What Happens During an Adjustment?

Are Chiropractic Adjustments Good For You?
Chiropractic adjustments, when done correctly, are very good for you! They have been shown in numerous studies to relieve pain and restore joint function and mobility, but modern research has been focused on their effect on the brain. Studies have shown that they actually improve the brain’s function. The brain’s most important “nutrient” is not the food that helps it run, but the neurological input from the spine. Healthy movement in the spine is the first thing and most powerful cause of a newborn baby’s brain growth and development. Without healthy spinal movement, the brain’s development is stunted, creating myriad health, behavior, and body problems. This movement of the spine continues to control and regulate brain function throughout our lives. A vertebral subluxation (misalignment) stops the normal, healthy movement of the spinal joints and thus shuts down proper function of the brain. Proper chiropractic adjustments restore the healthy movement of the spine and thus brain function. But all you have to do is ask the people who come into us regularly—do they feel better when they’re regularly adjusted? They’ll tell you MOST DEFINITELY yes!!!
What actually happens when you get adjusted by a chiropractor?
A Chiropractic adjustment is when a chiropractor locates a vertebral subluxation. This is when a spinal vertebra is out of alignment compared to the one above, the one below, or both. Its normal, healthy movement is shut down and it is stuck out of place. This stops the nerves from communicating from the brain to the body and the body to the brain. It is a devastating health problem of which most people are still not aware! Once the chiropractor locates the subluxation, he or she places their hand, or occasionally a specialized instrument, over the area and provides a thrust that restores normal alignment and movement to the joint. Sometimes an audible “crack” happens, but that has nothing to do with the adjustment. Every “crack” is not an adjustment, and not every adjustment involves a CRACK!
How do chiropractors know where to adjust?
Chiropractors know where to adjust in a variety of ways. Some simply feel the spine to see what bones are out of alignment, preventing normal function of the spine and nervous system. Our hands are highly skilled! I have personally performed over 2 MILLION adjustments. A person can learn a lot about a skill with that much repetition! In my office, we perform state-of-the-art digital X-rays to determine precise alignment of each vertebra to the tenth of a millimeter and tenth of a degree compared to normal. We have a great deal of scientific studies determining what normal is. The X-rays help us determine not only where the subluxation is, but also how far out of alignment it is, how long the problem has been there, what adjustments and exercises it will take to correct it (if possible), and any dangers or “red flags” in addressing the problem.
When should you not see a chiropractor?
Chiropractic can benefit every single person on earth. Having your neuro-spinal system work as efficiently as possible is good for everybody. There are certain problems or areas we can not address that are better-suited to other providers. We refer to them when necessary. But let’s say a person needs a surgery in their lower back. We have prevented MANY surgeries, but sometimes people still need it! Just because they have a problem that needs other expertise in their lower back does not mean the rest of their spine should not be healthy! In fact, it is most likely that the rest of their spine needs help! It is extremely rare that one area needs a surgery and the rest of it is perfect. Approximately 80% of spine surgeries will either need to be repeated or require surgery elsewhere in the next 5 years. We often prevent the need for the subsequent surgeries and keep their spines as healthy as can be! We also help “pre-hab” spines for optimal outcomes by caring for them before surgeries, as well as rehab them after. So chiropractic is good for everyone with a spine!
Do I need a massage or chiropractor?
Massage can be very beneficial. I try to get regular massages (though with my busy practice and busy family, I’m not always perfect!) Massage is wonderful for releasing muscle tension and surface scar tissue, as well as relaxing the body. If a person has a subluxation (a vertebral misalignment interfering with proper brain-body and body-brain communication), a chiropractic adjustment is the only way to correct it. And the only way to know if you have a vertebral subluxation is to visit a chiropractor trained in the detection and correction of subluxation.

So I very frequently get the question, "Dr. Todd, what's happening during an adjustment or what is that cracking sound?" So I make the joke a lot, I either say, "We say no to crack all the time," or I say, "If you need a good crack then we got 2 x 4's out back." Well, what the crack is, is first of all, it's not even essential to an adjustment. A lot of adjustments, there's no crack at all, and a lot of times there's a crack with no adjustment. In other words, every time I... I wouldn't do this, but if I twist my neck and hear a pop, that's not necessarily an adjustment or if I lean back against a chair and hear pops, that doesn't mean that a chiropractic adjustment occurred, but what that sound is, is what's called a cavitation.

Everyone knows what a cavitation is, you just didn't know it was called that. When you take a soda pop can, and I hope you're not drinking a whole bunch of soda, but when you take a soda pop can, you open it, there's dissolved gas inside there in a sealed container, and as soon as you flip that top open, the gas expands and you hear a sound. Same thing happens in our joints inside our vertebra, zygapophyseal joints, this nerdy name for joints that we have, but they have these isolated sealed containers in there, and when there's a quick movement of a joint, the gas, the nitrogen, primarily expands and it makes a popping sound. We like the popping sound, probably just like you do, but it doesn't necessarily mean that adjustment has occurred.

What an adjustment means is that we have demonstrated that there is abnormal movement, abnormal function, abnormal communication from body to brain or brain to body called a subluxation. That subluxation, what that term means is, less than a dislocation, a luxation of a joint is a... If my shoulder goes all the way out of joint, like if you saw the old Lethal Weapon movies, I'm dating myself there, but Mel Gibson would have a shoulder go way out of joint and he'd slam it against the wall and bring it back into its socket, that's called a luxation.

A subluxation is less than that dislocation, so that's what that means, but sub also means below, lux in Latin means light, and ation means condition of. So a subluxation is also a condition of less light, less life in our bodies, because when the vertebra go out of alignment, they stop moving correctly, they stop giving the brain its normal food. The brain's normal food, its most important food is not glucose, it's not broccoli, it's not vaccines, it's what the brain's healthiest food is, is movement in the spine. When we're tiny and unable to even crawl yet, the first thing that develops is motion in our arms and limbs, and that motion in our arms and limbs and beginning motion in our spine stimulates through our spinal cord up into our brain, that's what stimulates brain growth in our body.

And so as our brain starts to grow and develop and become stronger, we start to move our limbs independently, that's more and more food for growth for our brain. As we age and we get past year one, we start walking and we start developing our motor skill patterns, our brain's constant development as we grow from infants to toddlers, to adolescents through teen years, and through adult years, our brain needs constant movement in our joints for food. The normal movement, the most important movement comes from our spines. What happens is, movement literally feeds our brain, and it goes through all sorts of different processes in our brain, it goes through our cerebellum, through our pons, through our amygdala, through our hippocampus, into our prefrontal cortex, and I won't nerd out too much on you with that, but all those things control all functions in our body, those structures in our brain, they control our digestion, our hormones, our immune system, how immune we are to every virus out there in the world, everything that comes to us, our cellular regeneration and redevelopment are all controlled by our brain's function.

Our brain's healthy function is dependent 100% on healthy motion of the spine. So what we're looking for when I check you and you tip your head back like this, I'm looking for motion in each of those joints because anywhere there's a lack of motion, there's a lack of communication from body to brain and from brain to body, so we need to analyze and correct that alignment so that we get better alignment and better motion in the spine, which restores body-brain communication and brain-body communication, which brings life to every part of the body.

So, all that to say, we say no to crack, anyone could just crack a joint, you could have someone walk on your back and crack it. Like we said, you can have a 2 x 4 and crack someone's back, or someone can twist their pelvis or something and hear a crack in there, that doesn't mean they're specifically addressing a subluxation. The last time I tried to pop my own back or pop my own neck, I was training for an Iron Man Triathlon, which is where you swim 2.4 miles, you bike 112, and then you run a full marathon, 26.2 and I was on a 200-mile bike ride over the Santa Cruz Mountains where I was from at the time in the Bay Area, and my neck got really stiff, this is when I was a chiropractic intern, so I thought, "Oh yeah, I'm an intern, I can do this." And I tried to adjust my neck. Well, first of all, I couldn't even prove where the subluxation was so I didn't know that, but also I made my neck way worse. But anyone just going around and popping their neck, first of all, they have to find that it is an actual subluxation interfering with transmission brain to body or body to brain, then they have to address only that part that's not moving or not lined up correctly.

So what happens is, if I have a subluxation or a misalignment at my C3 vertebra right here, and that one stuck and not moving, but C2, C4, 5, 6 and 7 are moving just fine, and I swing my neck around and pop that, what's most likely to pop or cavitate or crack is going to be those segments that are moving right, the C2, 4, 5, 6, or 7; you're gonna actually cause damage to that by popping your neck. So that's why we say don't crack your back or don't ask me to crack your back because we say no to crack. We don't believe in crack, what we do is we specifically address those subluxations.

Now, what happens? People also wonder, "Now, why isn't it perfect when you get it adjusted?" Well, a lot of scar tissue develops over years. If someone had a very, very traumatic birth, for example, and their parents never knew to take them to a chiropractor, or they had a fall out of the crib, or I was just talking earlier with our team out here, trampolines are one of the worst things. I'm gonna give a talk on that pretty soon. We get something physical or even chemical or emotional trauma occurs and our spine buckles out of alignment, that's called a subluxation. Well, over days, weeks, months and years of not having that addressed properly. Gosh, if it were addressed properly we would just adjust it day of and it'd be no problem, which most of our families come in on a regular basis, and that's just their lifestyle. So that's much, much, much healthier. But what happens is, we have 40, 50, 60. I had a 60-plus-year-old man come in yesterday who had never been adjusted by a chiropractor in his life. You think he's had a few traumas? A few subluxations? You can bet on it.

So when we looked at his x-rays, it was obviously, he had 30 plus years of subluxation, misalignment damage, grinding and wearing away those joints. If I were to duct tape my elbow here for 15 or 20 or 30 years and not take the duck tape off and it couldn't move, and then I suddenly took the duct tape off, you think it would move just perfectly? No chance. It's gonna stay stuck. So what we have to do is... It would take time to re-address that and get that moving correctly. Same with the C2 or C1 or C5 or C6 or mid-back or lower back, if they're out of alignment a long time, there's a lot of scar tissue, so we need to adjust it and move a little bit, it wants to go back where it was, adjust it, move it a little bit, it wants to go back where it was, and we need often rehabilitation exercises or traction or stretches, often they all go together to be able to realign the spine so we can get it moving. Once we get it moving right, that's when the body can communicate better with the brain and the brain with the body to restore normal health to our body.

So when we say we're gonna adjust you, we don't mean we're just gonna crack or pop or just make you feel better that day, though it often does feel better, what we're doing is we're actually addressing the neurospinal function so that our brain works better, so that our whole body works better, and we do that, there are usually not just one adjustment but a series of adjustments, you can call it a crack if you want. I know you do when I'm not around, so you can call it that if you want to, but it's important to understand that the crack is not the purpose of it, and that sound doesn't make any difference.

So I hope that answers your questions that I get a lot, "What is a crack and what are you doing and what is an adjustment?" The adjustment is to restore normal health and life to your body. So if you do have any questions, as always, comment below or ask them in the office, give us a call, we're always here to answer your questions, and we so appreciate taking care of this community.

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