During the course of your treatment with a Chiropractor, it is quite likely that at some point the use of an “adjustment” or “manipulation” will be brought up. These two words are interchangeable, so for the sake of clarity here we shall just use “adjustment”.
An adjustment is aimed primarily at the joints. As Chiropractors, a large portion of what we do during an examination is focussed on identifying whether there any joints in your body which are not able to move as freely as they should. Although the focus will primarily be on any area where you are feeling pain or discomfort, the Chiropractor may choose to ensure there is no problem being referred from another area, such as problems with the hip joints causing low back pain. The movement of each joint will be established initially by watching you move, and then the Chiropractor may move your joints through the same ranges of motion passively, with you staying as relaxed as possible. After this, the motion will be evaluated at a very local level, with the Chiropractor applying a light pressure through the joint to make sure the natural free movement of the joint in its rest position is still present.
Having identified any areas where there is a problem, the Chiropractor will use an adjustment to rectify these problems where appropriate.
The idea behind an adjustment is to put a very quick force through the line of the joint to take it past the point where it is getting stuck before your body has time to react. This process should be completely painless; if it is uncomfortable for any reason, just mention it to the Chiropractor and they will change what they are doing to accommodate every individual person’s needs.
Confused? Try thinking of it like a door that sticks. If you move the door slowly, it will get to that point at which it sticks and no matter how hard you push at that speed, it won’t move. Now take the door back to its starts position, and try swinging it as fast as you can. You will still feel the point at which the door would stick if it had a chance, but the speed of the movement you are producing takes it right past that point and on to the rest of its swing. You haven’t had to put any more force through, but the speed of the force applied meant that you got it past that sticky point. Unlike the door, when your Chiropractor performs this technique on your joint in the form of an adjustment, your joint won’t then just immediately jam again when you move it slowly to the sticky point in the course of your normal movement, but will continue to have free movement through the full range of motion.
So why do you need to have more than one adjustment? Well, unfortunately your body has a memory. I don’t mean the one that allows you to think what you did last week, but an inbuilt memory in your muscles and joints about where they should be and how they should move. If the joint has been unable to move freely for a while, then the structures around the joint will “remember” this lack of movement, and after a little while of the joint moving freely after an adjustment it will slowly become restricted again. At this point, the Chiropractor will perform another adjustment on the joint, and it will start moving again. Each time this occurs, the body’s memory will reset a little more, until the freely moving joint is all it will remember, and it won’t become restricted again from that initial injury.