What Does a Chiropractic Adjustment Do for Back Pain?

What Is a Chiropractor?

Chiropractors (licensed healthcare professionals) are highly trained physicians that practice a unique system of healthcare tailored towards preserving and optimizing health by the use of manual treatment to restore proper neurological and musculoskeletal function.

Juneau chiropractors conduct a physical exam in order to unveil any restrictions or misalignments in the spinal column. They refer to such restrictions and misalignments as subluxations, which can cause inflammation, pain, restricted motion, and muscle spasms.

Chiropractors are trained to discover subluxations during an examination. They use gentle force to effectively adjust the spinal vertebrae ridding the body of a subluxation. This ensures that you have a restored range of motion in the joint treated.

Chiropractors are committed to holistic health care, which involves working with patients to enhance their health. Even though the chiropractic profession is based on the evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders, they do also counsel patients on lifestyle issues, such as stress management, diet, nutrition, and exercise. Red flags for back pain can help patients recognize when care is needed under the surface of what can be see with the human eye. 

What Is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment is a specific spinal manipulation technique a chiropractor uses on the vertebrae to treat unusual joint placement (subluxation). An adjustment involves the use of hands-on manipulation along with other alternative therapies.

According to Spine-health.com, an adjustment is a highly skilled and accurate movement designed to improve function in a joint. An adjustment helps to provide pain relief and restore normal movement in the body. This allows you to enjoy everyday outdoor activities as quickly as possible.

Adjustments help to reestablish proper range of motion to a joint. When a joint is adjusted, the pressure is released from within the joint. In the process, a cracking sound may be heard. 

The vertebral column is one continuous structure made up of many parts. Chiropractic treatment may be necessary to effectively reestablish good alignment and function throughout the connections of those parts in the spine. Your doctor of chiropractic can recommend a course of treatment that fits your specific needs.

Chiropractic techniques include joint mobilization, muscle release, muscle stimulation, and therapeutic exercises. Specific treatments may vary depending on the needs of each patient. Each of the techniques has a specific procedure to reinstate the spine to its normal function.

Characteristics of an adjustment:

  • A specific form of joint manipulation
  • Involves long or short leverage techniques
  • Low amplitude dynamic thrust of controlled direction and velocity
  • Audible articular crack

What Are the Different Types of Chiropractic Adjustments?

Regardless of the many techniques that have been classified as adjustments, most have a similar feature, which is the application of thrust. What distinguishes an adjustment from other procedures is the direct care to the spine provided by a trained physician working manually. 

Properly conducted techniques are usually painless, but you may feel some brief discomfort during or shortly after treatment. Patients often find great relief early in their care treatments. There are two types of techniques that you should be familiar with: specific and general spinal adjustments.

Specific Adjustments: These techniques include procedures that apply force to one’s joint or articulation individually. They include the application of short leverage exchanges. The established adjustments work with the affected joint with precision.

General Adjustments: These techniques include processes that are presumed to have wider sectional contacts. They are effective at mobilizing more than a single joint at a time. General adjustments are associated with multiple contacts.

Here are the various types of adjustments you should be familiar with:

1) Direct Thrust Technique

Direct thrust is also referred to as high velocity, low amplitude method or mobilization with impulse. It is one of the oldest and most popular types of manual therapy used by doctors of chiropractic. There are different categories of thrust techniques, including high amplitude and low velocity.

Here are the major facts about this technique:

  • The term ‘direct’ refers mainly to the positioning of the restricted joint to engage the restrictive barrier.
  • Direct thrust varies broadly in localization, speed, amount, and application. Normally, movement is restored to the dysfunctional joint after the thrust is applied.
  • The speed of the actual thrust is brief, and the amplitude is enough to move through the restrictive barrier.
  • The extrinsic force applied allows the joint to return to its normal physiologic movement, which is referred to as joint play.
  • Joint play is a movement that is permissible within a synovial joint. The play is generally self-determining and cannot be introduced by voluntary muscle contraction.

The use of direct thrust adjustment means the chiropractor will engage the restrictive barrier, which consists of pulling instead of pushing against body structures. The physician will monitor the increased restraint.

Then he or she will position the joint to engage the barrier effectively. Most joints show movement in flexion and extension, translation, side bending, and rotation. Then the joints are tested individually to properly diagnose the restriction.

For a direct thrust adjustment to be effective, the chiropractor has to ensure that each plane of the barrier is engaged at the same time. This will help create a solid feeling before applying the thrust. Efficacy of this process depends mainly on the experience of the physician and the patient’s initial pain condition.

2) Spinal Mobilization

Spinal mobilization is a type of technique that is made up of passive movement of a specific spinal section. The goal of this treatment is to obtain a therapeutic effect. Experts associate the procedure with passive, gentle movements that help to improve range of motion.

Largely, the aim of mobilization is almost similar to that of spinal manipulation, which is to reinstate proper joint function. Your doctor may choose this method with respect to your personal preference, the sensitivity of your nervous system, a pain condition, or obesity.

Methods of spinal mobilization:

There are a number of spinal mobilization techniques that your physician can use, which include but are not limited to:

  • Activator Method: This particular procedure involves the use of a handheld manual tool (spring loaded) to deliver a low force impulse on the affected joint.
  • Toggle Drop: The chiropractor uses crossed hands to press down firmly and quickly on a specific area of the spinal column.
  • Cox-Flexion Distraction: Involves the application of a gentle stretch by a chiropractor to the lower spine, which includes a number of repetitive slow movements. This method is useful for improving nerve communication, increase circulation, minimize pressure on spinal nerves, improve posture, improve range of motion, widen the spinal canal, and minimize pressure within the disc.
  • Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT): This procedure is claimed to restore normal function to the peripheral and central nervous systems via the mechanical relationship between the pelvis and the cranium. The chiropractor will place padded blocks between the table and the pelvis. You may be required to assume either a supine or prone position.
  • McKenzie Technique: This is a well-known assessment and treatment method for spinal problems. The physician assesses and diagnoses all parts of the musculoskeletal system. Therefore, the McKenzie Technique is appropriate for spinal, muscle, or joint problems.

3) Articulatory Technique

This is a type of chiropractic adjustment performed by a chiropractor for therapeutic purposes. Your physician will make use of high to moderate amplitude forces and low velocity to restore a dysfunctional joint by engaging its full range of motion.

To successfully achieve the full range of motion, your doctor will engage the restrictive barrier repeatedly. He or she will ease off every now and then before reengaging the restriction.

The intent of the articulatory technique is to improve the general range of motion by effectively and frequently changing the location of the restrictive barrier. To be precise, this chiropractic adjustment introduces a specific motion into a specific joint space.

4) Myofascial Release

This type of chiropractic adjustment refers to a group of manual procedures that are used by a chiropractor to alleviate the tension in the fascia of the body. According to research, Myofascial release is a very resourceful treatment in sports medicine.

The advantages of this technique are not limited to fascia and muscle, but it extends to joints, bones, tendons, cartilage, blood, skin, and ligaments along with soft tissues of your body. 

The advantages may be both long-term and immediate. Myofascial release does not involve entering a body cavity or puncturing the skin. Therefore, it can be considered as one of the safest adjustment with virtually no side effects.

Benefits of Myofascial Release

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved tissue recovery and reduced soreness
  • Reduction or suppression of trigger point pain and sensitivity
  • Reduced adhesions along with scar tissue
  • Increased joint range of motion
  • Improved neuromuscular efficiency
  • Regulation in the production of cytokines
  • Decreased neuromuscular hypertonicity
  • Promote growth and repair of muscle tissue
  • Decreased effects of stress

5) Muscle Energy Technique

This is a chiropractic adjustment of soft tissue that incorporates directed and controlled constrictions tailored towards reducing back pain and improving musculoskeletal function. Muscle energy procedures can be used by your doctor of chiropractic to help stretch a muscle.

This type of procedure helps to stretch a weak muscle or a group of muscles. They do well to reduce localized edema, mobilize an articulation with restricted mobility, and help to relieve passive congestion.

Muscle energy techniques are most effective when used on patients with unbearable discomfort from acute somatic dysfunction. This may include a whiplash injury due to a car accident or a person with severe muscle spasms from a long fall.

There are various types of Muscle Energy Technique, including:

  • Autogenic Inhibition: The functionality of this method depends on the norm of autogenic inhibition. The muscle energy techniques that are based on this principle are post-facilitation stretching (PFS) and post-isometric relaxation (PIR).
  • Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR): It is based on Autogenic Inhibition. Involves a reduction in muscle tone in either a group of muscle or a single muscle. This normally occurs after a short duration of contraction of similar muscles.
  • Post Facilitation Stretch (PFS): When compared to the post-isometric relaxation, this procedure is considered more aggressive. It is also based on Autogenic Inhibition.
  • Reciprocal Inhibition: This is a factor in some kinds of therapy associated with post-isometric relaxation procedures, but it is not a factor in post-isometric relaxation itself. 

6) Cervical Spine Manipulation

By definition, manipulation is considered as a passive chiropractic adjustment where a chiropractor applies a direct thrust or manual impulse to a joint. This process is normally followed by an audible crack.

The most popular distinguishing feature of this technique is the cracking sound. This particular technique can alleviate neck pain by getting rid of pressure from sensitive tissues or nerves. This helps to achieve the following:

  • Increases range of motion
  • Reducing muscle tension
  • Restoring blood flow
  • Stimulate the release of endorphins

With any type of manipulation, a chiropractor will treat cervical anomalies in the spine. You may be asked to rest in a position strategically designed to aid in the effectiveness of the treatment. The positioning of the chiropractor’s hands on the cervical spine is also designed to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

The physician will use his index finger to locate any misalignments. Doctors complete the patient’s evaluation through a series of palpations. This process makes it easy to isolate problems that need to be addressed.

Risks are minimal and may include a slight bit of soreness for a day or so after treatment. 

7) Functional Technique

This particular adjustment targets affected joints in order to free them from restriction and improve mobility. Your chiropractor will use gentle force as he moves the affected joint through its specific natural range of motion.

A doctor of chiropractic will move the joint until it meets any restriction, then he will hold the joint on this restrive barrier until it releases. Like all forms of chiropractic adjustment, this functional technique must be conducted by a highly qualified practitioner.

What Are the Benefits of Chiropractic Adjustments?

1) Relieve Stress

Your body is likely to feel out of line if your nervous system is under stress and your skeletal and muscular systems are poorly positioned. This may lead to physical and mental stress and interfere with your health.

The ideal adjustment will help restore balance within your body. Your body can be relieved of any stress or tension. Once your body is relaxed, the brain recognizes the relief, helping you relax, mentally and physically.

2) Improves Posture

One of the most advanced ways of improving posture is chiropractic care, especially for the elderly. With proper adjustments, your doctor of chiropractic can help you restore and maintain good posture. He or she can advise you on ideal lifestyle changes for you.

With chiropractic techniques, you will be able to decrease joint wear, conserve energy to avoid overusing your muscles, prevent muscle strain, minimize stress on ligaments, and maintain proper alignment of joints and bones.

3) Improve the Immune System

Chiropractic procedures are very resourceful at improving the immune system. The immune and the nervous systems are closely related. They work hand in hand to develop optimal responses that help the body to heal properly.

Spinal misalignments are known to cause stress to the body. Consequently, the ability of the immune system is disturbed, and the body cannot effectively heal itself. However, when the misalignments are corrected and spinal normal function is restored, the immune system is improved and the body is better able to heal itself.

4) Promote Better Sleep

Do you have insomnia? Are you facing significant challenges whenever you want to sleep? Fear not, there is a long lasting solution for you. Finding a chiropractor near you and making an appointment is a great step in the right direction.

Research shows that chiropractic care has a positive effect on the quality of sleep. Apart from diagnosing and correcting spinal misalignment, a chiropractor can advise you on essential life changes that you can make to improve the quality of your sleep.

Specific chiropractic adjustments help to restore the body to its full potential. In turn, the nervous and immune systems can more efficiently, helping you to achieve quality rest and sleep. Chiropractic care can also be given to children to improve their health and sleep.

In Conclusion

Chiropractic adjustments are designed to help provide pain relief in a natural and effective manner. There is so much this field of chiropractic treatment can do for you. So, when you can find a chiropractor near you, we advise you to give him or her a visit!

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage ChiropractorDr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.