What is an adjustment & why does it “pop”?
An adjustment, also called a spinal or joint manipulation, is a hands-on or tool-assisted therapy where the joint space of a joint is quickly and temporarily increased in volume. This is done by bringing a joint to end-range and then providing a quick thrust through a restriction near-end-range. It is important to note that anatomically, most joints are able to safely move farther than what most people can move on their own. For example, think of someone popping their knuckles on their hands, they are moving their joint beyond their usual/restricted range of motion, but it is still within the joint’s safe operating range of motion so no injury occurs.
The “pop” occurs not because it is overcoming a barrier that is restricting movement, but rather it is a similar effect to when you open a can of pop and hear the gas releasing from the can. Gas is being released from the joint as well, but it is contained within the joint’s capsule. When the volume of the joint capsule is increased, the pressure inside the joint decreases. This decrease in pressure causes gas to emerge from the capsule’s “synovial” fluid, the same fluid that helps keep the joint motion smooth and shock absorbing. The sudden release of gas where there was none before causes a “crack” or “pop” sound. This is safe and normal, and slowly over a few hours the gas is re-absorbed into the synovial fluid as the pressure changes back again.
Do I need to see a chiropractor forever?
No. Chiropractors will provide patients with a treatment plan that includes how many sessions are recommended and over what length of time those treatments are to be administered. Based on the diagnosis, the treatment plan may last for a few weeks, to a few months or so. In Ontario, chiropractors are required to re-assess their patients after every 24th visit, if not sooner. After re-assessment, the chiropractor may provide a new treatment plan with their recommended number of sessions and treatments. Ultimately, it is up to the patient’s consent if treatments can proceed, and the patient has the right to withdraw consent to treatment at any time for any reason.
Some patients may find ongoing care beneficial for their symptoms, goals, or overall wellness, thus they may see a chiropractor on an ongoing basis. Usually these patients are seen less frequently such as once every few weeks or once a month, though ultimately it is up to the patient and chiropractor’s agreement on the treatment plan.
Do chiropractors only work on backs?
No, chiropractors work on many areas of the body including shoulders, neck, hands/wrists, feet/ankles, knees, and elbows. While chiropractors are known for treating the back and ribs, other areas with symptoms of concern are also easily treatable such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, shoulder sprains, and even headaches.
Do chiropractors perform acupuncture?
While acupuncture is not part of core education and training for chiropractors, many chiropractors do obtain additional education and testing in order to provide acupuncture to their patients. Ask your chiropractor if they offer acupuncture as part of their treatment plan.
What else do chiropractors use?
Depending on their facilities chiropractors may also have access to modalities that provide laser treatments, ultrasound treatments, shockwave treatments, distraction tables, or other electrical modalities such as ICF/TENS machines.
“I saw a chiropractor a decade ago, will it be the same experience now?”
The great thing about the chiropractic profession is that every chiropractor has a unique set of experience and styles. Some chiropractors may focus more on treatments such as exercise therapy and soft tissue work rather than spinal/joint manipulation therapy. Other chiropractors may have decades of experience using only adjustment treatments and get great results for their patients.
Even if you were to go see the same chiropractor a decade later, they have probably integrated more and different techniques over that time which is likely to lead to better treatment results.