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How Does a Chiropractic Adjustment Work?

Skeptical about the benefits of chiropractic care?

Let’s explain how a chiropractic adjustment actually works…with science.

Maybe a friend, family member, or neighbor swears by chiropractic care, but you’re skeptical that “cracking your back” can do anything for you. Maybe you know firsthand the relief that a chiropractor can provide.

Maybe you’re just curious: how does a chiropractic adjustment actually work?

The benefits of regular chiropractic care are as scientific as they are effective. In this article, we’ll discuss what a chiropractic adjustment really is and why they’re a necessary addition to your healthcare.

What Is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment occurs when a chiropractor applies short, quick force to the joints in order to correct a misalignment, increase range of motion, or release pressure on nerves.

Chiropractors use different methods to perform chiropractic adjustments. Some may use their hands to pop the joints back into place, others may use a drop table or activator, still more may rely on more gentle stretching to ease the joints to their proper position.

Regardless of the specific method used, the goal of a chiropractic adjustment is to restore proper alignment to the joints and allow the body to heal naturally.

What is a Misalignment?

If you’ve ever looked at an anatomy textbook, you might have had the impression that the various systems of your body—skeletal, muscular, nervous, digestive, etc.—are separate from each other. But in fact, your entire body is connected.

And it all starts with the relationship between your spine and your central nervous system.

Your central nervous system consists of two things: your brain and your spinal cord. Your spinal cord runs directly from the brain through the spine, where your peripheral nervous system branches out and runs throughout your entire body.

spine with nerves

Each of the yellow “tubes” in the image above represents a nerve. As you can see, a rotation or other form of misalignment in these joints would put pressure on the nerves. A pinched nerve can lead to pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or other symptoms that are felt, not in the spine, but other parts of the body.

If you have ever suffered from the painful effects of sciatica, you’re already familiar with this process. Rather than feeling symptoms at the location of the pinched nerve, pain radiates through the hip, buttocks, leg, or feet. If the misalignment occurs at a different location, the effects may radiate to your arms, face, or even your stomach.

Chiropractors follow a holistic form of care, which aims to treat the body as a whole rather than as separate systems.

What Causes Misalignment?

Your muscles and ligaments are designed to hold your vertebrae and other joints in place, and the discs between your joints are flexible and spongy.

This flexibility allows your joints to move in the way they intended, but it also allows (if the proper conditions are met) your joints to move out of alignment.

This can be caused by:

  • Outside force, such as a car accident, fall, or other injury
  • Muscle contractions that pull your joints out of alignment
  • Poor posture (either while awake or while sleeping)
  • Repetitive motions
  • Genetic deformities (such as scoliosis)

How a Chiropractic Adjustment Works

What happens during a chiropractic adjustment that corrects the misalignment?

It’s rather simple: a chiropractor literally pushes the joints back into the correct position.

How do chiropractic adjustments work?

Although chiropractic adjustments are given to every patient, no two people get the exact same adjustment. Each treatment is customized; your chiropractor might use more or less pressure or make an adjustment in a slightly different position than s/he uses for the next patient.

However, because the discs are flexible, your joints might try to return to the misalignment, especially if they were in that position for a long time. If you lived with the pain of a car accident for a long time, your muscles might be used to holding the joints in that particular position and they may try to pull it back.

This is why your chiropractor wants you to keep coming back, by the way. Over time, your body will become reacquainted with its proper position/alignment and will be able to hold your joints in the correct position much more easily.


Spinal misalignments are a lot more common (and harmful) than you might realize. In fact, there’s a good chance that you have a joint misalignment right now without realizing it!

If you have been living with uncomfortable symptoms like pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or spasms, schedule an appointment at South Bellevue Chiropractic & Massage for a customized treatment plan. If this is your first visit to a chiropractor, read our guide about what to expect.

Unlike traditional medicine, chiropractic care doesn’t rely on pain medication or surgery, and it aims to correct the source of your discomfort, rather than just masking symptoms. We have massage therapists for additional relief.

We accept nearly all insurance plans and have affordable cash pay rates.

Call today; we’ll get you “straightened out!”

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