What to Expect From Spinal Manipulation

If you’ve never experienced chiropractic care, you may have a few preconceived ideas about what it involves. Chances are, you’ve heard stories of cracking necks, twisting spines, and loud popping sounds. 

What you may not have heard is that chiropractic care involves many different techniques (more than 100) that promote overall health and wellness, and most of them are quite gentle and relaxing. The type of treatment you receive depends entirely on the reason for your visit.

At Peninsula RSI Chiropractic Wellness Center in Redwood City, California, Dr. Dana Robinson thoroughly evaluates your spinal health and determines which modalities will be most beneficial for you. 

Whether you’re suffering from back problems like sciatica, degenerative disc disease, or osteoarthritis; neck pain from whiplash, tech neck, or an RSI injury; or headaches and migraines that won’t respond to other treatments, Dr. Robinson may be able to bring you much-needed relief through chiropractic care. If spinal manipulation is part of your treatment plan, here’s what to expect.

Spinal manipulation explained

The goal of chiropractic care is to restore proper spinal alignment and joint function by relieving pressure, reducing inflammation, and freeing up space for nerves. One of the original and still most frequently used techniques to accomplish these goals is spinal manipulation.

To move the joints along your spine and bring it back into alignment, Dr. Robinson uses her hands to apply high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) force to a specific area of your spine. She positions your body comfortably on a padded table and then applies a sudden, but controlled, thrust that momentarily causes your joint to extend beyond its normal range. In effect, this resets your joint back to its proper position.

What spinal manipulation feels like

Most first-time chiropractic patients are a little nervous about what to expect from the experience. We get it — facing the unknown is always a bit nerve-wracking, and if you anticipate potential pain, the fear factor increases. But Dr. Robinson wants to set your mind and your body at ease by describing the spinal manipulation procedure in detail.

Will it hurt?

Spinal manipulation is typically not painful, but it may feel briefly uncomfortable. If you’ve ever twisted your own back to relieve tightness after a long day or stretched your hands backwards to crack your knuckles, you may already know what spinal manipulation feels like to some degree. It takes a little trust to allow someone else to do it for you, but once you do and feel the immediate relief, it gets easier.

Is that popping sound okay?

Spinal manipulation often produces a cracking or popping sound at the moment the force is applied. Although this may be alarming, it’s perfectly normal and safe. What you imagine is the sound of bones cracking is actually something quite different.

Every joint contains fluid inside to help lubricate it and protect the tissues. When a joint becomes stuck in an odd position, it forms a vacuum. When Dr. Robinson forces it back into alignment, the movement breaks the vacuum allowing a burst of gas to escape, which makes a sudden popping sound, like when you release the lid from a pickle jar. 

Will I feel relief right away?

Most people notice the change in their body immediately after spinal manipulation. Taking the pressure off your nerves and muscles gives you immediate pain relief, but it may also make you feel “different.” If your spine has been out of alignment for a long time, it has gotten used to being in the wrong position, so correcting your posture may feel odd for a while until you get used to a new normal.

Your joints may also shift back into misalignment out of habit, which is why a series of spinal manipulation appointments may be necessary to complete the adjustment.

What if I don’t feel different after spinal manipulation?

Don’t worry if you don’t feel a dramatic difference after your first spinal manipulation. A lot of the impact happens behind the scenes and affects body parts you didn’t even know needed fixing. For example, when you relieve pressure off nerves with spinal manipulation, it restores blood flow and communication between your brain and your internal organs, like your thalamus, which regulates your sleep and wake patterns.

How to get started with chiropractic care

In addition to spinal manipulation, Dr. Robinson also performs a milder version of the technique called spinal mobilization, as well as numerous other modalities, including massage therapy, balance training, electrical stimulation, spinal decompression, and functional rehabilitation. All these treatments work together to increase your mobility, reduce your pain, and improve your overall health.

To get started on a comprehensive chiropractic care plan, contact us today by phone or online to set up a consultation with Dr. Robinson at Peninsula RSI Chiropractic Wellness Center.

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