What Is the Science of Joint Manipulation?

Chiropractic care describes an alternative medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of certain musculoskeletal disorders. These musculoskeletal disorders typically reside in the spine and chiropractors use various methods to manipulate joints.

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Spinal manipulations can improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance the patient’s overall health. Joint manipulation should always be the primary focus of your chiropractor. To facilitate joint manipulation, chiropractors should apply a controlled force to the joint to restore its function.

But how does joint manipulation work and how can you choose a chiropractor to perform this therapy? Continue reading to learn more about joint manipulation and how it can improve your range of motion and overall joint function.

What Are Joints?

To understand joint manipulation, you must understand how joints function within the body. Joints describe areas of the body where bones meet and there are several types.

The types of joints are:

Synovial Joints: The most common joints, including the knee, hip, and shoulder joints. These joints have synovial fluid and lubricate the joint to reduce friction during movement.

Fibrous: Fibrous joints describe areas where fibrous connective tissue unites the bones. The best example to illustrate fibrous joints’ function is to consider the tiny joints uniting the different portions of the skull.

Cartilaginous: Cartilaginous joints are the types of joints entirely conjoined by cartilage. These joints allow for more movement than fibrous joints but less than synovial ones.

Functionally, the types of joints can be described as synarthrosis (immovable), amphiarthrosis (slightly moveable), and diarthrosis (freely moveable).

What Is the Science of Joint Manipulation?

Biomechanically, joint manipulation requires an understanding of the joint’s structure and function. This includes the type of joint being manipulated and the effect on the surrounding muscles and connective tissue. At its core, applying a controlled force to a joint should unlock the joint and improve its mobility.

From a neurophysiological perspective, joint manipulation affects the nervous system. It has a pronounced effect on sensory receptors within the joint and the spinal cord. Stimulating these receptors can help reduce pain signals and promote a sense of relaxation response in surrounding muscles.

Lastly, chiropractors must consider the anatomy of the joint’s surrounding structures. Reputable chiropractors should identify risk factors in the surrounding areas that might indicate joint manipulation techniques as inappropriate for a particular patient.

What Are the Types of Joint Manipulation?

Chiropractors use several techniques to manipulate joints. The high-velocity low-amplitude (HVLA) method is perhaps the most common technique and it involves a quick, forceful movement beyond its normal range of motion. Typically, a popping sound results from this method.

Mobilization is the other common form of joint manipulation involving a slower, gentler movement. Chiropractors often use this technique on patients uncomfortable with the HVLA method. This type of manipulation can also be used to warm up joints before performing the HVLA thrust.

What Are the Benefits of Joint Manipulation?

Joint manipulation has shown several benefits, including improved joint mobility, reduced pain, improved range of motion, increased blood flow, and improved nervous system function.

All of these benefits contribute to chiropractic care’s ability to reduce pain and improve your overall quality of life.

What Is the Scientific Evidence for Joint Manipulation?

Growing evidence supports the use of joint manipulation in chiropractic care. A 2017 review found spinal manipulation was effective at reducing pain and improving function in patients experiencing low back pain. Another 2017 systematic review of 10 controlled trials found spinal manipulation effectively reduced pain and disability in patients with neck pain.

Evidence also suggests joint manipulation can be effective in treating other conditions, such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) and headaches.

What Are the Risks of Joint Manipulation?

Joint manipulation techniques are generally considered safe but there are some associated risks. The most common side effects are soreness, stiffness, and minor bruising. These typically resolve within a few days. More serious risks, such as stroke and spinal cord injury exist, but they are extremely rare.

Bottom Line- What Is the Science of Joint Manipulation?

The science of joint manipulation contains many facets and it can be complex.  But that’s why you go to a licensed chiropractor. Reputable chiropractors understand the neurological, anatomical, and biological tenets of joint manipulation. They will be able to diagnose you and perform joint manipulation to reduce pain and improve your range of motion.