Chiropractic involves manipulation and mobilisation of the joints and surrounding soft tissue such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. The aim is to help the spine and joints to move more easily, to reduce stiffness and tension in the muscles, and to relieve pain.Chiropractors tend to focus on the joints of the spine and the nervous system.
Your first session will last for about 60 minutes, and follow-ups about 30–45 minutes. At the first session, you will be asked about your medical history. The chiropractor will also carry out a careful physical examination, and will normally ask you to remove some of your clothing and perform a simple series of movements. The chiropractor will then use touch to identify points of weakness or excessive strain in your body. Some chiropractors also use X-rays and other standard medical tests to help them make a diagnosis. You will usually be treated lying on a treatment couch in various positions, although some manipulation may be carried out with you sitting or standing. Chiropractors mainly use a manipulative technique called high velocity thrusts on the spinal joints to extend them slightly beyond their normal passive range of motion. These are short, rapid forceful movements that are designed to realign and mobilise the spine, and may result in an audible click. Chiropractors may also use massage techniques and rhythmic joint movements to release and relax muscles, and stretch stiff joints. Your chiropractor may show you exercises to do at home and suggest ways you can improve your posture. The number of treatments needed depends on your condition.
After a chiropractic treatment, you may feel stiff or sore for a few hours. When a high velocity thrust is performed, you may hear an unnerving click. This is caused by gas bubbles in the fluid within the joints bursting under pressure.
In about half of all people treated, chiropractic involving spinal manipulation can cause short-lasting side effects like mild pain, mild headaches and tiredness. Rarely, there have been anecdotal reports of serious adverse events with spinal manipulation. These have included stroke due to compression of one of the arteries leading to the brain and spinal cord injury due to compression of a nerve in the spine. However, it is difficult to establish whether the manipulation was actually the cause of these effects.