Most people hear the word “Chiropractor” and immediately think of “back cracking” or “bone crunching”. For some, the thought of having the neck popped is enticing and for others, the notion can be noxious! So, what is a chiropractic adjustment? What is that crunchy noise coming from the spine anyway? Why do people even want to endure such an experience?

Perhaps the magic is in the details. Understanding the mechanism of Chiropractic Adjustment may help people to find this healing art more approachable or, if already a patient, even more beneficial.

Let’s start with the basics and build from there. 

While many people think of bones, posture, or back pain, Chiropractic Care is actually focused on the Nervous System. When our nervous system is operating correctly, we should be able to adapt to our environment with ease – both inside and outside our bodies. For example, when the body is functioning optimally, we should:

  • Fall asleep and stay asleep at night
  • Stand and sit up straight without difficulty
  • Have daily bowel movements
  • Be headache free
  • Handle most emotional stressors throughout the day with ease
  • Be free of rashes or eczema
  • Respond to a stressor and recover in 90 seconds after the stressor is removed
  • Be able to focus on the task at hand
  • And so much more!


I regularly see people in my office (and daily life) who are either struggling personally or know someone close to them who needs help adapting to the normal stressors of life. This is a sign that the brain and body may require some support to be able to deal with the internal or external stressor!

Why do You Need a Chiropractic Adjustment?

There are three types of stress that make it difficult for the brain and body to communicate and adapt properly:

  1. Physical Stress
  2. Chemical Stress
  3. Emotional Stress

Most people think of a loud “pop” when they think of a chiropractor adjusting the spine.

What if I told you that chiropractic care does not have to involve a snap, crack or pop to be effective? That the Chiropractic adjustment, the part of the Chiropractic experience that involves reintroducing movement to the spine to help the nervous system function better, doesn’t rely on the noise for results?

 While many Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) do utilize techniques that create a snap, crackle, or pop to get “bones back in place”, there are other ways to help update the Brain-Body Communication System. These special physicians are associated with minimizing or alleviating physical ailments like back pain, neck pain, headaches, muscle spasms, torticollis, and more. 

Doctors of Chiropractic are looking for patterns in the nervous system associated with the physical, chemical, or emotional stressors that are affecting proper nervous system function. They typically do this by palpating, or gently challenging, the movement of joints in the spine, cranial/facial bones, soft tissues, and even organs. Once they find areas of restriction, they will perform a chiropractic adjustment to reintroduce proper motion. The improved motion in a joint or release of tension in soft tissue sends a signal to the brain, telling the nervous system the updated information inside and outside the body. Then the body can better adapt to the internal and external environment.

There are different ways to encourage proper motion of the joints. A manual adjustment is the one most commonly associated with chiropractic care. However, there are other techniques and tools that do not use a thrust or a twist to adjust. For example, there are tools like the Activator or the Arthrostim that tap or click on areas to stimulate change. Some techniques use blocks under the pelvis and very gentle cranial holds. Other approaches involve releasing tension in the muscles and organs. There are so many ways to get the brain’s attention and restore brain-body communication! 

Once the system has been “updated” with a chiropractic adjustment, the body should be able to function more normally. Often, it can take multiple adjustments to help alleviate old patterns in the nervous system and allow for new patterns to become consistent. 

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