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What Is Manual Manipulation?

May 18, 2020
What Is Manual Manipulation?
A chiropractor can perform manual manipulations, which is a technique that’s also known as spinal manipulation or chiropractic manipulation. At Integrated Pain Consultants, Dr. Weinberg joined the team because our clinic is committed to providing.....

A chiropractor can perform manual manipulations, which is a technique that’s also known as spinal manipulation or chiropractic manipulation. At Integrated Pain Consultants, Dr. Weinberg joined the team because our clinic is committed to providing patients with every option for pain management, including a variety of “alternative” and non-invasive procedures like chiropractic care. Manual manipulation is a very common therapeutic technique provided by chiropractors, and is what a lot of people imagine when they think about seeing a chiropractor.

Chiropractors specialize in the spine, and manipulating the vertebrae manually can help correct malfunction or address abnormal movement patterns. One of the most common issues manual manipulation treats is subluxation, or a partial joint dislocation. Subluxation can be caused by repetitive movements or acute trauma. Sometimes medical conditions can also cause this common issue.

What to Expect During Manual Manipulation

Manual manipulation can help improve overall function, increase your range of motion, and reduce nerve irritability. Every chiropractic treatment plan is customized to the patient, so it’s impossible to predict exactly what you can expect during your sessions with Dr. Weinberg. However, most manual manipulations involve a thrust to the vertebra using high velocity. You will probably hear joint cavitation, which is the sound of gas releasing. This sound occurs when gases (carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen) are released from the joint due to the chiropractor’s manipulation. Most clients call this “popping” or “cracking” the joint, although that terminology isn’t correct.

The majority of patients feel immediate relief after manual manipulation. In rare instances, some very minor discomfort might be felt—but this is temporary. The discomfort is caused by muscles spasming near the manipulation site. It’s important for patients to be relatively relaxed during manual manipulation because tensing up can make cavitation difficult. If you experience this discomfort after your treatment, applying ice, resting, or massage and electrical stimulation might precede your manual manipulation.


Some people try to achieve cavitation on their own or with the help of a friend. This can be very dangerous. There are a number of manipulative techniques that chiropractors spend a lot of time perfecting, and correct cavitation requires years of training. It’s both a high-level skill and an art. It’s not uncommon for patients to regularly see their chiropractor for “adjustments” (cavitation) even if they aren’t suffering from an acute injury or repetitive stress injury. This is because the treatment can be relaxing, feel good, and might help with daily activities.

Today, manual manipulation is more in-demand than ever thanks to our sedentary lifestyle. Repetitive stress injuries such as playing a lot of tennis can certainly lead to the need for spinal manipulation, but so does sitting for hours on end with poor posture and little back support. Most of us don’t have “good” (healthy) posture the majority of the time and that takes its toll on the body. Routine manual manipulation can help you get your spine healthy and keep it in good condition.


If manual manipulation is good, wouldn’t mechanical manipulation be even better? Researchers are supporting what chiropractors have known for years: the answer is a resounding no, and there are recent studies to back it up. An article in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics compared the two approaches with 92 chiropractic patients. The patients all underwent “treatment as usual,” as determined by their chiropractor. At the end of the study, the results from manual and mechanical manipulations were nearly identical, but with one key difference.

Patients who underwent mechanical manipulation had double the office visits within the study month compared to those who underwent manual manipulation. This suggests that in order to achieve the same results, patients undergoing mechanical manipulation need to see their chiropractor twice as often. Few people have the time to opt in for double the appointments just to get the same results they would get from half the amount of manual manipulation appointments.

If you’re suffering from low back pain, it’s time to see a chiropractor. There are many causes of back pain, and pinpointing the cause along with a correct diagnosis is the first step in the process. There may be options beyond medication management and surgery, and Integrated Pain Consultants is here to help you feel better safely. Schedule a detailed evaluation with Dr. Weinberg by booking your appointment online or calling (480) 626-2552.