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Adjustment vs. Spine Manipulation: Which One Is Better for Your Back Pain?

When it comes to chiropractic care, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around. Maybe you've wondered what difference there is between a "chiropractic adjustment" and "spine manipulation."

In this article, we'll break down the meanings of these terms and discuss which option is the most effective chiropractic treatment for back pain

What Is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment, sometimes called a chiropractic manipulation or a chiropractic treatment, refers to any adjustment that is made to a patient's spine to correct issues, improve flexibility and range of motion, or otherwise work toward a patient's long-term spinal health.

Chiropractic treatments can be manual or rely on activator tools, and they don't just have to rely on direct adjustment of the spine. Chiropractors also make adjustments through mobilization exercises, muscle stimulation, and other forms of musculoskeletal therapy.

Ultimately, the term "chiropractic adjustment" refers to a relatively broad set of chiropractic treatments that are used to improve, promote, and maintain a patient's back health, flexibility, and longevity.

One thing to remember is that you should only receive a chiropractic adjustment from a trained, licensed, and experienced chiropractor. In the US, all legitimately licensed chiropractors must receive a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from an accredited school. Be sure that you're receiving chiropractic treatment from a professional who knows what he or she is doing!

What Conditions Can Chiropractic Adjustment Treat?

Chiropractic treatments are aimed at improving the health of your musculoskeletal system in general, with a particular (but not exclusive) focus on spinal health. For example, while acute or chronic low-back pain and chronic or acute neck pain are some of the most common ailments treated through chiropractic adjustments, chiropractors also treat health conditions such as arthritis, general joint pain, and muscle aches.

Chiropractic adjustments can also provide relief for nerve pain issues, such as sciatica, as well as chronic pain conditions like recurring migraines or other types of frequent headaches.

Whether a condition is chronic or is the result of a new injury, such as a car accident or sports injury, chiropractic adjustments are intended to provide improvements in pain and increase bodily functionality.

Chiropractic treatments can be especially suitable for patients who are interested in pain management or relief from other symptoms from a healthcare professional but who want to avoid prescription medications.

What to Expect During a Chiropractic Adjustment

Like with any doctor, your first chiropractic appointment will start with a discussion of your health history, as well as a preliminary physical exam. If the chiropractor wants a deeper understanding of what is causing your pain, headache, or stiffness problems, you may need to undergo an X-ray or an MRI.

Once your chiropractor has a clearer idea of your condition, he or she will be able to provide a treatment plan that is meant to address your unique needs. At that point, and during subsequent adjustment appointments, your chiropractor may perform manual or tool-based adjustments to correct joint misalignments, use soft-tissue therapy to relax your muscles, or work to improve your joint stability through a mobility exercise program.

Chiropractic adjustments typically focus on one part of the body at a time. Your chiropractor will have you lie down on a specialized chiropractic table that will allow access to the specific part of your body that is hurting or stiff.

By using quick, carefully controlled, and targeted pressure to produce joint manipulation with hands or a small instrument, your chiropractor can gently realign your joints to the way your body is designed to function.

What is Spinal Manipulation?

Spinal manipulation is a specific subset of chiropractic adjustment that focuses narrowly on your spine. While more general chiropractic adjustments include various parts of the body, spinal manipulation is manipulative therapy that is restricted to the spine itself.

Spinal manipulations are known for the characteristic "pop" of gas such as carbon dioxide being released from your joints as the chiropractor applies quick pressure on joints of your back. This type of manipulation aims to put your spine back into alignment.

Like all forms of chiropractic care, spinal manipulation is meant to provide pain relief and improve overall functionality, in this case as it relates to your spine. While most spinal manipulations are performed by trained chiropractors, they can also be done by physical therapists and medical doctors.

What Conditions Can Spinal Manipulation Treat?

There is a significant overlap between the ailments that are addressed by chiropractic adjustments and those that are aided by spinal manipulations. The main difference, as mentioned above, is that spinal manipulation exclusively targets the back and neck.

This means that spinal manipulations can be used to treat upper and low-back pain, acute or chronic neck pain, and neck-related headaches. Since they focus so much on the spine rather than other parts of the body, spinal manipulations are less concerned with providing relief for muscle stiffness or soreness, non-spinal arthritis, or other conditions.

By correcting misaligned spinal joints and providing other forms of direct relief, spinal manipulation can provide effective pain relief and improve flexibility in the back and neck areas. Spinal manipulations may also be able to improve circulation and nerve function, increase your mobility, and even help with inflammation in your spinal area. 

What to Expect During a Spinal Manipulation

As in the case of a chiropractic adjustment, you'll want to provide your medical care provider with your medical history and undergo a physical exam.

Your treatment will be focused on you lying down on an adjustable table while the chiropractor performs a spinal adjustment on a specific vertebra with a quick thrust. In most, but not all cases, this will produce the "popping" sound that these types of manipulations are known for.

While the popping noise is the harmless sound of gas being released due to pressure relief from the adjustment, some patients dislike the noise and prefer other types of chiropractic adjustment.

After the spinal adjustment, you will likely feel some level of joint-related discomfort until a day has passed. After that time, you can expect to feel relief thanks to the spinal adjustment.

In the end, both chiropractic adjustments and spinal manipulations can provide relief for back pain. However, if you would prefer a gentler, more holistic form of treatment with long-term benefits, chiropractic adjustments are the way to go.

Contact Deep Roots Health Center to Schedule an Appointment Today

Are you looking for a chiropractor who can help you finally live pain-free?

Deep Roots Health Center is here to help! We specialize in Neurological-Based Chiropractic care and can help with various issues, including back pain, neck pain, headaches & migraine pain, sleep problems, asthma & allergies, posture correction, sciatica & disc bulge, and pregnancy back pain.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and see how we can help you get to better health!

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