Most Chiropractors will agree that the core clinical action that is performed is the Chiropractic adjustment, or Chiropractic manipulation. This involves a low force, high speed (called low amplitude, high velocity) thrust specifically done at a certain level. The purpose of manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become hypo mobile – or restricted in their movement – as a result of a tissue injury. Many adjusting techniques exist which allow for some variation from doctor to doctor. However, each technique provides a therapeutic and health enhancing effect of correcting a joint abnormality. The specific location is determined during each office visit by palpating the patient's skeletal system to identify the joint abnormality. It is not uncommon to have multiple areas which need correction. The doctor is well trained to identify and correct each joint abnormality and assess for tissue injury.
Tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture for an extended period of time. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function for the sufferer. Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing tissues to heal.
Typically, the adjustment is delivered to the patient using the doctor's hands which provide the corrective force. With certain patients, a small instrument (the Activator) may be substituted and provide the corrective force. During the adjustment, the patient may hear a "popping" noise similar to that of cracking your knuckles. Don't worry! This noise results from an atmospheric change which occurs within the joint. As the high velocity, low amplitude thrust is delivered, the pressure within the joint decreases thus causing a release of gas from the joint, into the surrounding environment. That release of gas is the audible "pop" that you hear.
There are many terms you may have heard associated with chiropractic care and spinal conditions that you're unfamiliar with. Check out our complete chiro glossary for a definition of commonly used terms.
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