Chiropractic Adjustment

Many people have a general awareness of what a chiropractic adjustment is, either through receiving one or seeing it on TV. A chiropractic adjustment involves a high velocity, short lever arm thrust applied to a vertebra with the goal of relieving pressure on the spinal joints. While this adjustment is taking place, the patient will experience a crunch in their spine and hear the sound of an audible "crack". Though hearing and feeling this "crack" or "pop" may be a little startling, it is not painful or uncomfortable after the spinal adjustment is over. The "pop" that is hear and felt is a result of gasses such as carbon dioxide being released by the joint as they are manipulated. This release of gas has the result of releasing pressure on the joint that was built up when the joint was pressurized due misalignment of the joints. As the pressure on these joints is relieved, the patient should begin to feel better and have more comfortable, fluid movements in that part of the body.

A chiropractic adjustment is a common treatment for lower back pain, though it may also be used to treat other vertebral misalignment conditions. A chiropractic adjustment is also known as a spinal manipulation, manual manipulation, or chiropractic manipulation. These adjustments occur when the chiropractor identifies a lack of mobility in the spinal joints due to subtle joint dislocations that are known in that industry as vertebral subluxations.

These subluxations are not apparent on medical images or through the standard physical examinations performed by medical doctors. Chiropractors are trained to detect these subtle dislocations of the spinal joints, and to treat them by popping the joints back into place using short lever arm thrusts.

As the subluxation is reduced, a patient should have improved function, increased range of motion, and less nerve pain. Nerve pain may be felt, in related to these subluxations, when the joint is thrown out of alignment, causing adjacent structures to the nerves to move into the nerves, constricting them.

Typically, a chiropractic adjustment usually involves:
  • A high velocity, short lever arm thrust applied to the affected vertebra.
  • Simultaneously, there will be an audible "crunch" or "Pop" that occurs as gas bubbles are released by the joints affected by the manual adjustment.
  • The adjustment causes gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to be released by the joints, reducing joint pressure. Patients may experience immediate or gradual relief as the joint pressure is reduced. This aggressive movement may be uncomfortable to the patient exactly as it is occurring, but the entire procedure only lasts for a few seconds. The chiropractor from experience will know right away if the joint has been popped back into its proper position.


This manual manipulation should be accompanied by a relieving sensation most of the time. If a patient's back problem involves spinal joint dislocations along with muscle spasms, then it may take longer than the treatment session for the patient to begin experiencing significant relief. Muscle spasms, regardless of what caused then, take some time to loosen and break up.

For this treatment to be most effective, patients should do everything that the chiropractor asks of them as their body is being oriented into position in preparation for the adjustment. Before the adjustment is done, the patient should bring their body into a state of relaxation. If the patient is not adequately relaxed, this treatment may not be fully effective.

Spinal Manipulation: High-Velocity Low-Amplitude (HVLA) Technique: The HVLA technique is the oldest and most common technique that is used in the chiropractic profession. The technique is called high velocity because it involves the rapid forceful movement of restricted joints. The technique is called low amplitude because it involves a short movement - just enough movement of the spine to get the affected joints to move.