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Spinal Manipulation (Chiropractic Adjustment)

At A Glance

  • Spinal manipulation is a passive form of treatment, meaning a specialist administers a treatment to the patient, versus the patient actively doing yoga, Pilates movements, or other physical exercise.
  • It is typically administered by chiropractic physicians and osteopathic physicians specifically trained in these techniques.
  • Spinal manipulation treats Sprains and Strains and Herniated Intervertebral Disc.


The hands-on component of spinal manipulation can be important in diagnosing and managing certain spinal conditions. The two main types of treatment are soft tissue or muscle energy techniques, and high velocity/low amplitude techniques.

The soft tissue techniques focus on manual examinations of muscles, ligaments and the skeletal system and hands-on treatment for specific affected areas.

The high velocity/low amplitude techniques are commonly referred to as “pop and crunch.” In this form of treatment, a chiropractor or osteopath forcibly mobilizes the facet joints of the spine through a restricted range of motion, causing an audible pop of the joint, much like cracking your knuckles.

The theory is that moving the facet joint releases any abnormal swelling or fluid collection in the joint, decreasing excessive pressure and alleviating pain.

The manipulation specialist targets areas of the spine that show up as what’s known as trigger points, or localized areas of pain, swelling and a palpable (can be felt) lump. These problems can occur in the neck, thoracic, lumbar or sacroiliac (lowest region) spine areas.

A general feeling among physicians is that too much manipulation therapy can cause hyper mobile joints, although no studies have proven this claim. Regardless, passive manipulation therapy should be combined with an active exercise program. As normal range of motion is re-established, then strengthening surrounding muscles will help to keep the alignment and proximity of the spine in a normal position, lessening the recurrence of similar problems.

However, beware of the use of manipulation treatment to manage certain systemic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and others. This simply has not been proven to work.

Like any non-surgical treatment for spine problems, manipulation has a role in the comprehensive management of certain spinal disorders, and it can help many people.


Frequently Asked Questions

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