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What Is an Adjustment?

February 22, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 199

The chiropractic profession is a very diverse profession. Even though someone calls themself a chiropractor, they may choose from many different methods of practicing. Some choose to focus more on nutrition to treat an illness by giving supplements and dietary advice. Others choose to work primarily with patients who consider themselves to be athletes. Still others choose to treat what chiropractors are most known for: neck and back pain. Regardless of how each practitioner chooses to set themselves apart from the other chiropractors in their area, one quality stays fairly consistent throughout the profession: the need to adjust a patient.

A patient generally equates an adjustment with the popping sound that they get when a chiropractor moves their spine around. Thankfully, the chiropractor is doing much more than just popping the spine. Let us consider the anatomy of the spine briefly. The human spine consists of 24 vertebrae (back bones), plus a fused sacrum at the bottom and the skull sitting on top. Between each vertebra are vertebral discs, which provides cushion while we move, and two facet joints on each side behind the disc. The facet joints and the disc make up a motion segment between each vertebra. The facet joints are the joints in the spine that a chiropractor adjusts.

Before an adjustment, your chiropractor will use their hands to feel the motion of the spine at each motion segment. When a segment does not move properly, he or she will use their hands to help the joint to move properly. This is called a chiropractic adjustment. An adjustment occurs when the joint is pushed slightly past its normal range of motion without causing injury to the joint. The patient may hear or feel a pop when this occurs. The pop occurs when pressure is released within the synovial capsule of the joint. This release of pressure causes nitrogen to come out of solution similar to the way carbon dioxide comes out of solution when you release the pressure on a coke bottle.

The reason why a chiropractor elects to adjust a patient is to decrease the patient's pain, increase the joint's range of motion, and to decrease the tension on the muscles that move the motion segment being adjusted. Pain relief occurs because the brain can only handle so much information at one time. When bombarded with information, the brain will only pay attention to the fastest nerve signals coming to it. Pain signals (or nociception) are actually slow signals. Nerves that transmit information about where a body part is located within space (proprioception) are much faster. An adjustment activates the proprioceptive nerves to send signals to the brain in order to override the nociceptive nerves. This causes the brain to stop focusing on the pain and allows the body to heal.

An adjustment helps to increase the range of motion in a joint by giving the joint more space to move. Often, decompression occurs with the adjustment. More space is given to the joint to glide and move the way it was designed. When the joints are able to move better, the muscles that attach to the bones forming the joint are able to move better, too. Muscles reflexively contract when a joint is not moving correctly in order to stabilize the joint. This contracture is what we call a spasm. Although the body thinks it is helping the situation by preventing further injury, the spasm itself causes pain. The adjustment will loosen up the joints and will allow the spasm to relax.

Given these benefits, most chiropractors will choose to adjust a patient as long as it is safe to do so. Before giving an adjustment, your chiropractor will evaluate your condition and will most likely take x-rays to determine if an adjustment is the right treatment for you. When performed in the correct situation, a chiropractic adjustment can be irreplaceable in helping a patient to get better quickly.

Dr. Lance Richardson, D.C. is a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist and expert in joint and muscle biomechanics in Houston, Texas. More information can be found at his website at

Source: EzineArticles
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