What Happens During a Spinal Manipulation?

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When you think about going to the chiropractor, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? You might know chiropractic care as a natural treatment approach for a variety of injuries and issues. You may even associate going to the chiropractor with the popping or cracking sounds your joints can make when manipulated. But exactly what is a spinal manipulation, and how does it work? Chiropractors, osteopaths, and physical therapists commonly incorporate spinal manipulation into a treatment plan for pain relief and improving physical function. Here’s everything you need to know about spinal manipulation and what to expect during and after treatment.

What Is a Spinal Manipulation?

Spinal manipulation involves your chiropractor applying a controlled force to a specific joint of the spine. The spine is comprised of a series of vertebrae stacked one on top of the other. These vertebrae are joints that connect to nearby nerves, muscles, and other tissues that allow for healthy spinal and back mobility. Chiropractors typically use either their hands or an appropriate device to perform a spinal manipulation. A goal of spinal manipulation is to properly realign the spine and joints so that you can function better. Spinal manipulation can help improve joint mobility and help release tension in surrounding muscles. This type of treatment is commonly used for conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches.

Benefits of Spinal Manipulation

What Happens During a Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation offers a wide variety of benefits, including the following.


Spinal manipulation is a non-invasive treatment option for musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. A non-invasive treatment means that your health practitioner will not be inserting an instrument into the body. Spinal manipulation may be used as a safe alternative to more invasive procedures like injections or surgical interventions.


Spinal manipulation is also an all-natural procedure, which means you will not need any drugs or medications for this type of treatment. Chiropractic care offers a natural approach to promoting pain relief and healing my jumpstarting the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Pain Relief

Millions of people visit the doctor because of some type of pain every year. Spinal manipulation offers a non-invasive and all-natural option for pain relief. Instead of powerful prescription drugs or medications with uncomfortable side effects, spinal manipulation promotes the body’s natural pain relief mechanisms, like the release of natural endorphins.

Improved Range of Motion

Contrary to what you might think, spinal manipulation does involve more than just working with the bones of your spine. All the surrounding musculature and other tissues that support the spine and joints of the body benefit from spinal manipulation as well. Spinal manipulation can encourage an improved range of motion by releasing tension and improving blood flow to damaged or injured areas so healing can begin.

Reduced Muscle Tension

Spinal manipulation can be used to reduce muscle tension in the neck, back, and elsewhere in the body. When you tense your muscles, it can negatively impact healthy functioning, including your posture and the effectiveness of your nervous system. Reducing muscle tension with spinal manipulation allows your body a chance to rest and recover while you heal and focus on improving healthy functioning.

Improved Function

Spinal manipulation promotes an improvement in the overall functioning of the body. Your brain relies on healthy communication through the nerves in the spinal column and throughout the body. Misalignments in the spine and joints, inflammation, and other issues can disrupt healthy communication to and from the brain and negatively affect your functioning. Spinal manipulation can help restore effective communication and improve function.

What Happens During a Spinal Manipulation?

During a spinal manipulation, your chiropractor will use their hands or a specialized instrument to apply controlled force to a specific area. Your chiropractor may first perform a physical examination of the area to identify any potential misalignments in the spine, inflamed tissues, or other issues. A medical history will also provide your chiropractor with important information to determine the most appropriate course of treatment. In some cases, imaging tests like X-rays may also be used to help identify the location of joint dysfunction or an underlying condition.

The spinal manipulation itself typically involves the patient lying down on a treatment table while the chiropractor applies a controlled force. In some cases, spinal manipulation can make a popping or cracking sound, which is a release of built-up gases around the joint. This phenomenon does not happen every time but is not something to be alarmed about. Your chiropractor will talk you through the experience to help put your mind at ease.

What to Expect After a Spinal Manipulation

After a spinal manipulation, your chiropractor may also use other therapies like massage, stretching, or exercises to address pain, promote healing, and improve overall physical function. Your chiropractor will also talk to you about what to expect in terms of after-care and the number of treatments necessary for your specific condition. In the hours after a spinal manipulation, you may experience what chiropractors refer to as a toxic release, where your body flushes out toxins that have built up and allow for healthy functioning.

Many people experience pain relief immediately or shortly after a spinal manipulation. Some people also experience some stiffness, tenderness, or mild gastrointestinal symptoms as the body adjusts to a healthier way of functioning. One of the best things you can do for yourself after a spinal manipulation is to focus on staying hydrated. Spinal manipulations promote healthy blood flow to the affected area, which brings oxygen and nutrients necessary for healing.

Water plays a key role in supporting the body’s natural healing abilities. You may also make time to rest and allow your body the time it needs to heal if you are recovering from a recent injury. Relaxation, reduced stress, and drowsiness after a spinal manipulation are common sensations or effects. You may also notice a marked improvement in your range of motion after a spinal manipulation.

Experience Professional Spinal Manipulation Through Chiropractic Care Today

Get started with a trusted chiropractor near you when you visit a Pro-care medical center. You can call or visit online to schedule an appointment today and experience spinal manipulation and its benefits for yourself. Whether you are dealing with a recent injury, chronic pain, or a health condition, our chiropractors are here to provide you with long-lasting relief.

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