Chiropractic adjustments are sessions of spinal manipulation administered by a doctor of chiropractic. These adjustments are used for chronic pain relief and treating other medical conditions by correcting spinal misalignments.

What is a chiropractor? A chiropractor is a highly qualified health professional who has earned his/her Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. Chiropractors adjust the patient’s spinal joints in ways that have been scientifically shown to address certain disorders.

There are several evidence-based health benefits of chiropractic care. A doctor of chiropractic is able to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal pain, migraines,  and sciatica with spinal adjustments.

Upper cervical chiropractic is a subspecialty of chiropractic care that focuses on the 2 upper vertebrae of the spine: the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). Upper cervical care is employed for effective treatment of several disorders and injuries.

Below, you’ll learn the answer to these questions:

  • What do I expect at a chiropractic adjustment?
  • What are the benefits of chiropractic adjustments?
  • Is it safe?
  • Are there side effects?

What is a chiropractic adjustment?

A chiropractic adjustment (also known as a “spinal adjustment”) is a session of spinal corrections performed by a chiropractor. Chiropractic adjustments may include a number of individual chiropractic techniques, such as the toggle drop, lumbar roll, or table adjustments.

A typical chiropractic adjustment by a general chiropractor


A upper cervical chiropractic adjustment by Dr. Ty Carzoli

How often should you get chiropractic adjustments? For chronic pain that significantly affects your quality of life, you should get a chiropractic adjustment every week or even multiple times each week.

For simple maintenance and prevention, you may visit a chiropractor once a month, but this varies greatly depending on your provider.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic

Our upper cervical chiropractic treatment plans typically require weekly treatments for 12 weeks at a time. After this, I will recommend an appropriate plan for maintenance adjustments, although I aim to get you back on your feet and out of the office.

There is no cookie cutter formula to knowing what someone needs. That being said, based on your condition, lifestyle, and state of your spine, I create a custom fit 3-month care plan to get started.

It’s very rare I see anyone more than once a week. Most patients can expect to average about 1 visit per week for the first 3 months of care; “The Corrective Care Plan” phase. 

Following those first three months, I do a comprehensive re-examination where I will:

  • Take new x-rays to measure improvement
  • Reassess your self reported progress
  • Re-administer your cognitive testing
  • And more!

Osteopath vs. Chiropractor

An osteopath is a slightly different profession from a chiropractor.

Osteopaths (doctors of osteopathy, or DOs) go through four years of medical school. Very few osteopaths prescribe to the importance of spinal correction for all-body health.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, go to a chiropractic post-graduate school, not medical school. The chiropractic profession focuses closely on all-body health via spinal adjustments.

Osteopaths perform osteopathic adjustments, which are very similar to chiropractic manipulations. However, osteopathic adjustments are basically watered-down chiropractic adjustments. Like physical therapists, osteopaths have minimal (elective) training on “manipulations”.

Ultimately, osteopathy does not use the principles of functional medicine, in which a lifestyle approach is used to promote health. Chiropractic, on the other hand, honors the innate systems of the body to promote health with minimal to no use of drugs or conventional medicine principles.

Benefits of Chiropractic Adjustments

Chiropractic adjustments correct spinal misalignments and spinal motion issues. Left untreated, misalignments and subluxations may cause:

  • Pinched nerves
  • Chronic back pain
  • Nervous system dysfunction
  • General malaise (feeling unwell)

Health benefits of chiropractic adjustments include:

  1. Improved joint function (including range of motion)
  2. Reduced lower back pain
  3. Reduced neck pain
  4. Headache relief
  5. Migraine relief
  6. Better blood circulation
  7. Improvement of insomnia
  8. Easier breathing, including with certain asthma issues

These health benefits are backed by peer-reviewed science. A slew of other benefits have been reported by patients and chiropractors but may not be published in scientific journals.

If you are interested in a chiropractic adjustment, click here to make your appointment at Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic. We work with our patients to figure out a treatment plan that works for you.

What to Expect During Chiropractic Treatment

Before the Adjustment

Before your adjustment, your chiropractor should discuss your treatment level. He or she will explain what chiropractic adjustment is required in your case.

You should not expect any pain during a chiropractic visit.

The first time you visit a chiropractor, the doctor of chiropractic will likely consult with you regarding your overall condition, symptoms, and desired results. This consultation may include:

  • A physical examination
  • Taking a personal medical history
  • X-rays
  • Perhaps inquiring about family medical history
  • Discussing financials

You may or may not get a chiropractic adjustment at this initial consultation. At Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we take time to thoroughly analyze x-rays before delivering the first adjustment on the second visit. If a patient travels in from out of state, we will make special accommodations for time.

After your first visit, the chiropractor can examine your x-rays and formulate a personalized treatment plan for you.

Getting a Chiropractic Adjustment 

When you return, it’s probably time for your first adjustment.

Your chiropractor will likely explore your maximum range of motion before beginning the adjustment, stopping immediately if this movement triggers any pain. The chiropractor may thrust his/her hands down onto the targeted area to actually make the adjustment.

Personally, I do not employ adjustments like this with my patients. It’s a common practice, but I use a very gentle and precise instrument instead.

The Laney Torque Specific Cervical Adjusting Instrument is my device of choice (not to be confused with the Torque Release Technique’s “integrator”). Only 65 of these have ever been manufactured, and I have the only one in the entire state of Colorado.

We use regular x-rays and cutting-edge technology to ensure the most precise, gentle, and effective adjustments possible.

What happens when you get adjusted by a chiropractor? The chiropractor corrects spinal misalignments, and restores nervous system function. You may hear “popping”, which is normal. It is also normal to lie on a drop table that raises and drops.

Results You Should Expect

How long do chiropractic adjustments last? The amount of time a chiropractic adjustment lasts depends heavily on the state of the patient’s spine. The greatest variation between people is in the beginning of treatment.

Over time, chiropractors should be seeing people less and less often as they hold their adjustments longer and longer. What people do outside the office can have a big impact on the efficacy of their care.

Chiropractic adjustments can be used for rehabilitation, maintenance, or prevention.

How long until I see results from chiropractic care? On average, a patient of chiropractic care sees results within 1 to 4 weeks of spinal adjustment. You may notice small physical changes right away, like increased lung capacity or limb strength.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic vs. General Chiropractic

What is the difference between upper cervical and general chiropractic?

  • Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on the upper two vertebrae, the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). General chiropractic adjusts the whole spine, including the lower lumbar spine. There is evidence that gently adjusting only the upper spine leads to more consistent results, particularly for neurological concerns.
  • Some patients are concerned about aggressive spinal corrections (sometimes called high-velocity low-amplitude, or HVLA). Many of us have seen YouTube videos of chiropractors using aggressive techniques to correct misalignment. However, upper cervical chiropractors only use gentle spinal adjustments to treat pain.
  • Upper cervical care tends to be more precise than general chiropractic.
  • Upper cervical chiropractors operate on the theory that the upper spine is more heavily related to the central nervous system. Regulating the central nervous system is the primary advantage of chiropractic care, so the lower spine is often not as much of a concern.

Drop table adjustments are common tools used by general chiropractors. During this adjustment, he or she will raise a part of the table you’re lying down on, then thrust their hands down, causing the raised part of the table to quickly lower.

This actually increases the patient’s comfort level, compared to spinal corrections without the use of a table.

It is important to wear loose-fitting clothing so your clothes don’t get in the way of spinal adjustments. The chiropractor may lift up your leg or gently twist your back, which may be difficult with tight-fitting clothing. Athletic wear is often the clothing of choice.

It’s also important to wear close-toed shoes for general chiropractic adjustments.

You may hear a lot of “popping” or “cracking” like when you crack your knuckles. This is thought to be caused by joint cavitation, when gases in your joints’ lubricating fluids are released. It is a  sign your joints are being mobilized.

Again, I do not adjust patients using drop table or twisting/cracking adjustments. These are common, but do not serve our patients best in their upper cervical chiropractic treatment plans.

Is it safe to get chiropractic adjustments?

Yes, it is safe to get chiropractic adjustments from a trained and licensed doctor of chiropractic.

Fewer than one in a million chiropractic patients experiences an adverse event during treatment.

Those are much better odds than taking anti-inflammatory meds, such as NSAIDs, for pain. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not even as effective as spinal adjustments at relieving neck pain. NSAIDs certainly don’t correct the cause of your problem.

Side effects of chiropractic adjustments are rare. Potential dangers include:

Who shouldn’t get a chiropractic adjustment? If a patient presents any of the following disorders, chiropractors may hesitate to perform spinal adjustments:

  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bone tumors
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Bone deformities
  • Certain bleeding disorders

Cost & Insurance Coverage

The average cost of a chiropractic adjustment is $65 to $85.

Depending on where you live, whether you’re seeing a specialist, and the years of experience of your chiropractor, the cost of a chiropractic adjustment varies. Chiropractic services range in cost from $30 to $200 per visit.

Many chiropractors require a one-time fee for the initial consultation, where a physical examination, x-rays, and personal health history are usually administered. From this initial consultation, a doctor of chiropractic can lay out an effective treatment plan for each individual patient.

Most chiropractic care is not covered by insurance. We do not accept insurance, including Medicare/Medicaid for this reason.

Some insurance plans cover short-term chiropractic care for rehabilitation after an injury, such as a car crash or sports injury. However, most insurance plans do not cover chiropractic care for maintenance, prevention, and general wellness.

If you’re considering chiropractic care but aren’t sure you can afford it, talk to your chiropractor’s office about options such as payment plans or CareCredit.

Looking to the Future

Chiropractors are highly qualified medical professionals with a Doctor of Chiropractic education. They are trained and educated to administer chiropractic adjustments to all sorts of people — from children to the elderly.

At Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we have administered countless chiropractic adjustments. Gentle adjustments of the upper spine are critical to recovering from cervical instability. Click here to learn more about our practice.

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