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What Actually Happens With a Chiropractic Adjustment

Part 1: Spinal Manipulation vs Spinal Mobilization

chiropractor adjusting patient's backIn this blog series, I will explain in detail what is happening in your spine during a chiropractic adjustment. This first article in the series will detail the differences between the two major types of chiropractic adjustment: spinal manipulation and spinal mobilization

If you are new to chiropractic, you may be curious about what actually happens during an adjustment. Because most adjustments happen on your back or neck, it is hard to see what the chiropractor is doing during an adjustment. However, it is entirely reasonable to wonder what is going on in your body as your chiropractor adjusts it.

As a practicing chiropractor in the Chesapeake region for more than 20 years, I am an expert in the chiropractic adjustment process. In this article, I will explain to you what happens during the adjustment itself.

One of the most important things to remember is that there are many different types of chiropractic adjustments. Broadly, they fall into the categories of spinal manipulation and spinal mobilization.

What is the Difference Between Spinal Mobilization and Spinal Manipulation?

Spinal manipulation is what most people think about when they imagine a chiropractor. In spinal manipulation, a high-velocity, low-amplitude force is applied to the spine. This is sometimes abbreviated to the HVLA technique or called the diversified technique. When spinal manipulation is used, the chiropractor will thrust on a joint and you will typically hear a popping sound.

In contrast, spinal mobilization is also known a as low-force or gentle chiropractic technique. These techniques include the light-force NUCCA technique. In spinal mobilization techniques like NUCCA, your spine’s alignment is precisely and gently corrected based on mathematical analysis of your X-rays. No forceful thrusting is required and you hear no popping sound.

What is the Popping Sound During Spinal Manipulation?

The popping sound during spinal manipulation is called cavitation. Your joints are lubricated with a substance called synovial fluid. During an adjustment, the fluid is disturbed and releases gasses like nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide in your joints as the chiropractor performs a thrust. This popping sound is very similar to what you experience if you crack your knuckles. As with cracking your knuckles, there is no benefit to the popping sound itself.

Because there is no forceful thrusting in spinal mobilization, there is typically no popping sound. Because the popping sound itself has no benefit to your back, spinal mobilization techniques work just as well as spinal manipulation techniques.

How Does Light-Force Chiropractic Work?

In light-force chiropractic techniques like NUCCA, the adjustment focuses on the cervical vertebrae at the base of the skull. A NUCCA adjustment realigns your neck and head, removing interference and strain. By gently correcting alignment problems at the top of the spine, the rest of the spine tends to correct itself as it falls back into proper alignment from the top down.

Is Light-Force Chiropractic Better For Me Than Spinal Manipulation?

Light-force chiropractic techniques like NUCCA can help people who may not be appropriate for spinal manipulation. This includes people with:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity
  • Bone disorders
  • Sensitive nervous systems
  • Arthritis
  • Severe pain
  • Fear of hearing or feeling their joints pop

How Does A Chiropractic Adjustment Help My Back?

Both spinal manipulation and mobilization can help to get your spine into alignment by fixing your spinal subluxation, or joint dysfunction that can cause problems including pain. The joint movement during an adjustment – whether or not it is accompanied by a popping sound – triggers mechanical receptors in your spine. This relaxes your muscles and promotes healthy spinal alignment.

The adjustment process helps to calibrate your central nervous system and reduce the transmission of pain signals. It explains why many people feel much better after leaving a chiropractor’s office after an adjustment.

Getting a Chiropractic Adjustment at Precision Spinal Care

At Precision Spinal Care, I believe strongly in making sure that you have all the information you need to make a well-informed choice about chiropractic care, and the type of chiropractic care that may best serve your health care needs.

As a certified NUCCA chiropractor and spine management physician, I work closely with you to optimize your health. I base all my treatment plans on the most recent clinical evidence and studies about chiropractic care. To accomplish your care goals, during your first visit, I will do a thorough examination. Afterward, I will go over my evaluation with you in detail. I will discuss my treatment strategy with you. I will take the time to answer all your questions and make sure you are comfortable with the facts about chiropractic care.

Together, we will set reasonable expectations and milestones. We will also put together a treatment plan that meets your care needs. I will reevaluate you to make sure you are meeting your goals.

My experience and expertise in spinal biomechanics allow me to competently and safely address your back issues. I am a trauma and hospital-qualified spine management physician. I have credentials in MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering, and orthopedic testing through the Academy of Chiropractic. I am also a fellow in Spinal Biomechanics and Trauma which is recognized through the SUNY Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine.

If I find that chiropractic care is not the best solution to suit your needs, I will recommend the type of specialist who is most appropriate for you.
We understand that you need to explore all your options when you look for expert treatment. At Precision Spinal Care, we are happy to help you determine the best way to address your specific needs and discuss all your options.

Call our office at (757) 382-5555 to speak to the doctor or set up a consultation. You can also set up an appointment online here.

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