Clearing Misconceptions about Neck Adjustments

As a chiropractors, we battle constantly against general misconceptions about chiropractic neck adjustments or spinal manipulations. Some new patients experience aversion to it because they believe a fracture or dislocation is expected to happen. In other cases, few patients express concern about the audible “click” or “pop” noise they often hear in the neck after getting an adjustment. Please remember the following:

Not everyone needs cervical spinal adjustment. It’s erroneous to assume that everyone with neck pain who walks into our clinic need a spinal adjustment. Chiropractors often assess first whether spinal adjustment is safe, medically justified and if there is presence of contraindications such as spinal hypermobility, spinal dislocation, fusion of the vertebrae, severe bleeding disorders, hypertension, or acute pain. We are well trained to know who is candidate for neck adjustment and who isn’t.

Cervical adjustment should not hurt, but once again, this is where it is important to choose the best chiropractor. Like any other medical profession, the degree of pain during a procedure depends on the skill of the doctor. Most of the adjustments are gentle and we take time to set-up a patient before administering it. It may take two to four visits of alternative manual treatments such as heat, muscle stretch, myofascial release, spinal mobilization to loosen up the neck before an adjustment is given. Doing that ensure that the neck doesn’t tense up after an adjustment due to tight muscles. It also allows a more confident patient-doctor rapport.

The “popping” sound is not a fracture. You will sometimes hear an audible sound released from a locked-up joint. This is normal. The main goal of a spinal adjustment is to stretch an inflamed tight joint by gently stretching its two ends only by few 1 or 2 millimeters and allowing any stickiness in between to be removed. It’s similar to the analogy of removing a paper glued on a surface. If you remove it pretty quickly, you will hear a sound. Once removed, the paper can now be no longer sticky when you slide it on the surface. As a result, similarly, your neck will begin to move better.

If you’re not a candidate for chiropractic neck adjustment, there are tons of other treatments you can try. Spinal mobilization can work as amazing as an adjustment. Sometimes, certain conditions may require simply a deep muscle stretch, TENS machine, a heating pad on the shoulder, a vertical manual neck stretch, and some home care exercises. And they work as well!

We inform all of our patients about the benefits and side effects of cervical spinal adjustments prior to the treatment. All health care interventions carry risks of varying significance and incidence. The most common adverse effects associated with chiropractic cervical adjustment are short-term fatigue, muscle ache and mild vaso-dilative response. According to the Ontario Chiropractic Association (see link below), recent research into the association between cervical adjustment and stroke has also involved biomechanical studies to assess what strain, if any, cervical adjustment may place on the vertebral arteries. The findings indicate that cervical adjustment is done well within the normal range of motion and that cervical adjustment is “very unlikely to mechanically disrupt the vertebral artery” (see full article by Rothwell et al. 2001 below).

In summary, our main goal at Kent Chiro-Med Wellness Clinic is to help our regular and new patients alike to benefit from a safe and effective manual treatment for muscles and joints issues through proper informative patient education and proper consent discussion.

References:

OCA pdf link: http://files.chiropractic.on.ca/_att/c14e02e0-1a84-43b3-a416-4ea88b4a0843/md_cervicalmanipulation_handout.pdf

Rothwell DM, Bondy SJ, Williams JI. Chiropractic manipulation and stroke: A population-based, case-controlled study. Stroke May 2001.

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