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What is a Chiropractic Adjustment ? (The Chiropractic Treatment)

Chiropractic adjustments, are also known as chiropractic manipulations, manual manipulations, or spinal manipulations, is a common therapeutic treatment used by Chiropractors. 

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 misaligned vertebrae or vertebral joints with the goals of increasing range of motion, reducing nerve irritability and improving function.

Chiropractic Adjustment Description

A chiropractic adjustment typically involves:

  • A thrust (or push) applied to a vertebra in a specific direction or line of correction.
  • An accompanying, audible release of gas (joint cavitation) that is caused by the release of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, which releases joint pressure – However this “pop” is not always heard, and has no bearing on whether the adjustment was completed successfully.
  • A relieving sensation most of the time, although minor discomfort has been reported (that usually lasts for a short time, and typically only at the beginning of care) if the surrounding muscles are in spasm or the patient tenses up during this chiropractic care.

There are well over 100 types of adjustment techniques used by chiropractors throughout the world. Typically, chiropractors will focus on and utilize 4 to 6 different approaches in their practice.

The common goal of most chiropractic techniques is to restore or to enhance joint function, with the general goals of resolving joint inflammation and reducing pain. Some approaches use some force (spinal manipulation), while others are more gentle (spinal mobilization).

In addition to manipulation, many chiropractors will employ adjunctive therapy, such as ice or heat or physio therapy modalities (such as electric stimulation, etc.), as part of an overall treatment plan.

Is the Audible Pop Necessary?

The sound often heard during a manipulation is called cavitation. The pop is caused by a release of gas when the joint is pushed a short distance past its passive range of motion of the joint. The mechanism is similar to cracking your knuckles.

Some clinicians and patients consider an audible pop necessary for the treatment to be successful, although there is no scientific physiological data from studies with large patient populations to confirm this belief.   So again, the popping sound is not an indicator if a manipulation was completed successfully.