Chiropractic spinal adjustments

When you go to the chiropractor for the first time, you may not know exactly the method that he or she will use to help you. There are many different techniques that are used to adjust the spine or the peripheral joints. Even though some instruments may be used at first to do massage to relax the muscles, the most important part of chiropractic care is the chiropractic spinal adjustment.

The spinal adjustments are done mostly with our hands but, in some cases, we can also use instruments like the ArthroStim or the activator.

The goal of chiropractic care is to restore mobility to the joints which helps the body to return to proper function. Although most chiropractic techniques involve the spine, they can also be applied to other parts of the body. The ultimate purpose of the chiropractic adjustment is to promote the body’s natural healing abilities and ensure a healthy range of motion.

What is an adjustment, you may ask. An adjustment involves using a specific force in a precise direction to help restore proper function to the spinal bones or other involved joints of the body.

Direct hand adjustments

The most frequently used chiropractic adjustments are done with the use of the hands. This is where a high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust is used. This technique often results in an audible “pop”, as we apply a controlled force to a joint while the body is positioned in a specific way. This is called cavitation and it is caused by the release of oxygen and nitrogen, which releases joint pressure.


Some conditions (such as osteoporosis), pathology, the patient’s size, patient comfort or patient preference may require a gentler approach, generally referred to as spinal mobilisation. Those mild spinal mobilisation techniques do not involve a popping sound but also produce better mobility to the joints.

Activator method

We may also use a small, hand-held instrument called the Activator Adjusting Instrument to deliver a gentle impulse force to the spine.

ArthroStim Instrument

The ArthroStim Instrument is similar to the activator but uses electricity. It delivers high-velocity, short-stroke thrusts and it also helps improve joint motion, providing a very comfortable experience. We use it on everyone that needs it and especially with babies and with patients that have high pain levels or suffer from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, vascular diseases, or even cancer.

What does the adjustment do?

Adjustments help restore better function to the spinal column and help to avoid early degeneration of the bones and soft tissues. It also helps in removing nervous system interference and allowing the body to start its own natural healing process.

Research has identified the actual changes that occur in the body, nervous system and brain during chiropractic spinal adjustments.

The study was conducted by an award-winning Auckland researcher named Dr Heidi Haavik-Taylor. She demonstrated that muscle control can be changed by stimulating the nervous system through chiropractic adjustments(*).

“The process of a spinal adjustment is like rebooting a computer. The signals that these adjustments send to the brain, via the nervous system, reset muscle behaviour patterns,” as quoted by Dr Haavik-Taylor. “By stimulating the nervous system, we can improve the function of the whole body. This is something that chiropractors and their patients have known for years and now we have some scientific evidence to prove it.”

How will you feel after an adjustment?

After an adjustment, most patients experience a sensation of calm and well-being, or they may feel that their mobility has improved. Alex was telling us this morning that she feels great, less pain in her pelvis and stays well for weeks. She says that she knows her condition requires regular care and every six weeks she comes for her adjustment, and it makes a world of difference in her quality of life.

Silvia was telling us how her baby João sleeps so much better since the first adjustment he received.

A lot of people get rid of their nagging low back pain or recurrent headaches. Some come for prevention and maintenance and others to improve their performance in competitive sports. Whatever the reason for receiving care, what is important is that patients see results.

Newborns, infants, children, seniors and even back surgery patients can get adjusted. Naturally, adjustments are tailored to your size, age and particular health issue.

You too can feel much better. Put your health first with good efficient chiropractic care.

* Haavik Taylor H and Murphy B. (2007). World Federation of Chiropractic’s Ninth Biennial Congress Award Winning Paper (3rd Prize): Altered sensorimotor integration with cervical spine manipulation. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, in press.

By Sandra Genest-Boudreau | Christophe O. Alves
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Sandra Genest-Boudreau is French-Canadian, who graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 1990 before coming to the Algarve in 2002. She is passionate about adjusting all her patients, particularly children. Christophe Alves graduated from the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (AECC) UK, and has a special interest in Sport Chiropractic. Algarve Quiroprática clinic: EN125 in Pêra | 282 312 853 | 969 397 375