What is chiropractic adjustment?

A licensed chiropractor uses special instruments or their hands to manipulate joints in the body. This process is also called spinal or joint manipulation. It can help reduce pain and correct the body’s alignment and overall physical function.

Chiropractors treat many conditions affecting the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. Chiropractic care can help with low back pain, headache, neck pain, muscle pains and other joints of the body.

What is a chiropractor?

Think of a chiropractor as a doctor who cares for any kind of muscle, joint or bone pain. Chiropractors can complement the traditional medical care you receive.

What does a chiropractor do?

Understanding what chiropractors do is pretty simple: think of aches, pains, creaks and strains. If you’ve got a problem that involves your musculoskeletal system, a chiropractor can offer alternative methods of treatment.

Chiropractors do not prescribe medication; this allows them to think outside the box. A chiropractor may prescribe:

  • Soft-tissue therapy: To relax tight muscles, relieve spasm and release tension in the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds each muscle).
  • Adjustments: To gently realign joints and increase range of motion.
  • Joint bracing/taping (e.g., Kinesio taping): To support sprained joints or muscles as they heal.
  • Exercises and stretches: To restore and maintain mobility and range of motion.
  • Referrals to integrative medicine experts: For guidance on diet and nutrition to reduce inflammation and promote weight loss.

Treatments generally do not hurt. But soreness — similar to what you might feel after a workout — is a common side effect. Over time, however, your muscles adjust.

Chiropractors can treat pain anywhere in the body: in the head and jaws, the shoulders, the elbows and wrists, the hips and pelvis, and the knees and ankles.

They look at the whole musculoskeletal system and treat the root of the problem. Chiropractors make sure not only that the joints are moving properly, but also that surrounding muscles are functioning well.

Chiropractors treat problems in people of all ages. Depending on the patient, the intensity and force of treatments vary. All patients are screened to ensure that they are good candidates for chiropractic care. For example, many older patients have some thinning or softening of the bones that would rule out joint manipulation. If chiropractic care is too risky for a patient, they will guide them to the right people and resources.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/04/2018.

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