What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Updated: Jan 9

By: Dr. Andrea Toppin


What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Chiropractic care as a whole focuses on treating the musculoskeletal system and nervous system. It addresses joint pain, neck pain, back pain, and pain in the extremities (arms and legs). Being evidence-based chiropractors at Wash Park Chiro, we have a lot of different ways of empowering and helping the patient get out of pain. The most common way is through spinal or joint manipulations also known as chiropractic adjustments. Adjustments are used to restore joint mobility, by using the Chiropractor’s hands to mobilize joints back into their proper biomechanical function, motion and position. Chiropractors are trained to rapidly move the joints in specific directions to improve motion and alleviate pain. Adjustments sometimes lead to the “popping or cracking” sound you hear. This sound is basically harmless gas bubbles releasing from the joint fluid as a result of built up pressure.


Benefits of Adjustments

  • Unlocks stiff joint segments

  • Calms muscle spasms

  • Stimulates mechanoreceptors (joint motion sensors) that signal the brain

  • Reduces the pain in the joints, giving you better balance and improved feedback from the brain

  • Joint manipulation provides more rapid pain relief than other therapy methods


Along with adjustments we also use soft tissue therapy techniques (active/myofascial release technique), IASTM tools such as Graston (instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization), laser therapy, spinal decompression, kinesiology tape, and rehab exercises to help patients get out of pain and to prevent future injuries from arising.


Are Chiropractic Adjustments Safe?

Adjustments are safe. For most patients, adjustments do not hurt –they feel amazing! Adjustments can be uncomfortable to patients who do not fully relax during treatment. A bit of anxiety can lead to involuntary stiffening during the treatment which can cause discomfort. Another reason an adjustment to the spine or an extremity might be uncomfortable is if the area being adjusted was caused by an injury –such as an ankle sprain or whiplash from a car accident. This is because the soft tissues surrounding the joint are inflamed and irritated. It’s important to be aware that the adjustment may not be completely pain free at the time, but the discomfort won’t last long. Staying as relaxed as possible during an adjustment is the best way to have a wonderful, pain-free experience.

To ensure full safety, with the initial new patient exam and re-exams, we do a physical in-depth assessment to test joint motion and function. We also take vitals and perform neurological as well as orthopedic tests to rule in or rule out diagnoses or what is going on in the body. Once the initial examination or re-exam is complete, the doctor will determine the proper adjustments needed along with the other forms of treatment we offer (soft tissue therapy, IASTM –instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, spinal decompression therapy, laser therapy, therapeutic rehab exercises, etc.). Many patients feel immediate relief post chiropractic treatment, but some may feel mild soreness, or stiffness in the first 1-2 days post treatment. This is perfectly normal. Research shows that minor discomfort or soreness following spinal manipulation typically fades within 24 hours. Your muscles have to adapt to the new movement of the joint, so they may end up lengthening or shortening slightly, which can lead to the minor soreness. Your body is just acclimating to the new change from the chiropractic adjustment.


Wellness and Maintenance Care

What is wellness or maintenance care? Our goal as chiropractors is to help PREVENT recurring issues and that is where wellness/maintenance chiropractic care comes into play. Wellness care keeps you out of acute or chronic pain essentially. Wellness/maintenance care is a phase of treatment that a patient follows once they are out of pain! Everyone patient’s phases of healing and treatment look a little different, but most patients typically follow this timeline.

  • Phase 1: New patient initial visit (beginning of the week)+ Follow up visit (end of the week)

  • Phase 2: Depending on the severity of the issue, either 1-2 follow up visits the following week

  • Phase 3: If you are responding to treatment well, we will push out your next visit to 1-2 weeks and continue to spread out follow up visits if your pain continues to reduce

  • Phase 4: 80-100% better = Wellness/Maintenance Care visit every 3 –4 weeks

Performance Care

As an elite marathoner, I have been getting wellness/maintenance chiropractic care at least every 3 weeks for the past four years. Before this, I was a Division 1 collegiate distance runner at Iowa State University, and I was constantly injured. Post collegiately, I noticed that once I started seeing a chiropractor every 3-4 weeks I had the most consistent and efficient injury free training which helped me qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials during the craziness of chiropractic school. Bottom line is, maintenance care can decrease your risk of injury, increasing athletic performance as well as your overall well-being!


Andrea Toppin, DC, FRC, SFMA is a sports chiropractor with an emphasis in women’s health (prenatal and postpartum) and pediatrics. As a former division 1 collegiate runner and a current elite marathoner, she uses her own experience as an athlete to help patients get out of pain and get back to their active lifestyles. Areas of special interest include running injuries, prenatal and postpartum care, pediatric care, instrument assisted soft tissue techniques, and rehab/strength training. Stay connected with Dr. Toppin on Instagram @washparkchiro or @doctordre____.

Reach out to me at atoppin@washparkchiro.com