The Benefits and Possible Risks of a Chiropractic Adjustment

There are many benefits of chiropractic adjustment, from treating a headache or neck pain to improving asthma. Read on and we'll tell you all about it!
The Benefits and Possible Risks of a Chiropractic Adjustment

Last update: 27 May, 2022

A chiropractic adjustment is a treatment during which force is applied to the spine. This is done for the purpose of mitigating pain and improving mobility, in turn aiding in the treatment of a variety of health problems.

It’s believed to be effective for the relief of low back pain, sciatica, and headaches, among others. In addition, it’s considered a safe and minimally invasive treatment.

It should only be performed by trained professionals.

What is a chiropractic adjustment and how is it done?

A chiropractic adjustment is a form of treatment therapy. It’s also called a Gonstead adjustment because its techniques were developed by American chiropractor Clarence Selmer Gonstead.

In this procedure, controlled force is applied to the spine and other specific areas where nerve interference may be present. This is done using the hands or, in some cases, an instrument. The purpose is to help improve posture as well as mobility.

In this sense, a chiropractic adjustment is recommended to treat problems such as low back pain or headaches and neck, transmitting a sense of relaxation. Since it’s a non-invasive technique, it doesn’t require any special preparation, although a previous examination is performed and tests and studies may be recommended.

However, during treatment, the patient must be placed on a stretcher and have to adopt different positions. Generally, it’s usually dome face down.

Then, the chiropractor performs certain movements, applying controlled force with the hands. This is done on different points of the spine (lumbar, cervical, etc.) or on a joint, such as the hip.

Hombre con lumbalgia necesita ajuste quiropráctico.
Lower back pain is the main indication for a chiropractic adjustment, although there are other conditions that may require it.

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The benefits of a chiropractic adjustment

There are several benefits attributed to this type of therapy. Let’s see which ones and what science says about them.

Natural pain management

A chiropractic adjustment is a natural alternative for the treatment of pain. It’s recommended in cases of subluxations and when there are high levels of stress. In this sense, it reduces the need for medication and the risks that this may entail.

Migraine and tension headache

This therapy can be effective for migraines or tension headaches when used in isolation or in combination in the form of multimodal care, which includes conventional treatment.

However, in some reviews on the subject, researchers are cautious about the potential benefits and they recommend further study of manual therapies for migraine.

Lower back and neck pain

Back problems, either in the lower back or neck, are the most common reason people seek a chiropractic adjustment. According to one study, this type of manual therapy has been shown to be more effective and less expensive for neck pain than physical therapy.

Another study, conducted with acute and chronic patients experiencing low back pain of mechanical origin, came to similar conclusions, demonstrating pain relief, as well as increased functional capacity and satisfaction.

Frozen shoulder

In a clinical trial conducted with frozen shoulder syndrome patients, most showed improvement with chiropractic adjustment therapy. In fact, about one-third of the cases were resolved completely.


As you probably know, sciatica is due to compression of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is due to compression of the nerve of the same name, which can cause pain in the legs. Sometimes, this pain becomes so intense that it limits the performance of daily activities.

However, according to the results of a study, attending chiropractic adjustment therapy sessions helps to relieve the pain caused by this condition.

Epilepsy and its consequences

Evidence has been found suggesting that chiropractic care may be beneficial in the correction of the upper cervical vertebral subluxation complex in pediatric patients with epilepsy. This is even the case in those in whom they had been unsuccessful with anticonvulsant medications.

This is not a treatment for epilepsy. Hhowever, it helps correct osteoarticular damage from seizures.

Colic and reflux

A 2011 review reveals that chiropractic care may be a viable alternative for the treatment of infantile colic, although it is felt that more research is needed in this area.

Regarding gastroesophageal reflux, there have been documented cases claiming resolution of symptoms associated with this condition, which were experienced by pediatric patients. However, very few controlled trials have been conducted on this topic.

Other benefits of chiropractic adjustment

Other benefits related to the performance of chiropractic adjustments are mentioned in the medical literature:

  • Inflammation: Chiropractic manipulations contribute to a normalization response of inflammatory mediators in people suffering from chronic lower back pain.
  • Osteoarthritis and joint pain: This treatment helps to reduce pain in people affected with osteoarthritis of the hip.
  • Asthma: It can help improve the condition of asthma in general, including non-specific bronchial hyperreactivity.
Quiropraxia en la zona cervical.
Chiropractic treatment is based on the non-invasive manipulation of the soft and hard tissues of the body.

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Risks, side effects, and contraindications

During the therapy session, clicking or cracking sounds are often heard as the chiropractor gives movement to the joints. Sensations such as pain, stiffness, or tenderness may also be experienced. However, this usually disappears in 1 to 2 days.

A chiropractic adjustment is considered to be a safe procedure. Complications are rare.

Complications may include aggravation of a herniated disc, nerve compression, or a form of stroke when the neck is manipulated.

On the other hand, a chiropractic adjustment is not recommended in the following cases:

  • Advanced osteoporosis
  • History of cerebrovascular accident (CVA)
  • Spinal tumors, spinal cord tumors, or spinal cancer

When to expect results from a chiropractic adjustment

It’s recommended to attend about 10 chiropractic adjustment sessions. In rare cases, results will be noticed before the fifth therapy. However, it should be clarified that it’s not effective for all people.

It all depends on your particular situation, the type of ailment, lifestyle, and age, among other factors. Therefore, if after several weeks of treatment no improvements are noticed, it’s a good idea to try something different.

Remember that it’s key to go to a certified professional. This is a delicate practice that can only be performed by a specialist. It is very dangerous if it’s done by someone who has no knowledge of the proper technique.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Chaibi A, Tuchin P, Russell M. Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review. J Headache Pain. 2011; 12(2): 127-33..
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  • Rist P, Bernstein C, Kowalski M, et al. Multimodal chiropractic care for migraine: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Cephalalgia. 2021; 41(3): 318-328.
  • Roy R, Boucher J, Comtois A. Inflammatory response following a short-term course of chiropractic treatment in subjects with and without chronic low back pain. Journal of chiropractic medicine. 2010; 9(3), 107–114.
  • Santilli V, Beghi E, Finucci S. Chiropractic manipulation in the treatment of acute back pain and sciatica with disc protrusion: a randomized double-blind clinical trial of active and simulated spinal manipulations. Spine J. 2006 Mar-Apr;6(2):131-7. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2005.08.001. Epub 2006 Feb 3. PMID: 16517383.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.