Spinal Adjustment: Back Pain Treatments

The muscles, spinal ligaments, vertebral bones, and other soft tissues of the spine are very strong, and typically aren't prone to fracture or tearing, except in the event where you are in a violent fall or accident. Yet, soft tissues of the spine may be vulnerable to strain and loosening in the event of repetitive stress and poor posture. Take the spinal ligaments, for example. These soft tissues are connective tissues that include material that make them very strong and durable against breaking, yet are also included with elastin fibers that enable them to stretch, to a certain point. These ligaments are designed to stretch to offer the spine some flexibility, but they are not designed to be continuously stretched, and they are not designed to be weight-bearing tissues. Yet when we walk, sit, stand, and lift and carry objects using bad postures and ergonomic techniques, we are stretching are spinal ligaments for extended periods of time. This pulling and stretching of the ligaments may cause ligament laxity, or a loosening of the spinal ligaments. As a result of the loosening of the spinal ligaments, certain elements of the spine, such as the vertebral bones, motion segments, and facet joints may be pulled out of position.

The weight bearing structures of the spine includes the vertebral bodies, and the intervertebral discs that separate them. Both of these objects are block shaped and round. When these objects are healthy, stable, and in their correct position, we are likely to experience back health and comfort. When one of these vertebral bodies slips forward or behind the other, we may experience back pain, and speed the rate of degenerative changes to the spine. As we get older, degenerative changes to our spine occur regardless of how we treat our bodies and our backs. However, poor posture, back injuries, unhealthy lifestyles, and poor lifting and carrying techniques may accelerate the rate in which the soft tissues and joints wear out.

If portions of our spine get pulled out of position, we may experience back pain near the site of dislocation, as well as radiculopathy is the spinal nerves are affected. Radiculopathy is pain and neurological deficits (e.g. weakness and numbness) that occurs along the path of the compressed or irritated nerve, possibly as far as the hands or feet. If the vertebral body is pushed forwards and out of alignment, the condition may be referred to as an anterolisthesis. If the vertebral body is pushed backwards, the condition is known as a retrolisthesis. Misalignments of the vertebral bones and joints of the spine may also be referred to as vertebral subluxations.

For chiropractors and osteopaths a spinal adjustment is often the treatment of choice to fix misalignments and vertebral subluxations of the spine. As far as I know chiropractors and osteopaths are the only healthcare professionals trained and qualified to performed chiropractic adjustments. Spinal adjustments are back pain treatments that involve the hands on manipulation of the spine to move soft tissues, joints, and the spinal bones back into their correct position.

A spinal adjustment from a chiropractor typically involves:
  • The turning of the patient into the proper position necessary for the chiropractor to perform the movement on the patient
  • A high velocity, short lever arm thrust applied to the vertebrae
  • An immediate internal feeling of movement in your neck or back, as parts of your spine is thrust from one position to another. This movement is simultaneously accompanies by a audible crack or pop, that occurs as a result of a release of gases escape from the joints as they pressure is released from them
  • You may feel immediate relief as a result of the movement, as pressure is taken of the joints as a result of its realignment. Though you may be startled by the feeling of movement in the back, accompanied by the audible crack/pop, it is unlikely to be painful. In rare cases, temporary soreness is experienced as the muscles associated with the adjusted structures tense up as a result of the treatment.