A chiropractic adjustment, also known as chiropractic manipulation, manual manipulation, or spinal manipulation, is a common therapeutic treatment for lower back pain.1
A chiropractic adjustment refers to a chiropractor applying manipulation to the vertebrae that have abnormal movement patterns or fail to function normally.
The objective of this chiropractic treatment is to reduce the subluxation, with the goals of increasing range of motion, reducing nerve irritability and improving function.
Chiropractic Adjustment Description
A chiropractic adjustment typically involves:
- A high velocity, short lever arm thrust applied to a vertebra
- An accompanying, audible release of gas (joint cavitation) that is caused by the release of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, which releases joint pressure (cavitation)2
- A relieving sensation most of the time, although minor discomfort has been reported (that usually lasts for a short time duration) if the surrounding muscles are in spasm or the patient tenses up during this chiropractic care.
It should be known that joint cavitation or cracking does not occur at times, typically as a result of significant muscle splinting or the patient not being adequately relaxed during the chiropractic manipulation. At times like this, it is sometimes best for the chiropractor to apply ice, have the patient rest, or do electrical stimulation and massage prior to attempting the chiropractic adjustment.
Chiropractic Adjustment Techniques
There are many different manipulative techniques that can be utilized in chiropractic, and there is a certain skill level and "art" involved with high velocity, low amplitude adjustment or manipulation. It is perhaps more important for the chiropractor to determine when not to apply the adjustment.
Chiropractic Adjustment Side Effects
The most common reaction to a chiropractic adjustment is aching or soreness in the spinal joints or muscles. If this aching or soreness occurs, it is usually within the first few hours post-treatment and does not last longer than 24 hours after the chiropractic adjustment. Application of an ice pack often reduces the symptoms relatively quickly.