Spinal Adjustment

What are Spinal Adjustments?

A spinal adjustment or spinal manipulation is a technique in which your therapist will apply a high velocity, low amplitude thrust to a specific joint segment in your spine. A spinal adjustment will typically result in a “pop.” This pop is called a cavitation and is caused by a release of gas in the joint space when the joint is pushed slightly past its normal passive range of motion. However, research shows that an audible pop is not necessarily needed in order to have the below stated benefits.

What’s the difference between an adjustment, manipulation, and mobilization?

The term “adjustment” is more commonly used in the chiropractic profession whereas “manipulation” is more common in the physical therapy profession. The terms are different although the techniques are the same or very similar in many cases. Both involve a high velocity, low amplitude thrust applied to a spinal segment and/or specific joint. The explained theory behind the treatment may vary and slight changes in the technique are typical. A mobilization is another term used by physical therapists to describe a series of forces applied to the spine and/or joints usually with oscillations of varying intensity. There are many healthcare professions that overlap and treat similar problems. For that reason, terminology is often confused and misinterpreted. Our goal is to educate the public on the quality treatment options they have available to them and to encourage them to ask deliberate questions from their providers to better understand what, why, and how they are being treated.

What are the benefits of having a spinal adjustment?

Research has shown that spinal manipulation can provide:

  • Pain relief
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved muscle relaxation
  • Improved muscle activation or recruitment
  • Restored joint kinematics (movement)

Are spinal adjustments safe?

Yes. The literature shows that manipulations to the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine are safe when appropriate patient screening is done prior to the intervention. Spinal manipulations or adjustments are highly-skilled techniques that should only be performed by a licensed professional with the appropriate training and expertise in this type of treatment. Our physical therapists evaluate each patient prior to any treatment implementation. The risks and benefits are discussed with each patient at the time of their visit. Continuous assessment by your therapist is performed throughout your plan of care. If a thrust manipulation is deemed to be high risk, then alternative treatments can be discussed including spinal or peripheral joint mobilization which may be a safer alternative in some cases.

Who can benefit from spinal adjustments?

Individuals who greatly benefit from spinal adjustments are those with acute low back and neck pain, with symptoms less than a month. However, individuals suffering from back or neck pain for longer periods of time have shown benefits and improvements with adjustments as well. Cervicogenic headaches (headaches that originate from the neck) often respond well to manipulation of the upper cervical spine. Research has also shown that thoracic manipulations can assist with neck and shoulder pain as well as shoulder range of motion.

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