Also known as spinal manipulative or manual therapy, spinal manipulation combines HVLA (high-velocity, low-amplitude thrusts), exercise, massage, and physical therapy to relieve pressure on the spine and improve flexibility. It’s often used to treat pain and reduce inflammation in the back, neck, and shoulder. Chiropractors use this therapy to treat spinal disorders, along with other conditions – such as menstrual pain, headache (migraine), and sinus problems.
Typically chiropractors perform spinal manipulations (spinal manipulation is an important part of chiropractic treatment). However, there are other professionals who perform spinal manipulations, including physical therapists and osteopaths.
Both traditional Asian and Western medicine utilize spinal manipulation today. Chiropractic care and osteopathic medicine are commonly performed in North America by chiropractors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.
What Does It Involve?
Chiropractors around the world offer over a hundred different spinal adjustments. Some professionals use force and twisting to relieve the pressure on the spine, while others use more gentle techniques such as spinal mobilization. Some practitioners also use traction devices that stretch the spine, ice and heat therapy, ultrasound, and electric stimulation for deep tissue penetration. An adjustable, padded table is used for most procedures.
Spinal manipulation involves applying a controlled, sudden force to a specific joint with the practitioner’s hands. It is common for patients to hear popping noises, similar to when you crack your knuckles.
On the other hand, spinal mobilization involves more stretching and less forceful thrusts. Sometimes, they will use a small metal device called “activator,” that applies pressure directly to a vertebra.
Why do people use spinal manipulation?
According to the 2012 NHIS report, 53 percent U.S. adults used chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation for wellness while more than 67 percent used it to treat a specific health condition: More specifically,
- The percentage of people who used it for general wellness was 43 percent
- About 25 percent used it because it addressed their whole being – their spirit, mind, and body
- One-fifth (16 percent) of those who used it reported improved energy efficiency
- Almost 11 percent used it to improve their immune system
- In 5 percent of cases, it was used to improve memory or concentration.
According to the authors of the NHIS, previous research shows that people who receive spinal manipulation report positive experiences and reduced pain.
What are the benefits of spinal manipulation?
Manipulating the spine may be beneficial for the following conditions:
- Acute back pain
- Chronic pain (especially back pain)
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Chronic migraines
Spinal manipulation’s benefits also include:
- Spinal manipulation is noninvasive and can prevent you from having to undergo surgery.
- Spinal manipulation reduces drug dependence by not using pharmaceuticals to manage pain.
- Flexibility is improved by spinal manipulation, which increases a patient’s range of motion.
Is spinal manipulation safe?
A trained and licensed spine specialist can perform spinal manipulation with relatively little risk. Temporary muscle soreness, stiffness, or pain are the most common side effects of spinal manipulation.
Delays in the diagnosis of serious illnesses, health complications, and deaths have been reported following spinal manipulation, but these cases are extremely rare.