Benefits of Spinal Manipulation

Oct 27, 2021

Scott Jackson

by Scott Jackson
PT, DPT, Cert DN, Cert SMT | Green Valley

Let’s face it, when you are experiencing pain, it makes it hard to work or do the daily activities that you enjoy. Every day there are people who suffer from pain without hope of relief. Many believe that pain management consists only of prescribing medications, providing injections, or ultimately a surgical procedure. It is important to understand that there are alternatives to controlling it with drugs or trying to stop it with expensive and often even more painful surgeries.

Spinal manipulation can often offer patients an alternative for the treatment of back, neck, shoulder, and even head pain when traditional therapies have failed.

Spinal manipulation is used as a treatment for:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Chronic migraines
  • Chronic pain (especially back pain)
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain

Spinal manipulation’s benefits also include:

  • Avoiding surgery. Because spinal manipulation is non-invasive; it can prevent you from having to undergo surgery.
  • Reduced drug dependence. Spinal manipulation does not use pharmaceuticals to manage pain.
  • Improved range of motion. Spinal manipulation increases flexibility, thereby increasing the patient’s range of motion.

Physical Therapist examines patients spine.

What is spinal manipulation?

Spinal manipulation, also called spinal manipulative therapy or manual therapy, is a high-velocity low amplitude thrust technique designed to relieve pressure on joints, reduce inflammation, and improve nerve function. It is often used to treat back, neck, shoulder, and headache pain.

What does it involve?

There are many types of spinal adjustments used by practitioners worldwide. Some use force and twisting (spinal manipulation), while others use more gentle techniques (spinal mobilization). In addition, practitioners use ice and heat therapy, electric stimulation, traction devices that stretch the spine, and dry needling for deep tissue heating. Most procedures are done on a padded, adjustable table. Parts of the table can be dropped as an adjustment is being done, adding different forces to the movement.

Spinal manipulation is when the practitioner uses their hands to apply a controlled, sudden force to a specific joint. Patients often hear popping noises, like when you crack your knuckles.

Spinal mobilization is when practitioners use less forceful thrusts or graded glides and more stretching.  In mobilizations, the practitioner is not bringing through high-velocity passive range of motion.

Is spinal manipulation safe?

Spinal manipulation is safe when performed by a trained and licensed practitioner. The most common side effects of spinal manipulation are temporary muscle soreness, stiffness, or a temporary increase in pain.

The evidence

An experimental body of evidence indicates that spinal manipulation impacts primary afferent neurons from the erector spine, the motor control system, and pain processing. Biomechanical changes caused by spinal manipulation are thought to have physiological consequences utilizing their effects on the inflow of sensory information to the central nervous system. Spinal manipulation is also believed to affect reflex neural outputs to both muscle and visceral organs. Substantial evidence demonstrates that spinal Manipulation evokes erector spine muscle reflexes and alters motoneuron excitability, thereby reducing pain and improving range of motion instantly.

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