What Happens at a Chiropractic Adjustment and What to Expect After


Americans are Going to the Chiropractor

People visit chiropractors for many reasons. Maybe you have back or neck pain. Perhaps headaches sabotage many of your days, preventing you from focusing on work or family duties. Or joint aches could limit your mobility so workouts feel more painful.

Chiropractic care can benefit everyone for these and many other conditions. The term combines the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (practice) to describe the hands-on therapy chiropractors use, especially adjusting your spine.

After all, your spine runs through the center of your body. It connects everything. Coordinated by your nervous system, your spine allows each component of your body to work in concordance with the others.

You want to keep the spine and nervous system free of structural interferences that everyday stressors create. Prioritizing spinal alignment can unlock your body’s natural potential for health and healing.

While the spine becomes their primary focus, a chiropractic approach is holistic and encompasses the entire body’s health and wellbeing.

Practitioners may use a variety of treatments, but the primary focus of chiropractic care are the spinal adjustments that correct alignment problems, alleviate pain, improve function, and activate your body’s natural healing abilities.

And more people are getting those and other benefits. The 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found more Americans are seeking chiropractic care.  Statistics increased from 9.1 percent, in 2012, to 10.3 percent, in 2017, among adults. The American Chiropractic Association estimates that over 35 million Americans visit a chiropractor annually.

Science Supports Chiropractic Care

That’s because science supports chiropractic care for many conditions. Most research focuses on lower-back pain, a primary cause of disability worldwide.

But chiropractors can benefit many other conditions. Studies show the effectiveness of chiropractic care for neck and shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, and migraines.

The premise here is that anything that interferes with the function of the spine — as a result of misalignment or mechanics — creates problems throughout your body.

These points of impairment are called subluxations. They can occur in specific segments of the spine or in full regions such as your neck.

Preventing these subluxations can heal your body, especially when you incorporate 5 Essentials™. Conversely, when your body functions poorly on the inside, it won’t respond well to good nutrition, exercise, optimal mindset, and detoxification from the outside.

When you remove what interferes with the natural function of the body, your body works better without any difficult lifestyle changes.

The Spine is Your Lifeline

Chiropractors look for what’s wrong in the spinal alignment and fix it, based on the premise that your spine supports your body and becomes the foundation for excellent health.

Your spinal cord’s primary job is to communicate between your brain and body. Every spinal nerve has a special job for movement and feeling. These nerves tell your muscles how and when to move. They also carry messages back to the brain about sensations including pain.

When we refer to the nervous system, we’re referring to the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

If you were to touch a hot stove, the peripheral nervous system sends pain signals through the central nervous system to your brain. Your brain returns the message to pull your hand away.

Both systems are important, yet the central nervous system itself carries everything from movement, sensation, and thought processes from the brain to your body and back again.

This entire system is enclosed within and protected by the vertebrae of the spine. An adult spine contains 24 vertebrae, extending between the skull and the pelvis:

  • The seven cervical vertebrae (C1 – C7) create a gentle inward curve at the base of your head.
  • The 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1 – T12) move outward at the shoulders and back in toward the lumbar spine.
  • The five lumbar vertebrae (L1 – L5) create the gentle arch of the small of your back.

Let’s look at each of the vertebrae more closely and discover the science of chiropractic.


The pressure created by abnormalities at the top of the spine — in the cervical region — can affect the transition between the brainstem and spinal cord.  The nervous system in the cervical spine contributes to:

•  Breathing
•  Heart rate
•  Muscle function
•  Circulation of the arms, elbows, and wrists
•  Asthma and lung health
•  Vision
•  Headaches

One study looked at the benefits of a single adjustment to the highest cervical vertebra. The 50 participants here had high blood pressure and an abnormality in the Atlas vertebra, a part of the neck can easily be out of alignment without indicating pain.

Researchers checked blood pressure right after the adjustment and again at eight weeks. One adjustment lowered blood pressure similarly to two blood pressure medications, and those benefits continued eight weeks later.


The next section of the spine is the largest. Your thoracic region extends from the top of the shoulders to the mid-back.

The nerves that run through the thoracic spine reach through the middle of the body. Your esophagus, lungs, and heart might be affected by both the cervical and thoracic spine in very different ways.

The thoracic spine connects nerves to the organs in the middle of the body including your digestive system, adrenals, and uterus. An adjustment here can benefit those areas of the body.

You might also get sick less often. In one study, researchers found that a single thoracic adjustment could positively impact your immune system.


Low in the back, the lumbar vertebrae are the last free-moving vertebrae in the spine,  while the sacral and coccygeal sections are fused and extend into the buttocks.

The buttocks, groin, thighs, and legs are anchored here, and the nerves that move through the lumbar spine impact lower intestines and reproductive organs.

One randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial evaluated the levels of pain in 40 men with problems in their lower back before and after a lumbar adjustment. Every indicator of pain improved for the treatment group, but not the control group.

If you’re experiencing back pain at any level, but especially in the lower lumbar region, visit your chiropractor. Medication may be designed to block pain, but chiropractic safely gets to the cause of that pain.

Spinal Misalignment and Chiropractic Care

When spinal health is ideal, a perfect column runs from the spinal cord to your brain. Shifts in this vertebral alignment impacts posture, lead to muscular discomfort, and, in worse cases, bone-on-bone pain, but can extend throughout the body with extensive repercussions.

Even before a chiropractor looks for subluxations, these misalignments can have major, whole-body implications on spine health.

Wellness is interconnected. Poor spinal health can certainly interfere with the function of the heart and pathways of inflammation.

Long before pain shows up, basic lifestyle habits and oversights can wreak havoc on the spine. In other words, even before you feel pain or other discomforts, chiropractic care can help you heal.

What to Expect During Your First Chiropractic Visit

Whatever your condition, chiropractors are uniquely qualified to help alleviate it.

Doctors of Chiropractic or D.C. — often simply called chiropractors  — use a hands-on, drug-free approach to health.

Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills, can recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, and provide nutritional and lifestyle coaching to address specific issues.

In some cases, such as lower back pain, chiropractic care may be your main source for treatment. For other conditions, chiropractic care can complement or support the advice of your healthcare practitioner.

Doctors of Chiropractic attend four years of doctoral training, must pass national board exams before becoming licensed, and comply with state licensing boards.

While there are countless unique methods of chiropractic analysis and intervention—some performed by hand, others performed using tools and instruments —the chiropractic perspective is that simple.

When you visit your chiropractor, he or she will examine your spine for abnormalities that should be corrected or adjusted.

You’ll want to tell your chiropractor about any medical conditions you have, any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) and dietary supplements you use, and alert your healthcare practitioner about seeing a chiropractor.

During your first visit, a chiropractor:

•    Will take a health history
•    Performs a physical examination with emphasise on the spine
•    Might take x-rays, visual analysis, palpation checks, or physical testing
•    Can develop a unique health plan if chiropractic care seems sufficient for your condition

An adjustment helps restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become restricted in their movement because of tissue injury.

This type of injury can occur from a single traumatic event such as lifting something heavy incorrectly, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting improperly for an extended period of time. Both types of stressors involve physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function.

An adjustment can restore mobility and alleviate pain and other discomforts while allowing the body to heal.

After the adjustment, your chiropractor will likely help you to make better lifestyle decisions. Personalized exercises and posture techniques—some using equipment and, others, just using your own body weight—can help to maintain the changes from the adjustment.

During follow-up visits, chiropractors may perform one or more of the many different types of adjustments and other manual techniques. They often combine spinal adjustments with other treatments including:

Sometimes one adjustment can do a great deal. Other times, a whole regimen and supporting lifestyle changes will be necessary.Chiropractic care could be the missing link to vibrant health. If you haven’t yet evaluated your spine—and, by extension, your nervous system and muscular structure—it’s time to make an appointment with a chiropractor.

A chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort. You might feel a little sore or achy after treatment (similar to what you would feel after a good workout) but any discomfort generally resolves within 12 – 48 hours.

While you probably visit a chiropractor for a specific issue such as lower-back pain, an adjustment is about so much more: To fully optimize your body’s innate wisdom to heal.

That’s why science shows that chiropractic care provides a safe, effective approach compared with conventional treatments to manage pain and claim vitality, optimal health, and longevity.