What is it? How does it help me? Should I do it? Find all the answers here…
What is Spinal Manipulation?
Spinal manipulation, also called spinal manipulative therapy or manual therapy, combines moving and jolting joints, massage, exercise, and physical therapy. It’s designed to relieve pressure on joints, reduce inflammation, and improve nerve function. It’s often used to treat back, neck, shoulder, and headache pain. Chiropractors use it to treat other disorders too, such as menstrual pain and sinus problems.
Today, spinal manipulation is used in both Western and traditional Asian medicine. It’s usually performed by chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, and physical and occupational therapists. Chiropractic adjustment is a procedure in which trained specialists (chiropractors) use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. The goal of this procedure, also known as spinal manipulation, is to improve spinal motion and improve your body’s physical function.
What does it involve?
There are over 100 types of spinal adjustments used by chiropractors worldwide. Some use force and twisting (spinal manipulation), while others techniques are more gentle (spinal mobilization). In addition, practitioners use ice and heat therapy, electric stimulation, traction devices that stretch the spine, and ultrasound for deep tissue heating. Most procedures are done on a padded, adjustable table. Parts of the table can be dropped as an adjustment is being done, adding different forces to the movement.
In spinal manipulation, the practitioner uses their hands to apply a controlled, sudden force to a specific joint. Patients often hear popping noises, like when you crack your knuckles.
In spinal mobilization, practitioners use less forceful thrusts and more stretching. They will sometimes use an “activator,” which is a small metal tool that applies force directly to one vertebra.
What to expect?
No special preparation is required before a chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractic treatment may require a series of visits to your chiropractor, but most people attain maximum improvement in six to 10 visits.
At your initial visit, your chiropractor will ask questions about your health history and perform a physical exam, with particular attention to your spine. Your chiropractor may also recommend other examinations or tests, such as X-rays.
During the procedure
During a typical chiropractic adjustment, your chiropractor places you in specific positions to treat affected areas. Often, you’re positioned lying facedown on a specially designed, padded chiropractic table. The chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply a controlled, sudden force to a joint, pushing it beyond its usual range of motion. You may hear popping or cracking sounds as your chiropractor moves your joints during the treatment session. But don’t worry, that’s how it’s meant to be.
After the procedure
Some people experience minor side effects for a few days after chiropractic adjustment. These may include headache, fatigue or pain in the parts of the body that were treated.
Chiropractic adjustment can be effective in treating low back pain, although much of the research done shows only a modest benefit — similar to the results of more conventional treatments. Some studies suggest that spinal manipulation also may be effective for headaches and other spine-related conditions, such as neck pain.
Not everyone responds to chiropractic adjustments. A lot depends on your particular situation. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve after several weeks of treatments, chiropractic adjustment might not be the best option for you.
Does it work?
Researchers say it is moderately effective in easing acute low back pain that lasted less than four weeks. Another study showed that six weeks of mobilization treatments helped treat neck pain in almost 70 percent of participants. A 2007 study found spinal manipulation to be moderately effective in easing chronic low back pain lasting four or more weeks.
Is it safe?
Spinal manipulation is relatively safe when performed by a trained and licensed practitioner. The most common side effects of spinal manipulation are temporary muscle soreness, stiffness, or a temporary increase in pain.