The benefits of Chiropractic adjustments – What do they actually do?

“Are you going to break my neck”

“Is this going to hurt”

“Is there any point in cracking the back”

These are just a couple of the headache questions that a Chiropractor has to deal with on the daily. So today I’m gonna give you guys an insight into what an adjustment is doing for your body,  and talk about when it should/shouldn’t be used.

What is a Chiropractic adjustment/joint manipulation?

Well to kick it off I want to start by saying that no I didn’t just spend 5 years at university to come into clinical practice and break someones neck… I can understand how people come to this misconception with all these manipulation videos found on TikTok or YouTube. The joint “cracks” heard in these videos are aggressively loud because of the microphones and some adjustments do look extremely forceful, especially the old “ring dinger” adjustment (FYI I will never ever be caught dead doing that adjustment).

A Chiropractic adjustment/Joint manipulation is a high velocity/low amplitude thrust performed to a specific joint that is lacking range of motion or is pain sensitive. The adjustment itself is performed in a safe and protected manner to minimise the risk of harm to the patient. The “crack” that you hear when an adjustment is performed is just gas exiting the joint due to the high velocity of the thrust. No bones are being “put back into place” or being broken, purely just gas leaving the affected joint. 

Is there any risk associated with Chiropractic adjustments?

With any form of manual therapy we always run the risk of the injury not getting better, the injury getting worse, and with adjustments we use, although very rare, do have to address some of the risks.

Regarding adjustments I have listed the risks below:

  • Patient may feel temporary joint pain for 2-3 days following treatment 
  • An adjustment may lead to disc rupture – This is very uncommon although if it occurs the patient may have serious nerve pain 
  • Manipulation to the cervical spine may cause injury to the arteries in the neck – This is a very rare event (approx 1:100,000-400,000 patients)

How do we reduce these risks from occurring? Great question…

This is where our in depth history taking and physical examination comes into play. When we are asking you all these questions about your medical history, which you may think is not important to your neck or back pain, it is purely for your safety. We ask questions about any underlying health conditions you may have, we will ask about your history of previous pathologies (if any), and if we are suspicious of anything serious occurring that is out our scope we will send you straight to the GP.

Adjustments of the body will only occur 1) if you are clear of any red flags that may put you at risk and 2) if you consent to being adjusted at the affected area. 

What are the benefits of an adjustment?

When adjustments are combined with other forms of manual therapy such as massage and/or active therapy such as exercise, patients can experience a significant improvement to their presenting symptoms.

These benefits include:

  • Improvement to joint range of motion 
  • Positive changes in regards to neural supply in/out of the affected joint 
  • May decrease in severity of pain 
  • Can improve common headaches such as migraine or cervicogenic 
  • Can decrease muscle hypertonicity/tightness around an affected joint 
  • It may provide postural relief
  • Can provide some stress relief 

If you have any questions whatsoever please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Hope to see you soon.

Written by Nick Dimakis (Chiropractor)