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Understanding Spinal Adjustments: How Chiropractors Know Where to Adjust

Understanding Spinal Adjustments: How Chiropractors Know Where to Adjust

Chiropractic care is a holistic, non-invasive treatment method that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. One of the most common procedures performed by chiropractors is the spinal adjustment. But how do chiropractors know where to adjust? This article will delve into the science behind spinal adjustments, the techniques chiropractors use to determine where to adjust, and the benefits of these adjustments.

The Science Behind Spinal Adjustments

The Role of the Spine

The spine is a complex structure that plays a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. It provides support for the body, enabling us to stand upright, bend, and twist. Moreover, it houses and protects the spinal cord, a key part of our central nervous system.

Vertebrae and Discs

The spine is made up of 33 individual bones called vertebrae, stacked one on top of another. These vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers, preventing the bones from rubbing against each other.


Surrounding the spine are various muscles that support its structure and enable movement. When these muscles are tense or weak, they can pull the spine out of alignment, leading to a range of health issues.


Ligaments are tough, fibrous tissues that connect bones to each other. In the spine, ligaments help to stabilize the vertebrae and prevent excessive movement that could lead to injury.

Spinal Cord and Nerves

Running through the center of the spine is the spinal cord, which carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Branching off from the spinal cord are numerous nerves that transmit these messages to specific areas of the body.

How Chiropractors Determine Where to Adjust

Chiropractors use a variety of techniques to determine whereto adjust. These techniques are designed to identify areas of the spine that are misaligned or not functioning properly, which can lead to pain, discomfort, and other health issues.

Range of Motion Assessment

Chiropractors often begin by assessing the patient’s range of motion. This involves observing the patient as they bend and twist their body in various ways. If the range of motion is limited in a certain area, this could indicate a problem that needs to be addressed.

Joint and Body Palpation

Palpation involves the chiropractor using their hands to feel the patient’s body. They are looking for areas of tenderness, stiffness, or unusual movement. This can help them identify specific joints or vertebrae that may need to be adjusted.

Gait and Posture Assessments

By observing the patient’s gait and posture, the chiropractor can gain insights into how their spine is aligned and how it’s affecting their movement. For example, a person who slouches may have issues with the vertebrae in their upper back or neck.

Symptom and Lab Analysis

Finally, the chiropractor will consider the patient’s symptoms and any relevant lab results. This can provide valuable information about the underlying causes of the patient’s issues and guide the chiropractor in deciding where to adjust.

Types of Chiropractic Adjustments

There are several types of chiropractic adjustments, each with its own specific techniques and benefits.

Diversified Technique

This is the most common type of chiropractic adjustment. It involves the chiropractor using their hands to apply a quick, high-velocity thrust to a specific joint, often resulting in an audible “pop”.

Spinal Manipulation or Mobilization

This involves the chiropractor moving the joint through its full range of motion. This can help to improve mobility and reduce pain.

Thompson Drop-Table Technique

In this technique, the chiropractor uses a specially designed table that drops a short distance when they apply a thrust to the spine. This allows for a gentler adjustment.

Gonstead Adjustment

This is a very specific method of adjustment that involves a detailed analysis of the spine using x-rays and other diagnostic tools. The chiropractor then uses this information to make precise adjustments to the spine.


The Activator is a handheld device that delivers a gentle impulse to the spine. It is often used in cases where a more gentle approach is needed.


This technique involves the chiropractor using a special table to stretch the spine. It is often used to treat conditions like herniated discs.

Spinal Decompression

This involves the use of a motorized device to gently stretch the spine, relieving pressure on the discs and promoting healing.

The Benefits of Chiropractic Adjustments

Chiropractic adjustments offer a range of benefits, from pain relief to improved mobility and overall health.

Pain Relief

One of the most immediate benefits of chiropractic adjustments is pain relief. By correcting misalignments in the spine, adjustments can alleviate pressure on nerves and muscles, reducing pain and discomfort.

Improved Mobility

Chiropractic adjustments can also improve mobility by restoring normal function to the joints and muscles of the spine. This can make it easier to move and perform daily activities.

Enhanced Overall Health

By improving spinal function, chiropractic adjustments can enhance your overall health. The spine plays a crucial role in the nervous system, which controls every function of the body. Therefore, maintaining a healthy spine can help to ensure optimal overall health.


Understanding spinal adjustments and how chiropractors know where to adjust is crucial in appreciating the science and art behind chiropractic care. Through a variety of techniques and assessments, chiropractors can identify and address issues in the spine, leading to pain relief, improved mobility, and enhanced overall health. For other chiropractic services see our services page.


  1. How does a chiropractor know where to adjust? Chiropractors use a variety of techniques to determine where to adjust, including range of motion assessments, joint and body palpation, gait and posture assessments, and symptom and lab analysis.
  2. What happens during a chiropractic adjustment? During a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor applies a quick, high-velocity thrust to a specific joint or vertebra. This can help to correct misalignments in the spine, alleviate pressure on nerves and muscles, and improve mobility.
  3. Are chiropractic adjustments safe? Yes, chiropractic adjustments are generally considered safe. However, as with any treatment, there can be potential risks and side effects. It’s important to discuss these with your chiropractor before beginning treatment.
  4. What conditions can chiropractic adjustments treat? Chiropractic adjustments can treat a variety of conditions, including back pain, neck pain, headaches, and certain types of joint pain. They can also help to improve mobility and overall health.
  5. How often should I get a chiropractic adjustment? The frequency of chiropractic adjustments can vary depending on your specific needs and the nature of your condition. Your chiropractor will be able to provide you with a personalized treatment plan.

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