffer pain. They believe that spinal manipulation can be performed to correct these imbalances. For example, if the lower back is injured and causing chronic pain, a chiropractor may perform spinal manipulation to correct the subluxations in the low back.
There are four types of chiropractic adjustments, namely, the superficial flexure, the deep flexure, the lumbar decompression and the high velocity. In the superficial flexure, pressure is applied at a site below the joint where muscle attachments to the bone are tight but away from the joint cavity. The purpose of this is to restore motion to an area that is unstable. The deep flexure is the opposite of the superficial flexure, as it applies force directly to the joint cavity. When comparing the effects of a deep compression and a high velocity, it is apparent that the former increases strength and flexibility, while the latter impairs motion.
During chiropractic adjustment, the practitioner applies sudden and intense force into the spine and nearby joints, applying leverage with each motion. This leveraged action loosens the surrounding muscles and tendons, relieving pain. If the spine is properly aligned, the practitioner may notice that some soreness or stiffness may be felt immediately after the procedure. Most patients report that their neck feels “tight” or “impaired”, but there are some who note no discomfort. It is common for chiropractic adjustments to feel good initially, but over time the body adapts to the therapy and it becomes more difficult to achieve desirable results.
Chiropractic adjustments are often followed by instruction on diet and daily exercise. Appropriate exercise and nutrition can help prevent neck problems, but chiropractic adjustments are not a substitute for regular medications or treatments. Pain relief may occur several hours following the initial session, but should subside within 24 hours. To prevent long-term strain on the neck, chiropractic adjustments should not be done too often. If you think you might benefit from a chiropractic adjustment, contact your health care professional to discuss your options.