Does Spinal Manipulation Really Work?

Spinal manipulation is no longer considered an alternative medical practice. Now it has become a common treatment for many patients with chronic pain. In fact, as many as 60 percent of patients who see a traditional doctor for back pain will also see a chiropractor for spinal manipulation. But does it really work?

Spinal manipulation is most commonly practiced by chiropractors; doctors with advanced training in normal body function and the body's natural power to heal itself.  Chiropractors promote healing by helping the body maintain proper alignment of bones and muscles so all its neural pathways communicate properly. This is done with spinal manipulation, also called chiropractic manipulation. Some traditional doctors, osteopaths and physical therapists also perform spinal manipulation.

Spinal manipulation moves a joint (frequently in the back, neck or pelvis), beyond its usual range of motion, but not beyond the range of motion the joint is anatomically designed to move. For example, people with neck pain frequently have limited range of motion. A chiropractor is trained to grip the neck (or another joint) and move the joint by force in order to free up mobility. The force they use may be surprising, but it isn't painful and does not cause joint damage.

It's common to hear a pop or crack sound when a joint is manipulated. This is entirely normal and does not mean anything is breaking. It's caused by a release of gas bubbles into the synovial fluid surrounding the joint. Once a joint is manipulated back into its' proper position, its' natural lubricating fluid is allowed to circulate. When bones, muscles, nerves and tendons are no longer misaligned; many people feel relief from their pain.

Chiropractic is a natural, drug-free approach that has proven successful for many patients with osteoarthritis, migraines, chronic and acute back, hip, neck and shoulder pain as well as other non-pain related medical issues. In fact, some studies say that spinal manipulation is as effective as physical therapy, exercise and pain medicine in providing relief for back pain.

Spinal manipulation is real therapy provided by real doctors. Chiropractors use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and methods (including x-rays, CT scans and lab tests when necessary). If a chiropractor determines spinal manipulation isn't appropriate or the patient has something more complicated going on with their health, they'll refer their patient to a traditional medical expert. 


American Chiropractic Association

National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine

Review of CAM Practices for Back and Neck Pain Shows Modest Results

Chiropractic - An Introduction