What does a chiropractic adjustment do?

Feb 11, 2023
Chiropractic adjustment (there are low-force options available if CRACKING isn't your thing)
A chiropractic adjustment, also known as chiropractic manipulation, is a common treatment method used by chiropractors to alleviate pain, improve mobility, and promote healing.

Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments can be effective in treating a variety of conditions, including

  1. back pain
  2. neck pain
  3. headaches
  4. osteoarthritis

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, where ~37% of the population is affected by low back pain. 

  • Acute low back pain (LBP), if unresolved, is considered chronic if it persists for more than 3 months and is experienced by 70-80% of adults in their lifetime.
  • 85% -90% of patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP) have pain that cannot be determined from a definitive pathoanatomic structure and is therefore termed “non-specific.
  • Of the 95% non-specific back pain, the literature has provided extensive evidence of the etiology when describing the genesis of spinal pain. Spinal meniscoid impingements, which are intra-articular folds of the synovial membrane, provide evidence of a pathoanatomical source of pain.

A chiropractic high velocity, low amplitude thrust/adjustment (HVLAT) stretches the joint, providing “joint gapping” and the “treatment of choice” for meniscoid entrapment, and reduces the pain created by the biomechanical pathology.

The objective of a chiropractic adjustment is to restore proper movement to the spine and other joints in the body, allowing for improved function and reduced pain! The adjustment can be performed manually or with the use of specialized instruments.

Anderst et. Al. (2018) concluded “The results demonstrate that target and adjacent motion segments undergo facet joint gapping during manipulation and that intervertebral ROM is increased in all three planes of motion after manipulation. The results suggest that clinical and functional improvement after manipulation (CSA) may occur as a result of small increases in intervertebral ROM across multiple motion segments.  This study demonstrates the feasibility of characterizing in real-time the manual inputs and biological responses that comprise cervical manipulation, including clinician-applied force, facet gapping, and increased intervertebral ROM.” (p. 2334).

It's important to note that while chiropractic adjustments are generally safe, there is a risk of injury, especially if the adjustment is performed improperly. That's why it's important to only seek treatment from a licensed chiropractor who has been properly trained in the proper techniques.

In 2016, it was reported that medical care ended spinal-related compensation 12% longer than chiropractic, and physical therapy care required 239% more time to end full compensation than chiropractic. Medical care also required 20% more time, and physical therapy 313% more time versus chiropractic care regarding partial compensation.



Gevers-Montoro, Carlos, et al. "Chiropractic spinal manipulation prevents secondary hyperalgesia induced by topical capsaicin in healthy individuals." Frontiers in Pain Research (2021): 33.

Paolucci, Teresa, et al. "Chronic low back pain and postural rehabilitation exercise: a literature review." Journal of pain research 12 (2019): 95.

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, "The Effectiveness of Manual Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review," https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569648/

American Chiropractic Association, "Chiropractic Adjustments," https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/What-is-Chiropractic/Chiropractic-Adjustments

Evans, David W. "Mechanisms and effects of spinal high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust manipulation: previous theories." Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics 25.4 (2002): 251-262.

Farrell, S.F., et al. “Cervical spine meniscoids: an update on their morphological characteristics and potential clinical significance.” European Spine Journal (2017) 26:939–947

Corcoran, Kelsey L., et al. "Association between chiropractic use and opioid receipt among patients with spinal pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Pain Medicine 21.2 (2020): e139-e145.

Whedon, James M., et al. "Association between utilization of chiropractic services for treatment of low-back pain and use of prescription opioids." The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 24.6 (2018): 552-556.