Chiropractic adjustments are a specialized form of therapy delivered with the hands, and on occasion with specialized devices.
Chiropractors use their hands to put pressure on muscle tissue and manipulate joints in an attempt to decrease back pain caused by joint dysfunction and muscle spasm.
Chiropractic adjustments can be helpful for the treatment of joints that lack adequate mobility and range of motion. Altered joint movement can cause discomfort, pain and affect function, posture and movement.
Adjustments involves restoring mobility to stiff joints and reducing muscle tension in order to return the patient to more natural movement without pain.
It is through restoring joint function that chiropractic may provide back pain relief for patients with chronic back pain involving joint problems, and acute back pain from soft tissue injuries such as a muscle strain or a pulled ligament.
Chiropractic adjustments use movements of varying speed (slow to fast), force (gentle to strong), and distances (called ‘amplitude’) to twist, pull or push bones and joints into position. This can help loosen tight tissues around a joint, reduce pain in a joint and surrounding tissue, and help with flexibility and alignment.
Patients often get diagnosed with a pulled muscle in their back and are instructed to treat it with rest, ice and massage. While these techniques feel good, the pain often returns because the muscle spasm is in response to a restricted joint. Once the loss of joint mobility is addressed, the muscle spasm can relax.
The adjustment involves loosening up the restricted joint and increasing its range of motion by providing movement directly into the locked area of the joint. A joint that was locked or ‘pinched’ has the joint surfaces moved apart – in ways patients cannot move the joint themselves. These adjustments should be painless.
The goal of this procedure is to restore the gliding motion of joints, enabling them to open and close effectively. If utilized properly, increased mobility and a decrease in muscle tone about the joint should be noticed.
This technique is utilized for restoration of joint motion and does not move a joint beyond its normal range of motion. Therefore, no structural damage takes place to the joint.
Rapid stretching at the spinal joint results associated with an adjustment results in significant changes to the joint on several different levels.
Muscle and ligaments stretch, blood circulation increases, and nerve fibers fire rapidly at the moment of the chiropractic adjustment. This includes the stimulation of nerve receptors within the joint (mechanoreceptors) and within the muscles (muscle spindles). Current theory holds that it is the stimulation of these receptors that cause the relaxation of muscles around a joint following an adjustment.
To continue the healing process and prevent recurring pain, back pain patients are encouraged to engage in other appropriate treatments (including an exercise program) during and after chiropractic treatment.
Exercise programs for back pain usually include stretching and strengthening exercises with low-impact aerobic conditioning.
The goal is to maintain the right type and level of activity to prevent the pain from re-occurring and avoid the need for frequent return visits to the chiropractor.