Understanding Spine Adjustments and When It’s Time to See a Professional

How Spine Adjustments Work, When It’s Safe to Do Your Own, and When You Need a Professional 

Did you know that nearly 65 million Americans have reported that they suffer from back pain? Within that number, 16 million American adults experience chronic, persistent back pain. Chronic pain limits people in their daily lives, and unfortunately, is quite common throughout the population. In fact, back pain is the 6th most costly condition in the United States alone. 

Spinal adjustments can help with the pain and ensure that you can go about your daily life with fewer limitations. 

In this article, we will share what spinal adjustment is, how it is performed, and if you can safely adjust your spine on your own. 

What is a spine adjustment?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, spinal adjustment, which is also known as spinal manipulation, is a technique where practitioners use their hands or a device to apply a controlled thrust to a joint of your spine. The amount of force that they use can vary, but the thrust moves the joint more than it would on its own. 

This technique is mainly done by chiropractors, but other licensed professionals, including osteopathic physicians and physical therapists, also do spinal manipulations. Spine adjustment is one of the most common complementary health approaches used by adults and children in the United States. 

How does a chiropractor adjust your spine?

Spinal adjustment is a fairly simple treatment, and is of the most common chiropractic treatments. Before you start your session, the chiropractor will do an assessment. This will determine how severe your case is and if they can help you through alternative therapy or if you need to go seek a surgeon. 

Before they perform the adjustment, the chiropractor might massage the muscles a little bit to help them become warm. This will prevent muscle injury during the manipulation and can make the manipulation a bit easier. 

You will lie down on the treatment bed and the chiropractor or other professional will physically adjust your joints and tissues in your spine to help reduce pain and inflammation. They may also use a hand-held device known as an activator to help with your treatment. 

Keep in mind: Once the joint gives way, you might hear a pop or cracking noise. This is normal. You need to stay calm and realize that the sound is normal. The sound is caused by small pockets of air or bubbles in the fluid that surrounds your joints. When the tissue in your joints are stretched during your adjustment, the pockets of air pop, which creates that sound you are hearing. 

Can you adjust your spine yourself?

Have you noticed how often people crack their neck? It is a common misconception that once you hear that pop, you have adjustment your neck or spine back into place. This is not true. When you hear that pop, your body releases endorphins which are hormones that make you feel good. Endorphins only last in your bloodstream for about 15-20 minutes. Once they leave your bloodstream, you need to crack your neck once again. 

Just because you hear the same pop when you do it yourself does not mean you have adjusted your spine correctly. Chiropractors place their hands in specific spots to ensure that they are adjusting the correct joint that is out of place. You cannot know for sure that you have adjusted the right joint or vertebrae that is causing your pain. 

To conclude, you cannot adjust your spine yourself the same way that a chiropractor can. You can create the pop, which will release your happy hormones and give you temporary relief, but for a spinal adjustment that is going to last and cause the right joints and vertebrae to go back into their proper place, you need to seek out a professional. 

When to adjust yourself and when to go to a professional 

As we have now learnt, you cannot adjust your back by yourself, but you can crack your back to give you temporary relief. The safe way for you to crack your back is to do back exercises, stretches, pilates, or yoga. These techniques will help you stretch out your muscles and help you feel less pain. 

Stretches and exercises that are designed to help the muscles in your back can be done at home. Often a professional like a chiropractor will give you some stretches to do at home to help ensure that you get the best out of the treatment. These stretches will benefit you if you suffer from the following:

  • Limited range of motion 
  • Pain in your back or neck area
  • Pain caused by staying in the same position for long periods of time 

You need to go to a professional to adjust your spine when you have:

  • A pinched nerve
  • Specific surgery 
  • Experienced whiplash 
  • Chronic pain or trauma to a specific area
  • Chronic headaches
  • Sciatica


Experts have estimated that up to 80% of the American population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain can affect you no matter what your age is or how healthy you might think you are. Spinal adjustment or manipulation that is done by a professional can help you reduce your chronic pain and discomfort.


  • Never force any of your joints to crack/pop
  • If your pain does not subside, seek medical advice 
  • During your spinal adjustment, remember to keep taking deep breaths and keep your body as relaxed as possible. The adjustment will be easier. 
  • If your joints pop when you are exercising or moving around and it is not sore, you don’t need to worry. If the pop sound happens and there is pain, you need to see a chiropractor. 

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