What is an 'adjustment'?

How does an adjustment work?

Chiropractors help to restore joint motion by using adjustments. This is where a controlled force is applied to a joint in the body. The most widely known technique is spinal manipulative therapy, where a short fast thrust is applied to a joint. There are other techniques that can be used to adjust a joint including blocking techniques, joint mobilisations, fascial stretching and trigger point therapy in muscles.

What happens?

Movement in a joint occurs in two phases; the first is the movement we can perform ourselves in a joint such as bending and straightening the knee. At the end of this voluntary motion, there is a little more motion that can be achieved by a small amount of manual over pressure known as joint play. This is a small movement but essential to normal joint function (1,2). The aim of adjustments is to help restore normal movement by helping to restore this extra passive movement. Several reactions can happen in association with this movement:

Research suggests that adjustments can release trapped joint tissue from within the joint, as well as releasing restrictions in the soft tissues around the joint.

Other research has indicated a reduction of pressure on nerve endings in the joint.

Studies have shown that spinal manipulative therapy can change muscle tone, and reduce pain sensitivity.

Movement detected by nerves in the joints can interrupt the pain signals and override them, helping to reduce the pain experienced. The fast but low force thrust movements stimulate special receptors that alter the activity of the nerves to the muscles around the spine, and therefore change in muscle activity itself. Sometimes there is an audible click or pop heard in association with the adjustment as the joint moves, this is a completely normal physical phenomenon (3).

We also use other tools and techniques along side the adjustments at Marlborough Chiropractic Clinic including dry needling and cupping as part of care.


1. Hammer, W. (2007) ‘Basic Soft-Tissue Examination’, In Hammer, W ( 3rd ed) Functional Soft-Tissue Examination and Treatment by Manual Methods. London, UK: Jones and Bartlett Publishers: pp4

2. Magee, D.J. (2006) ‘Principles and Concepts’ in Magee, D.J. (4th ed) Orthopaedic Physical Assessment. Philadelphia, USA: Elsevier Sciences: pp49

3. Peterson, D.H. (1993) ‘Principles of Adjustive Technique’, In Bergmann, T.f., Peterson, D.H. and Lawrence, D.J., (1st ed) Chiropractic Technique. New York, USA: Churchill Livingstone Inc: pp140-142

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