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Why Spinal Adjustments Alone Don’t Work

It is not abnormal for me to hear of someone going to a chiropractor.  I don’t have any problem with someone seeing a chiropractor to get adjustments in order to get areas moving better or aligned better.  As a physical therapist, I do spinal manipulations myself; they are not a bad thing.  The better the body is moving or positioned, the less pain and fewer issues we experienceWhat I do have a problem with is when an adjustment is the only thing that is done. 

The trend I often see is someone sees a chiropractor (perhaps regularly) for adjustments…the end.  I totally understand that getting the regular adjustments feel great, but ultimately this is not helping your situation any.  I won’t say you are completely wasting your time, but you kind of are.  Here’s why… 

The body learns where it is comfortable.  It learns where it feels ‘normal.’  It learns how to move in its available ranges of motion or with any mobility limitations it has.  What it has learned over the years is where it is able to move and how to hold itself in space.  As you receive manipulations to get the joints to move better or be in a better position, the body doesn’t know what to do with it.  You basically gain mobility and positions that you don’t know how to maintain.  When all you do is get an adjustment to move the joints, the body will return back to what it knows in a very short time.  This is often why you feel like you need to go back regularly for adjustments. 

The only way to be able to use the motion gained or to stay in the position things were moved to is to teach your body how to do so.  You train your body through different postural and movement pattern correction exercises. 

Here’s how this looks to me in a perfect world: You receive an adjustment or manipulation and then go straight into exercises to train the new position or movement.  Along with that, you also do exercises to improve your overall movement patterns as well as begin to learn how to hold your body during the day to minimize the effects that life can have on our bodies. 

Doing this will help your body begin to learn how to move better, how to hold itself, and essentially how to function in life better.  Even better, moving better will allow your performance to improve without you really changing anything with your training.  

If you go to a chiropractor regularly to get adjustments, great, keep doing that!  What I would also suggest if he/she is not already doing it is to start working with someone who can help you retrain your movement and teach the body how to hold itself in space. 

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