4 Ways a Chiropractor Determines Where to Adjust

May 18, 2022Blog Post, Chiropractic


Many people feel like chiropractors have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing exactly where to do an adjustment. The truth is that they just have extensive training. How do chiropractors know how to determine where adjustments should be made? There’s actually a diagnostic process that enables chiropractors to pinpoint pain sources throughout the musculoskeletal system.

According to data shared by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, spinal manipulation is effective for immediate, short-term relief from acute or subacute low-back and neck pain. Other studies confirm that chiropractic adjustments are effective for treating chronic pain. Of course, the effectiveness of chiropractic adjustments ultimately comes down to how they are performed. Detecting the source of dysfunction is the only way to properly readjust and realign the musculoskeletal system and central nervous system to provide lasting healing and relief. Take a look at how it’s done.

Background on Chiropractic Adjustments: Here’s Why Adjustments Are Considered the Default for Healing Bodily Pain

Chiropractic adjustments are used to relieve pain, stop inflammation, and restore range of motion. They remove blockages called subluxations that cause dysfunction within the musculoskeletal system. Using arms and hands to manually adjust a patient’s spine, a chiropractor will apply special techniques to the joints and soft tissue. This can create relief from pain caused by blockages and misalignments. It can also reactivate the body’s natural healing mechanisms by restoring blood and oxygen flow.

How Do Chiropractors Choose Where to Adjust?

There isn’t a single method for determining where an adjustment is needed. Chiropractors actually have four main methods for planning adjustments. While some chiropractors lean heavily on one method, most will employ every resource they have to verify that they’ve accurately pinpointed the pain source. Next, take a look at the four methods used by chiropractors to decide where to adjust.

1. Range of Motion

Everything that a chiropractor does is intentional. That’s why you’ll be asked to complete a series of movements during your first visit. This series of movements is actually used to assess the range of motion of all of your joints. In addition to gauging how you move, a chiropractor is also observing how much discomfort you experience when making each move that is asked of you. While not every chiropractor does this for every patient, range-of-motion testing is very common simply because it’s one of the clearest ways to assess how much intervention is needed for flexibility and mobility.

2. Palpation Testing

Joint and body palpation testing is becoming the preferred method among many chiropractors simply because it’s so effective. It’s important to have some background on the palpation method to understand why it’s so effective. Bodily motions are divided across three planes that chiropractors are always conscious of as they do their work. These planes are:

  • Frontal plane
  • Sagittal
  • Transverse

The frontal plane covers the front and back of the body. The sagittal plane covers the left side and right side of the body. Lastly, the transverse plane covers the top and bottom of the body. Your chiropractor is using these planes as reference points when analyzing your movements. Some of the things they’re looking for include:

  • Tenderness
  • Pain reactions
  • palpation (spasms)

Pressing motions done by hand are used to elicit responses that indicate that tissue is affected by some sort of misalignment or dysfunction. It’s also important to know that chiropractors use two different approaches when using palpation testing to find the right spot for an adjustment. The first is something called static palpation testing. With static palpation testing, the chiropractor is measuring your responses while you’re still. During motion palpation testing, chiropractors ask patients to conduct a series of movements that are ideal for evaluating range of movement. The manual techniques used for testing are generally the same regardless of which form of palpation testing is being used.

3. Gait and Posture Assessment

Yes, a chiropractor can often get close to the whole story about what’s causing your dysfunction simply by watching you walk into the room. A person’s gait is extremely telling. Your gait is the pattern of walking that you display. Your posture is the position you’re using to “hold yourself” when you’re sitting or standing. Chiropractors will measure your gait and posture against “ideal” gait and posture models to detect where you’re experiencing a misalignment. This helps them to determine where an adjustment is needed. Gait and posture assessments will look at key indicators that reveal how your musculoskeletal system is responding to strains and pressure. That’s why you’ll be asked to perform specific movements during a gait and posture assessment. This often includes:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jogging
  • Sitting
  • Squatting
  • Leaning
  • Standing

In addition to observing how your body moves, a chiropractor may also ask you questions about any pressure, pain, or discomfort that you feel while in various positions. They will also be observing how your form compensates for misalignments. This can be an especially important test for people suffering from low back pain that is affecting gait and posture.

4. Symptoms and Lab Analysis

Chiropractors always use patient input when making a diagnosis to try to develop an appropriate treatment plan. In fact, symptoms are given high importance during the diagnostic phase prior to chiropractic adjustments. This can be a very new experience for patients who feel as though doctors never want to “listen to them.”

Chiropractors believe that you’re your own best source when it comes to getting the details of what’s happening with your body. Your symptoms help to paint a picture of the chain reactions that may be occurring within your highly connected musculoskeletal system. In addition to listening to what you’re saying about your pain, chiropractors may also want to get an inside look. X-rays are commonly used by chiropractors when patients feel comfortable with this option. Another diagnostic tool that is commonly used by chiropractors is something called diagnostic thermography. Diagnostic thermography is used to detect points of nerve pressure. Nerves that are compromised in some way will actually register as hot spots to make it easy for the chiropractor to pinpoint the area that requires attention. The beauty of this tool is that it can actually allow chiropractors to detect the specific nerves creating spinal dysfunction.

After Your Diagnosis: Chiropractic Adjustments Offer Customized Care

Many people are surprised to discover just how many diagnostic techniques chiropractors use to detect why their patients are experiencing pain, stiffness, and lost range of motion. The even bigger surprise comes next. Chiropractors actually have many different adjustment techniques to use for specific forms of injury and dysfunction. They also have specialized treatments that can be used for maximum effectiveness in specific parts of the body. Chiropractors use dozens of different techniques that help to readjust the spine, release trigger points in muscles, and restore blood and oxygen flow to the tissue. What’s more, they can pair adjustments with other treatments that can include the following:

  • Therapeutic massage
  • Cold therapies
  • Heat therapies
  • Injections
  • Laser pulsations
  • Stretching

Are you looking for how to get a diagnosis from a chiropractor in Berkley, Michigan? Dean Chiropractic is proud to offer chiropractic adjustments near Detroit for patients suffering from all types of pain. During your consultation, we’ll use the appropriate diagnostic tools to help formulate an effective treatment method that’s tailored to your specific symptoms. We provide a patient-first atmosphere with a caring, competent team. Book your appointment with a chiropractor offering adjustments in Berkeley, Michigan today!

Recent Posts

How Chiropractic Care Can Be Your Game-Changer for Sciatica

How Chiropractic Care Can Be Your Game-Changer for Sciatica

Discover how chiropractic care offers a compelling, non-invasive solution for sciatica pain relief. Dive into our easy-to-read guide that sheds light on the benefits of choosing chiropractic treatments, including drug-free pain management, personalized and holistic approaches, and its cost-effectiveness. Whether you’re seeking an alternative to traditional treatments or looking to understand more about spinal manipulation therapy, this post provides essential insights into making an informed decision for your health.

read more