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The most common chiropractic treatment is the "adjustment." An adjustment is the treatment that a chiropractor applies to a joint with his/her hands by pressing on the patient's back or neck. There is a brief moment of traction, which is often accompanied by a cracking sound.
An adjustment helps by stimulating specialized nerve endings around the joint being adjusted. A nerve signal is then sent to the deep segmental muscles (the muscles that keep your bones aligned) that have tightened up, telling them to relax to a more normal level of tension.
An adjustment doesn't normally hurt, just like cracking your knuckles doesn't normally hurt.
However, if the tissues over that part of your body are swollen or inflamed, it might hurt to push on them (like pushing on a bruise). If you feel sore already, the pressure might hurt a bit, but any discomfort goes away as you get better.
Adjustments are physical "pushes" on joints that are already too tight or misaligned. They take the joint from a state of being too tight to a state of more normal tension. That is a good thing, both for the health of the joint itself and also any tissue of the body that is associated with that joint by way of the nerves.
If, on the other hand, you habitually self-adjust and the joint you are cracking is already moving fine, then it is theoretically possible to make it more unstable and therefore susceptible to developing arthritis.
Moral of the story - avoid amateur "adjustments."
When an adjustment is made, there is a pressure change inside the joint that forces the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is in the joint fluid to change into a gaseous form. It’s like when you open a bottle of pop and it fizzes or bubbles, only when it happens inside a joint, it happens all at once (because the joint fluid is at body temperature). So, in short, the crack is the sound of CO2 popping into gaseous form.
You will only get x-rays if there is a genuine need for them. Typically x-rays aren't needed to decide how to treat you, but they are sometimes needed to either decide if you should be treated (adjusted) or to what degree we should expect results from treatment.
Any excessive pulling or stress on the joints can eventually lead to arthritis; especially if you are already genetically predisposed (have arthritis in the family). Occasional cracking of the knuckles is not a problem, but if you do it out of habit and more than once a day, then I would think you'd be at higher risk of developing arthritis (big knuckles).
Yes, we can adjust with either of these two instruments:
Although adjusting by hand often gives faster relief, both of these instruments can often be used in place of adjusting by hand for those who are nervous about the "crack" sound of a normal adjustment.
Yes and no. Not in the sense that someone can get addicted to medications. Chiropractic adjustments do not cause your spinal joints to "go out" more often.
Yes, in the sense that for those who have lived with chronic pain for years who suddenly become aware that there is a way to feel better may come to appreciate the relief they get from treatments. Obviously no one wants to feel pain for years. But it’s not as though pain gets worse than before if you’re not able to follow through with care.
Yes, chiropractic can fix the problem. But maybe just for a little while. It depends.
For some people, yes, chiropractic can fix a problem (as long as the patient doesn't repeat the event that triggered the condition in the first place).
For others, the answer is more of a "maybe." A chiropractor can improve or at least stabilize the problem, as long as the patient does his/her “homework” (e.g. their prescribed exercises).
Heat always feels good at first, but if there's any inflammation in the area you're heating up, heat will encourage the inflammation, and you'll probably feel worse than before within 20 minutes to an hour.
My general rule of thumb is to avoid heat if:
Ice, on the other hand, will never hurt you (as long as you don't give yourself frostbite). Just wrap a thin towel around a frozen gel-pac or bag of frozen peas and apply it to the painful area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, in a set of 3 applications. Space the applications 10 minutes apart and put the pack back in the freezer during these intervals.
If you're afraid the ice will be too cold (or you just "don't like being cold"), wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and give yourself 30 seconds to get used to the cold. I'm sure you'll be able to make it past that uncomfortable time so you can later appreciate the "numbing" effect the ice has on pain and inflammation.
When using ice packs on a painful spot, do 3 sets of the following rotation:
Fold your hand towel into a rectangle about the size of the plastic zip bag. Place the folded towel into the bag, leaving a little space in the bag. If your hand towels are too big for your bags, consider other cloth items like t-shirts.
Fill the bag slowly with tap water until the towel stops absorbing it. Add just enough so you can see the water start pooling at the bottom of the bag. You want the towel as wet as possible. Zip up the bag. Place it in the freezer. Take out and use on aches and pains. If it's too cold on the skin, wrap it in cloth.
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