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What Is Chiropractic All About?

Legacy Medical Centers
  • What does a chiropractor actually do?
  • Why would I go to one?
  • What exactly is an adjustment?
  • What is the popping sound that happens with the adjustment/manipulation?

Chiropractors are doctors who specialize in neuromusculoskeletal conditions and take a conservative approach to treatment. We treat conditions that affect the muscles, joints, and nerves by restoring joint motion to the spine and other joints of the body while balancing the tissues surrounding those joints. People often seek our care for conditions such as (but not limited to):

  • Neck pain
  • Low back pain
  • Disc issues
  • Headaches

Why Chiropractic?

Everyone has experienced back pain in their life at some point. Remember: Pain is the symptom, not necessarily the cause/source! When your back aches for no reason at all, it will eventually become less painful. Have you ever had the same pain come and go multiple times for years on end?

Of course you have! We all have at one point or another. There’s a reason for that: Aches and pains fluctuate more than the Pittsburgh weather! And more often than not, pain returns because the underlying cause has not been addressed.

First and foremost, chiropractors evaluate the patient with an initial examination. This examination allows us to prescribe an appropriate treatment plan based on your specific condition. Initially, we may treat the symptoms to make activities of daily living — such as walking, exercising, working, etc. — manageable.

Once this is done, we begin to incorporate care to address the cause. We do this all without the use of medication.

What Is an Adjustment?

In our bodies, there are multiple joints. Some move more than others, but at times they can become “stuck” or restricted.

When a joint becomes restricted from incorrect posture or muscular imbalance, the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) around it can fire improperly. Improper firing patterns of muscles can cause muscle tearing and compensation of other structures. The inflammation from the torn or irritated muscle tissue can then lead to scar tissue and things called “adhesions,” which cause your muscles to lose some mobility and stick to other structures around it. This causes a perpetual cycle of incorrect muscle firing, tight muscles, and inflammation. In turn, our bodies will begin to develop their own patterns of movement, which may stress other seemingly unrelated structures.

All of these things put our bodies at an increased risk for injury and restrict our joints.

Neck Pain
When a joint is “hypomobile,” the neighboring joints above and below it tend to move too much to make up for it and become “hypermobile” and unstable. This excessive motion and instability can cause more pain and increased wear and tear on those hypermobile joints. Over time, the increased usage can lead to accelerated degeneration of the joint, and ultimately osteoarthritis.

A chiropractic adjustment is a way to restore the proper motion to these restricted joints. This proper motion — combined with muscle work — helps to regulate muscle firing patterns, decrease improper nerve impulses, eliminate inflammation, and slow down the process of joint degeneration.

There are many different types of chiropractic adjustments, and no two chiropractors really adjust the same way. Some of us use a type of adjustment that is quick and produces a cracking sound, and others use instruments and equipment that may not produce a cracking sound at all. But the goal is always the same: To increase joint motion and decrease dysfunction.

Chiropractic Spinal Check
What Is That Popping Sound When I Get Adjusted?

Have you ever cracked your knuckles? If you have, it’s the same principle — just in another joint. The reason why it’s much louder in your neck (cervical spine) is because those joints are closer to your ear. Hence, the audible sound will present louder, but in actuality it’s the same as cracking your toes.

If you want to know in further detail what the “pop” is, watch this short video:

The noise itself is caused by small pockets of air or bubbles, which are in the fluid that surrounds your joints. (Its normal to have fluid surrounding joints — it helps them move!)

When joint tissues are stretched during a chiropractic adjustment, the pockets of air “pop,” which creates that cracking sound you hear. So in essence, it is merely gas (mostly nitrogen) being released from the joints. When performed, patients usually feel an immediate sense of relief and increased range of joint motion.


Hopefully this post was able to answer some of the questions you may have about chiropractic care. Of course, it isn’t all inclusive, and is vastly oversimplified. However, if you have some other questions to ask, please contact us and we will be happy to help!