What to Expect From a Chiropractic Manipulation

March 04, 2019

Woman at the chiropractor
Renée Bacher

Back ache? Neck ache? Headache? If you're going to the chiropractor for the first time, you may ask yourself, what is a chiropractic manipulation? How can it improve my spine health? What can I expect after a visit to the chiropractor?

What Is a Chiropractic Manipulation?

Chiropractic care is all about restoring proper alignment to the joints that make up the spine in order to allow injured tissue to heal and pain to go away. Hands-on techniques such as spinal manipulation can improve spine health and positively affect various functions of the body, too, since poor alignment can compress nerves causing pain and numbness. The components of chiropractic manipulation involve the chiropractor physically laying their hands on various parts of the body to apply pressure, and, in some instances, firmly twist, jerk and press the body so that the spine moves into proper alignment.

Here is what you should know about this type of therapy for spine health before getting it, as well as what you may expect afterwards:

It's an Add-On

In the United States chiropractic care is considered a complementary medicine, which means you would not use it in place of visits to your regular medical doctor but rather in addition to them, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. If you do decide to see a chiropractor to improve your spine health, be sure to consult your doctor first.

It Can Ease Inflammation and Make You Feel Better

According to the American Chiropractic Association, spinal manipulation is used to treat tissue injury and inflammation, which can arise after a physical accident, such as taking a fall or lifting something heavy the wrong way. Poor posture or repetitively bending your neck in an awkward position to look at your smartphone can also cause tissue injury and painful inflammation. Treating the injured tissue with spinal manipulation can restore the mobility of your joints that may have become somewhat frozen into place or overly mobile. Adjusting the joints can loosen painfully tight muscles, let the tissues heal and help the pain go away.

It Can Fix Some Things, but Not All Things

According to a review of manual therapies that include chiropractic manipulation, hands-on therapies were effective in adults for low back pain, neck pain, neck-related headaches and dizziness, joint conditions in the upper and lower extremities and disorders associated with whiplash. The evidence about manual therapies was inconclusive when it came to treating fibromyalgia, mid-back pain, jaw pain, PMS and numbness in the legs from low back pain, also known as sciatica. Spinal manipulation was not found to help with asthma, high blood pressure or menstrual pain.

It May Make You Sore

Most people do not find chiropractic manipulation to be painful or even uncomfortable, but afterwards you may feel sore, as if you have worked out at the gym. Any soreness you may feel is usually gone within 48 hours. In the meanwhile, over the counter pain relievers as well as taking a hot bath followed by icing any area of discomfort can help.

Make Sure You See a Certified, Licensed Chiropractor

Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) attend rigorous training at nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs. They spend a minimum of 4,200 hours in the classroom, laboratory and at a clinical internship. Before you make an appointment with a chiropractor, call to make sure they are licensed and certified. To find a chiropractor in your area visit The American Chiropractic Association's Find a Doctor page.

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