Can a Chiropractic Adjustment Hurt?

The short answer is “No, chiropractic adjustment shouldn’t cause any serious pain.” Now, wasn’t that easy to clear up? You were probably expecting a whole big production! But of course, you probably still have a lot of questions, so let’s back up a few paces and begin at the beginning!

Back pain is an alarmingly common problem. It is estimated that at least 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain can cost you a night’s sleep. It can interfere with common movements such as walking, bending, or lifting. If the problem goes on long enough, it can incapacitate you with either a chronic ache or sharp, stabbing pains. Back problems can contribute to anxiety and depression. They are, simply put, a scourge.

How Does a Chiropractic Adjustment Feel?

Many people have found relief in the techniques of chiropractic. An adjustment by a licensed chiropractor is a safe and effective way to treat the common grief of back pain. Sometimes it takes several adjustments to generate substantial improvement, but many people have reported relief on the first visit. Still, many others are reluctant to try and harbor many questions about what chiropractic adjustment is and what they will experience.

An adjustment is a procedure performed by certified chiropractors by which the spinal column is realigned through the application of gentle pressure. The procedure is generally manual — done exclusively with the practitioner’s hands. The chiropractor will manipulate the patient’s joints to achieve better functionality. Over time, it can relieve pain, improve posture, and contribute to the proper physical functioning of the body.

The chiropractor will place the patient in a variety of positions to properly target the affected area. A special table is often used. Patients are directed to lie down on the table and the practitioner will apply direct pressure to a joint. The patient may feel and hear a few pops or cracks. The patient will feel no pain during the procedure, though he or she may experience some mild soreness afterward, akin to what he or she might feel after a vigorous workout.

There are some risks involve in chiropractic adjustment, as there are with any medical procedure, though they are relatively rare. These include the possibility of a herniated disk or the aggravation of an existing herniation, nerve compression, and a very minor risk of stroke.

Patients who are not sure if a chiropractic adjustment is right for the particulars of their medical condition should consult a doctor. Chiropractic treatment is not appropriate for people with certain conditions. These include osteoporosis, numbness, or tingling in the limbs, loss of strength in the limbs, spinal cancer, spinal instability, and abnormal risk of stroke. Anyone with these conditions should avoid chiropractic treatment.

Neck, Back, and Shoulder Adjustments

We spoke briefly about the general course of a chiropractic exam above. Let’s look more closely now as we walk step by step through the procedure. As with other medical treatments, the patient is led to a private exam room. They will see a table similar to the ones they have in massage parlors, and the chiropractor will ask the patient questions about his or her medical history and go over any X-rays they may have taken.

Then the patient will be asked to lie on the table and relax. The chiropractor will walk the patient through the adjustments first, explaining in detail what the procedure will consist of. As the chiropractor begins the treatment, the patient may hear loud pops and cracks. As noted, however, the procedure is painless. Sometimes two or three adjustments may be made, and different areas of the spinal column may be adjusted.


Neck adjustments can help people with chronic headaches and neck tension. They are done as the patient lies comfortably on his or her back. The chiropractor touches the neck and rotates the head from side to side using tight, controlled motions. The practitioner is manipulating the cervical vertebrae to give the patient greater joint mobility.

Lower Back

A lower back adjustment can be done in a number of different ways. It is common for the chiropractor to rotate one of the patient’s legs while the patient lies on his or her back so that one leg crosses the other and the patient’s body is resting on the hip. As usual, the patient will hear some pops while remaining free of discomfort.


While not technically part of the spinal column, the shoulders play a pivotal role in the spine’s posture and overall well-being. Shoulder misalignments can cause or contribute to many of the common back and neck problems we have described. They are especially common among people with desk jobs. Shoulder adjustments are usually done while the patient is sitting upright on the examination table. The chiropractor will manipulate the shoulder backward or forward a little bit, as needed, in order to improve posture and the overall alignment of the spinal column.

Adjustment Recovery Time

After the exam, the chiropractor will advise the patient on aftercare, such as heat pads or ice packs, to help the patient manage pain. The whole process shouldn’t last more than a few hours, or a few days at most.

How Frequently Should I get an Adjustment?

How much attention a patient should seek will vary case by case, much like the procedure itself. Many have reported improvement after as little as one visit. On the other hand, many patients will need several visits to achieve proper posture and spine position. Whether chiropractic will become a routine part of his or her health care is something patients must discuss with their practitioners. Insurance often covers chiropractic care, and patients may wish to contact their insurer with questions about their coverage.

The overwhelming majority of patients report a sense of relaxation and relief from back pain. The procedure itself is painless, and any aftereffects are minor and temporary. It can relieve headaches and reduce tension and anxiety, leaving the patient more relaxed and comfortable. It improves joint function and muscle use, allowing patients greater flexibility and mobility. It leads to a more satisfying quality of life for many people.

If you wish to learn whether chiropractic care is right for you, call us or fill out our online contact form today!