Joint Manipulation



“I got my back cracked by my chiropractor today.” We have probably heard that statement from someone else at some point…


What Exactly Is That and What Does the ‘Cracking’ For?

The proper terminology of that technique that physiotherapists use is called joint manipulation. And chiropractors refer to the technique as chiropractic adjustment. The two names are interchangeable, and they both use a high-velocity(quick) low-amplitude(short) (HVLA) method to move a restricted joint within its normal range of motion.


Physiotherapists and Chiropractors both use manual therapy as part of their treatment. Besides manipulation and adjustment, other manual techniques such as soft tissue therapy and mobilization, all fall under the category of manual therapy.


The goals of joint manipulation are to increase range of motion and decrease pain. Headaches, neck pain, and low back pain will usually benefit from joint manipulation. Before your manual therapist performs manipulation to your joint, he/she will first assess the muscles, joints, and bones of the area of concern, and determine if a joint manipulation is needed. Generally, it is not recommended to receive joint manipulation if you have osteoporosis, fractures, severe rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or inflammation of the bone, rupture of ligament, recent surgery, or vertebral artery abnormalities.


What Can You Expect During a Joint Manipulation?

Your physiotherapist or chiropractor will palpate the joint in which motion is being restricted, then, the therapist will put you in a certain position and ask you to relax and take a couple of deep breaths. As you breathe out, your therapist will deliver a rapid and short distance thrust to your joint. Sometimes, you will even hear a ‘popping’ or ‘cracking’ (cavitation) sound. This procedure is not going to hurt.


Although your therapist can perform manipulation in most of the joints in the body, cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint, and your ankle joint are the most common areas. Lastly, manipulation has been shown to be most effective when coupled with active therapy such as stretching and exercising.


Our chiropractors and physiotherapists at C.E.S. can perform manipulations and mobilizations to help restore your normal movements!


Reference: Elder, B., & Tishkowski, K. (2020). Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment: HVLA Procedure-Cervical Vertebrae. StatPearls [Internet].

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