What’s a chiropractic adjustment?

June 17, 2023

"Whats a spinal adjustment?" is a common question among chiropractors and osteopaths. These practitioners manipulate the spine using a variety of techniques. While there is no scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of these treatments, many people find them to be highly beneficial to their overall health. In this article, we will delve into the process of a spinal adjustment, what you should expect from it, and the benefits and risks associated with chiropractic care.

Understanding Spinal Adjustments

A spinal adjustment, also known as spinal manipulation, is a technique used by chiropractors and osteopaths to address issues with the spine and its surrounding structures. This treatment aims to restore proper alignment, reduce pain, and improve overall function. Although scientific evidence is lacking, many patients report positive outcomes from spinal adjustments.

What to Expect from a Spinal Adjustment

When you visit a chiropractor or osteopath for a spinal adjustment, here's what you can typically expect:

Initial Assessment

The practitioner will conduct an initial assessment to gather information about your medical history, current symptoms, and any previous treatments. This assessment helps them understand your unique condition and tailor the adjustment accordingly.

Discussion and Informed Consent

Before proceeding with the spinal adjustment, the chiropractor or osteopath will explain the procedure to you, including its purpose and potential risks. This discussion ensures that you have a clear understanding of what will take place and gives you an opportunity to ask any questions or voice concerns.

Preparing for the Adjustment

You will be asked to lie down on a treatment table, and the practitioner will guide you into a position that allows for effective access to the targeted area. They may provide pillows or supports to ensure your comfort during the adjustment.

Performing the Adjustment

Using their hands or specialized instruments, the chiropractor or osteopath will apply controlled and precise force to the targeted joint or vertebra. This manipulation may involve quick, gentle thrusts or slower, sustained pressure, depending on your specific needs.

Sensations and Sounds

During the adjustment, you may experience a popping or cracking sound, which is often a result of gas being released from the joint. This is generally painless and is not a cause for concern. Some individuals also report a sense of relief or mild discomfort during the adjustment.

Post-Adjustment Care

After the adjustment, the practitioner may provide guidance on post-treatment care. This may include recommendations for stretches, exercises, lifestyle modifications, or additional sessions, depending on your condition.

Benefits of Chiropractic Adjustments

While scientific evidence supporting the benefits of spinal adjustments is limited, many individuals find chiropractic care to be helpful in various ways. Here are some potential benefits associated with chiropractic adjustments:

  1. Improved Nervous System Function: Chiropractic care focuses on promoting healthy nervous system function by removing interference from misaligned vertebrae. A properly functioning nervous system is crucial for overall well-being.
  2. Enhanced Joint Mobility: Spinal adjustments can increase joint mobility by restoring proper alignment and reducing restrictions. Improved joint mobility may lead to reduced pain and increased range of motion.
  3. Pain Relief: Many patients report pain relief following chiropractic adjustments. By addressing spinal misalignments and reducing tension in the surrounding muscles, chiropractors aim to alleviate discomfort and promote natural healing.
  4. Headache Relief: Spinal adjustments have been linked to a reduction in the frequency and severity of headaches, including tension headaches and migraines. This relief may be attributed to the reduction of musculoskeletal tension and improved blood flow.
  1. Complementary Approach: Chiropractic care can complement traditional medical treatments by providing a non-invasive and drug-free alternative for certain conditions. It is often used in conjunction with other therapies to support overall health and well-being.

Risks and Side Effects of Chiropractic Adjustments

While chiropractic adjustments are generally considered safe, it's important to be aware of potential risks and side effects. These may include:

  1. Muscle Soreness: The most common reaction to a chiropractic adjustment is soreness or aching in the muscles and joints. This discomfort typically occurs within a few hours after the procedure and may last for a day or two. Drinking plenty of water and applying an ice pack can help alleviate the aches and pains.
  2. Rare but Serious Complications: Although rare, there have been reports of serious complications associated with chiropractic adjustments. These may include stroke, nerve damage, or herniated discs. It is crucial to choose a qualified and experienced chiropractor or osteopath to minimize these risks.
  3. Temporary Increase in Symptoms: In some cases, individuals may experience a temporary increase in symptoms after a chiropractic adjustment. This is known as a "healing crisis" and is believed to occur as the body adjusts to the changes initiated by the treatment. These symptoms usually subside within a few days.
  4. Risk for Certain Conditions: Individuals with certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis, spinal cord compression, or inflammatory arthritis, may be at a higher risk for complications from chiropractic adjustments. It is essential to disclose your complete medical history to the practitioner before undergoing treatment.

Is a Chiropractic Adjustment Right for You?

Deciding whether a chiropractic adjustment is appropriate for your specific needs requires careful consideration. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  1. Consultation and Evaluation: It is crucial to seek professional advice from a chiropractor or osteopath. They can evaluate your condition, discuss your symptoms and medical history, and determine if a spinal adjustment is suitable for you. They will consider any contraindications or specific precautions.
  2. Open Communication: During your consultation, be sure to communicate any concerns, questions, or expectations you have regarding the treatment. A transparent and open dialogue with your practitioner will help you make an informed decision.
  3. Holistic Approach: Remember that a chiropractic adjustment is a holistic approach that focuses on overall health and well-being. It is not intended to replace conventional medical treatments but rather complement them.
  4. Personal Preference: Ultimately, the decision to undergo a chiropractic adjustment is a personal one. If you are uncomfortable with the idea or prefer alternative treatments, there are various other options available to address your health concerns.


In summary, a chiropractic adjustment is a technique performed by chiropractors and osteopaths to manipulate the spine and promote overall health. While scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited, many individuals report positive outcomes from this treatment. The main benefits include improved nervous system function, enhanced joint mobility, pain relief, and headache relief. However, it's important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects associated with chiropractic adjustments, such as muscle soreness and rare but serious complications. Consulting with a qualified practitioner and engaging in open communication will help you determine if a chiropractic adjustment is suitable for your needs.

Need a chiropractic adjustment? Call Palmercare Chiropractic in Sterling VA today to schedule your appointment.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can anyone undergo a chiropractic adjustment? Chiropractic adjustments are generally safe for most individuals. However, certain health conditions or risk factors may require special considerations. It is advisable to consult with a qualified practitioner to determine if a chiropractic adjustment is suitable for you.

  1. How long does the soreness after a chiropractic adjustment last? The soreness or aching in the muscles and joints after a chiropractic adjustment usually lasts for a day or two. However, each individual's response may vary. Staying hydrated, applying ice packs, and gentle stretching can help alleviate the discomfort.
  1. Are chiropractic adjustments safe for children and infants? Chiropractic adjustments can be performed on children and infants. However, it is essential to choose a chiropractor who specializes in pediatric care and has experience working with young patients. They will use gentle and appropriate techniques to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.
  2. How often should I receive chiropractic adjustments? The frequency of chiropractic adjustments depends on various factors, including your specific condition, symptoms, and treatment goals. Your chiropractor will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. In some cases, a series of initial adjustments may be recommended, followed by periodic maintenance visits.
  3. Can chiropractic adjustments replace medical treatments? Chiropractic adjustments are not intended to replace medical treatments. They can complement conventional medical care by providing a non-invasive and drug-free alternative for certain conditions. It's important to discuss your treatment options with both your chiropractor and primary healthcare provider for comprehensive care.

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