Spinal Manipulation: How Chiropractors Treat Back Pain

Spinal Manipulation: How Chiropractors Treat Back Pain


Spinal manipulation is a form of physical therapy that has been around for centuries. It is used to assist in healing a wide range of musculoskeletal issues. It is often used to treat back pain and can be a beneficial addition to medications and exercise.

In this article, we will discuss how spinal manipulation works, its perks and perils, as well as how it can help with back pain.

Overview of Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation is a type of therapy used to treat musculoskeletal conditions, like back and neck pain. Chiropractors often use it, but physical therapists, manual therapists, and osteopaths may also use it.

This therapy seeks to reset joint mechanics in the spine. It helps reduce pain and improve movement by restoring movement ability. It employs different techniques, such as thrusting manipulation or non-thrusting mobilization.

The premise is that misalignments or subluxations in the spine cause musculoskeletal ailments. Without correction, one could get future injury or chronic back conditions.

To decide if this treatment is right, the chiropractor will do an examination and range-of-motion tests. This helps identify areas of misalignment. Then, targeted therapies can be used to reset joint position and reduce pain.

Benefits of Spinal Manipulation

Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to treat back pain. This technique involves using a controlled force to move joints and muscles in the spine. It is thought to reduce pain and give back mobility.

In this article, we will look at the advantages of this treatment and how it can offer relief from chronic pain.

Improved Range of Motion

Spinal manipulation can result in improved range of motion. When vertebrae and joints are in alignment, muscles can work together for balance. This increases joint mobility, allowing for more movement and a full range of motion.

The increased mobility helps maintain healthier muscles and reduces any pain or discomfort from tightness. It also leads to better posture, strength, flexibility and metabolic efficiency. Performance in sports and daily activities can also improve.

Injuries or conditions causing stiffness or tightness benefit the most from spinal manipulation. It also supports overall health, even in individuals without issues with range of motion. Regular treatment can help prevent future problems with proper posture knowledge.

Reduced Inflammation

Spinal manipulation, also known as a “chiropractic adjustment,” is a great way to treat lower back pain. Chiropractors use manual pressure and manipulation to decrease inflammation and improve spine functionality. This type of treatment also helps reduce pain caused by muscle spasms or other back-related issues.

The goal of manipulation is to make the joints more flexible and improve joint health. It can also reduce inflammation and make it easier to manage chronic back pain. Spinal manipulation involves trained practitioners using their hands or tools to make gentle movements in the spine to help healing and reduce pain.

Furthermore, spinal adjustment can also fix posture due to sitting too much at a desk or looking down at electronic devices. Misalignment can cause neck and lower back pain, as well as headaches and digestion problems. Regular treatments help keep the spine in alignment and heal any nerve impingements that may have been caused by misalignment in lifestyle habits or injury.

Reduced Pain

Spinal manipulation is a treatment for back pain, joint movement, nerve irritation and postural balance. It helps with conditions such as low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and headaches. An experienced professional like a chiropractor or osteopath can do it safely to relieve musculoskeletal problems and give you back your mobility and vitality.

In plain language, it’s a gentle way of adjusting the spine to restore its natural posture and balance. The practitioner uses high-velocity, low-amplitude thrusts (HVLAT) to release tension in tight muscles without harming delicate structures like nerves and discs. When done right, targeted areas can be treated and stability and alignment improved throughout the spine. This helps reduce sciatica symptoms and nerve pressure, which often comes with disc herniations or spinal stenosis and degenerative disc diseases.

By doing this, strained muscles are allowed to relax and give the patient immediate relief from acute and chronic pains and stiffness. Spinal manipulation also boosts circulation in vertebral joints and loosens muscle tone and fixations from ligament sprains and strains. This gives more mobility during everyday tasks and reduces pain from Facet HydroSyndrome Syndrome. Patients often report immediate improvement with greater mobility and less felt pain in the lower back. Often, no other treatment or medication is needed and function is restored.

Types of Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation is a common treatment for back pain. Chiropractors often use it. The manipulation involves using hands on the spine and other joints. It restores normal functioning. Conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, sciatica, and facet joint syndrome can be treated this way.

Let’s look at the various types of spinal manipulation:

Diversified Technique

Diversified Technique is a popular technique often used by chiropractors. It’s a manual spinal manipulation that involves fast thrusts to restore mobility and health to the spine. It adjusts misaligned vertebrae and deals with nerve issues.

The adjustments are specific for each patient. The chiropractor uses their hands or tools to isolate misaligned vertebrae and apply force to move them. This reduces irritation, muscle tension, joint stiffness, and pain. Plus, it improves range of motion, posture, and overall spinal health.

Diversified Technique helps many conditions, such as:

  • Herniated discs
  • Sciatica
  • Neck pain
  • Arthritis pain management

Gonstead Technique

Dr. Clarence S. Gonstead founded the Gonstead Technique in 1923 – a system of chiropractic care that focuses on the spine-nervous system relationship.

The evaluation is comprehensive, to identify misalignments and subluxations. X-rays may be used to check posture and contour of the spine. Once misalignment is addressed, adjustments are done with low-level force. The focus is on restoring lost movement.

The goal is to reduce pain, prevent its return, and improve well-being. This results in better outcomes for patients treated with Gonstead Technique adjustments!

Activator Technique

Activator Technique is a spinal manipulation used by chiropractors to treat lower back pain. It uses a special instrument to reach areas hard to access manually.

It works by giving quick, light force impulses to targeted areas of the spine, both directly and indirectly. This helps to reduce joint inflammation and improve muscle function.

The main advantage of Activator Techniques is it takes only seconds instead of minutes. Studies have also shown it causes less muscle damage than manual manipulation. This can help with faster healing and prevent recurrent muscle stress.

Thompson Technique

The Thompson Technique is a form of chiropractic care used to find misalignment in the spine. It uses a special table with support, and the chiropractor taps it with light force. This creates movement in the tight tissues, releases joint tension, and encourages spinal realignment.

Instead of treating the spine as a whole, this technique targets specific areas that are not working properly. It works to bring normal movement back to joints, especially those in the lumbar and cervical spine. This helps reduce pain, and boosts mobility, strength, and reduces stress on the nervous system.

The Thompson Technique has been proven to help with sciatica, disc problems, headaches, shoulder and neck pain, and numbness or tingling in limbs from nerve compression. When used by a qualified practitioner, it can bring relief from back pain without risky surgery. It has a good safety record.

Risks of Spinal Manipulation

Chiropractors employ spinal manipulation to help treat back pain. Despite its advantages, there are a few potential risks. This piece will explain these hazards and how to limit their chances of occurring.

Nerve Damage

Spinal manipulation, done by a licensed chiropractor or other health professional, has little risk. But there are serious complications that are rare. The biggest risk is nerve damage. This can cause:

  • Cauda Equina Syndrome – a medical issue where the fluid around the spinal cord can press on nerves at the bottom of the spine. This can cause pain, tingling in the lower limbs, bladder or bowel dysfunction, or temperature sensation loss.
  • Compression fractures – when too much pressure is applied, a bone can break. This can be painful and needs medical attention.
  • Herniated discs – too much force can cause the disc’s contents to move out of position, resulting in herniation. This can cause pain if nerve roots are involved, or restricted movement if nearby tissues are affected.
  • Strokes – rarely, an artery may tear and bleeding may happen during spinal manipulation. This can lead to stroke or paralysis. However, these cases are extremely rare.

So, don’t be afraid of spinal manipulation if recommended by your healthcare provider and if your condition requires it.

Disc Injury

Spinal manipulation is a therapy used for neck pain, headaches, and other ailments. Studies have found it beneficial for some folks with certain back pain issues. Yet, it carries risks. There’s a chance for disc injury or nerve impingement, leading to weakened sensation or reflexes in an extremity. It’s estimated that a complication from a spinal manipulation occurs in 1/200 to 1/400 sessions.

The most hazardous complications come from forceful neck manipulation when a vertebral artery dissection happens. This can cause a stroke and is more frequent in cultures that do not use evidence-based recommendations.

Before undergoing any back treatments, discuss the risks and benefits. If you have medical conditions that put you at higher risk of complications, strongly consider non-invasive treatments like medication or physical therapy. Or minimally invasive procedures such as epidural steroid injections. Get guidance from your doctor if they think any treatment may not be safe or recommended for you.

Worsening of Symptoms

When a patient receives spinal manipulation, it can be harmful if not properly targeted. Pressure applied to the affected area can worsen existing nerve conditions such as sciatica, radiculopathy, or disc herniation. In some cases, manipulation of the spine can cause the disc to protrude temporarily, which may be mistaken for new pain.

Manual adjustment techniques that involve higher impact shocks have been linked to more serious side effects such as stroke and paralysis. It’s essential to understand that while spinal manipulation can be beneficial and treat back pain and musculoskeletal problems, there are risks. Discuss these with your chiropractor before undergoing chiropractic treatment so you know what to expect.


Spinal manipulation therapy is a non-invasive technique used by chiropractors to treat back pain and other musculoskeletal issues. It is generally safe, with few side effects, and a low risk of harm.

More research is needed to confirm its efficacy, yet evidence suggests that it may be a successful tool for managing back pain and enhancing general function.

Benefits Outweigh Risks

The opinion of healthcare experts is that the positive effects of chiropractic care on lower back pain outweigh any potential risks. A 2017 review showed that spinal manipulation can be helpful for different types of back pain, such as acute and chronic low back pain, and neck pain. Studies have also proven that it is safe, with only minor side effects.

Moreover, chiropractic treatment can help reduce risk of future lower back pain, particularly for those who have never had it before. It also lessens the need for prescription medications or surgery.

To summarise, chiropractic care is a safe and effective solution for back pain relief. It avoids the dangers of strong medications or surgical procedures.

Speak to Your Doctor Before Trying Spinal Manipulation

Talk to your doctor before trying spinal manipulation or seeing a chiropractor. They may be able to suggest other ways to ease back pain, such as physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications.

If chiropractic care is right for you, your doctor can work with a chiropractor to identify the cause of the pain and recommend the best treatment.

Remember, spinal manipulation puts pressure on the spine and nearby muscles. It can be dangerous if done wrong. So, make sure to get help from an experienced practitioner before you try it.

Your doctor should also know if you have any existing conditions or take medication which could make spinal manipulation riskier.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is spinal manipulation?

Spinal manipulation is a manual therapy that involves the application of controlled force to the joints of the spine. It is used to improve spinal motion and alleviate pain.

2. What conditions can be treated with spinal manipulation?

Spinal manipulation can be beneficial for people with back and neck pain, headaches, and conditions such as sciatica and herniated discs. It may also help with conditions related to the musculoskeletal system, such as shoulder, hip, and knee pain.

3. What qualifications do chiropractors have?

Chiropractors must undergo extensive education and training to obtain a license to practice. They typically have a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and are trained in a variety of treatment methods, including spinal manipulation.

4. Is spinal manipulation safe?

Spinal manipulation is generally considered safe when performed by a qualified chiropractor. However, as with any medical treatment, there are potential risks and side effects. Your chiropractor will discuss these with you before beginning treatment.

5. How long does it take to see results from spinal manipulation?

Many people experience immediate relief from pain after spinal manipulation. However, the length of treatment and the number of sessions needed will depend on the severity of the condition being treated.

6. Can anyone receive spinal manipulation?

While spinal manipulation may be beneficial for many people, it is not appropriate for everyone. Your chiropractor will evaluate your condition and discuss whether spinal manipulation is right for you.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

Related Articles