The goal of chiropractic therapy is to correct or minimize the impact of irregularities that occur in the spine over time due to injury or repetitive strain. Such irregularities are referred to as spinal subluxations, which can be characterized as one or more vertebrae being out of alignment. This typically results in pain and impaired movement due to pressure being placed on the bones of the spine, as well as on the nerves that surround them. The objective of the chiropractor is to isolate and target spinal subluxations by employing a variety of physical manipulations called chiropractic adjustments. Generally speaking, there are about 55 chiropractic adjustments that a chiropractor may apply to a patient.
Many people are under the assumption that chiropractic adjustments force misaligned vertebrae back to their correct position. However, this isn’t really the case. What the chiropractor does do is manipulate the vertebrae so that the space in which the bones originally occupied can become accessible again. The reason this is necessary is because the muscles supporting the vertebrae tend to become lazy and encourage the bones to gravitate back to the misaligned position. This is why it’s often necessary to perform several chiropractic adjustments to help the vertebrae “remember” the correct position.
Often, chiropractic adjustments are performed while the patient is at rest on a special table that has an opening for the face. The table is adjustable, padded, and usually quite comfortable for the patient. However, some chiropractic adjustments may be performed while the patient is standing or sitting, depending on the location and nature of the spinal misalignment.
Generally, chiropractic adjustments are painless. However, some patients, especially those new to chiropractic therapy, may experience some mild discomfort due to tensing up or flexing in response to the manipulations. In addition, some spinal subluxations may involve a degree of inflammation at the site, especially those related to injury or trauma. While this situation alone can impact the level of pain and stiffness, most patients experience some relief once the therapy session is complete.
Another concern for some patients is the popping noise sometimes heard while undergoing chiropractic adjustments. However, this is perfectly normal. In fact, these sounds are simply the result of gas escaping from small pockets between the bones and is no more harmful than cracking one's knuckles.
Numerous studies have shown that chiropractic therapy can be very effective and safe in treating a variety of ailments, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, sports injuries, carpal tunnel, and other repetitive strain conditions. However, chiropractic adjustments should only be performed by a trained professional, namely a Doctor of Chiropractic. In addition, although it is rare, osteopaths are sometimes trained to perform chiropractic adjustments.