Updated: Sep 26
At Comprehensive Chiropractic we hear this question all the time, “What actually happens when I get adjusted?”. There are many common misconceptions when it comes to this question, but today we are going to tell you why an adjustment is such beneficial treatment, and why patients get so much relief from it.
If you have ever wondered or even been concerned about what produces that popping sound when your chiropractor adjusts you, don’t worry, it is completely normal and a healthy process in which the gas between the joints is being released. Just as one may “pop” their knuckles, that audible being heard is the exact same physiological process of having your neck or back adjusted. So rest assured, your bones are not being relocated or shifted back into place, even though it may feel or sound like it.
There are many aspects to the effects of the adjustment, and it is continuously being studied to further understand the therapeutic effect it has on patients with spine pain. So today we are about to dive in on the top three beneficial features of having your spine adjusted.
Fully Connecting our Brain to our Joints and Increasing Body Awareness
Through a multitude of reasons, our joints may become “stuck”. Whether it be from poor posture, sitting too long, an injury through lifting a heavy object off the floor, or physical inactivity causing the joints to not move often enough. Our joints are directly connected to our brain, and they communicate with each other through nerves in the joint, but when the joints aren’t moving, this connection begins to get fuzzy. If inaccurate impulses travel to the brain from the joint, then inaccurate messages will be sent from the brain back to the joint and the muscles responsible for moving that area. By restoring this movement, we allow for the body to have proper proprioception (body awareness) of where every joint is in time and space. Thus restoring the brain’s communication with the joints, allowing for proper motor control and movement of our body.
Increasing Range of Motion
Our joints have this capability of locking up either through two main mechanisms: muscle tightness or fibrous tissue scarring. In a study done by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapies, brightfield microscopy was used to show what happens to a joint after it has been fused. You can see below how after only 16 weeks of immobility, scar tissue begins to form and the joint is not able to move the proper nutrients into the area causing a more jagged joint surface instead of the smooth curvature seen on the healthy joint.
Thankfully spinal manipulation stimulates the muscle spindles allowing for a relaxation mechanism of the muscles, as well as clearing out those adhesions that develop within the joint after periods of immobility. The rapid impulse of an adjustment clears out these blockages restoring our spinal range of motion. This range of motion across the whole spine is so crucial, because if one part of the spine is not moving, other segments above and below must accommodate and overwork to overcome the original joint blockage. The picture below demonstrates the gapping effect the facet joints of the spine experience after an adjustment. Although the change may seem minimal, it has profound effects.
Finally, the main reason and the major motivation for almost all of our patient’s office visits. Pain relief. Adjustments are incredibly effective at pain reduction and according to the clinical practice guidelines for low back pain, there is only one recommendation for chronic low back that has Grade A Level Evidence which does not include an exercise component. The answer is spinal manipulation! For the right individual without contraindications, spinal adjustments are one of the best options for treating your low back pain.
If you have any questions about spinal adjustments or would like to make an appointment. Please call Comprehensive Chiropractic and Sports Performance at 636-938-9310.
Cramer GD, Henderson CN, Little JW, Daley C, Grieve TJ. Zygapophyseal joint adhesions after induced hypomobility. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010 Sep;33(7):508-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2010.08.002. PMID: 20937429.
Delitto A, George SZ, Van Dillen L, et al. Low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):A1-A57. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.42.4.A1