Chiropractic Neck Adjustment Benefits

If you want to understand what chiropractic neck adjustment benefits might be relevant to you, it might help to start with an analogy. Many people experience immediate relief from cracking their joints.

This can be from cracking knuckles, fingers, toes, backs and even our neck.

Some people find that it helps to reduce pressure and tension built up in the joint, especially tension in the shoulders and neck muscles. That relief is real and part of the picture of what neck adjustments do.

Why else do chiropractors crack the neck, what are the main chiropractic neck adjustment benefits, and more importantly, is it safe?

In this article, I want to discuss the immediate benefits of chiropractic neck adjustments which include:

  1. Providing pain relief and a release of pressure in the neck.
  2. Improves Range of Motion or the ability to turn and side bend your neck.
  3. Stimulates the brain and induces a positive mental effect.
  4. Releases and stimulates chemicals known to reduce stress and pain.

What are the Risks of a Neck Adjustment?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Chiropractic adjustments are safe when performed by someone trained and licensed to deliver chiropractic care.

Still, there are issues surrounding chiropractic adjustments and the potential for vascular injuries such as dissection and stroke.

This is a hot topic that receives much press when incidents arise and yet they never cover the actual data.

Several studies published in peer reviewed medical journals have determined that there is no casual relationship with neck adjustments and vascular injuries.

Let me repeat, several scientific papers published in peer reviewed medical journals have determined that there is no relationship between chiropractic adjustments and stroke.

Here's a few key findings:

  • “The increased risks of VBA stroke associated with chiropractic and PCP visits is likely due to patients with headache and neck pain from VBA dissection seeking care before their stroke. We found no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated chiropractic care compared to primary care.” [1]
  • “We found no significant association between exposure to chiropractic care and the risk of VBA stroke. We conclude that manipulation is an unlikely cause of VBA stroke. The positive association between PCP visits and VBA stroke is most likely due to patient decisions to seek care for the symptoms (headache and neck pain) of arterial dissection.” [2]
  • “Although several case reports and case series raise the hypothesis of an association, we found no epidemiologic studies that validate this hypothesis.” [3]
  • “Among Medicare B beneficiaries aged 66–99 with neck pain, incidence of vertebrobasilar stroke was extremely low. Small differences in risk between patients who saw a chiropractor and those who saw a primary care physician are probably not clinically significant.” [4]
  • “There is no convincing evidence to support a causal link between chiropractic manipulation and CAD. Belief in a causal link may have significant negative consequences such as numerous episodes of litigation.” [5]

What they have discovered is that people who have experienced trauma or are on the verge of having a stroke will experience symptoms such as head, face and/or neck pain (especially pain that is different or more severe than they have had before), dizziness, blurred vision etc.

This is why Chiropractors undergo training to assess and rule out cancers, fractures, and a variety of vascular conditions that cause neck pain and/or cervicogenic headache.

Ultimately the Bottom Line is This… 

There is no evidence that chiropractic adjustments or neck manipulations are related to strokes.

The claims and statements that have been made and that have been interpreted by experts are based largely on case controlled studies, empirical evidence or hearsay.

In other words, there is a big difference from Peer Reviewed Research and what your mom's aunt, who is a nurse in a hospital where her friend work  in the records room, heard from a janitor that someone was at the hospital because they had a stroke due to a chiropractic adjustment.

It's nonsense and straight up click-bait.

On to Why You Should Get Adjusted…

What Happens When You Crack Your Neck?

The first thing we should discuss is what the “Cracking” is all about.

The joints that we typically think of when we “crack” them are known as diarthrodial joints.

These are the most common joints in the body and consist of two bones that contact each other at their cartilage surfaces. The cartilage surfaces are then surrounded by a joint capsule.

Inside the joint capsule is a lubricant, known as synovial fluid, which also serves as a source of nutrients for the cells that maintain the joint cartilage. This is why it's so important to focus on increasing movement of your joints; to circulate these nutrients for joint health.

In addition, the synovial fluid contains dissolved gases, including oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

As the joint capsule stretches, synovial fluid cannot expand unless the pressure inside the capsule drops to a point that dissolved gases can escape the solution; when the gases come out of solution.

The cracking or popping sound is thought to be caused by the gases rapidly coming out of solution, allowing the capsule to stretch a little further.

If you experience relief when you crack your neck, this is a sign that one of the chiropractic neck adjustment benefits you will experience is even greater relief from targeted manipulations of the affected joints.

austin chiropractor neck adjustment

Chiropractic Neck Adjustments Reduce Pain

Of all the chiropractic neck adjustment benefits, pain reduction is the most common objective.

Our neck, also called the cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae.

While the cervical spine can move your head in nearly every direction, this flexibility makes the neck very susceptible to pain and injury.

Our head and neck are especially susceptible to poor posture brought on by a modern lifestyle.

The neck’s susceptibility to injury is due in part to biomechanics.

Activities and events that affect cervical biomechanics include extended sitting, repetitive movement, accidents, falls and blows to the body or head, normal aging, and everyday wear and tear.

Neck pain can be very bothersome, and it can have a variety of causes including:

  • Injury and Accidents (whiplash injuries, torn ligaments, ruptured discs)
  • Aging and Osteoarthritis (deranged joints and calcium deposits around the joints)
  • Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of the passageway for nerves)
  • Degenerative Disc Disease (disc bulges, disc herniations)
  • Daily Life (poor posture, weakness, spinal misalignments, dehydration)

A chiropractic neck adjustment (also known as cervical manipulation) is a precise procedure applied to the joints of the neck, usually by hand.

A neck adjustment works to improve the mobility of the spine and to restore range of motion; it can also increase movement of the adjoining muscles.

Patients typically notice an improved ability to turn and tilt the head, and a reduction of pain, soreness, and stiffness.

One of the most recent reviews of scientific literature found evidence that patients with chronic neck pain enrolled in clinical trials reported significant improvement following chiropractic spinal manipulation. [1]

chiropractic adjustments for neck pain

Chiropractic Neck Adjustments Improve Range of Motion

Chiropractic is about more than just relief from acute pain. It’s actually focused on long-term, sustainable health through maintenance of an ideal spinal posture.

The goal is to not just alleviate pain, but to ensure the best quality of life by maintaining healthy movement patterns.

This is why Range of Motion is so important.

Another of the main chiropractic neck adjustment benefits is the alleviation of stiffness in the neck and other issues that reduce range of motion and impede overall motor ability in the body.

Having full range of motion is ultimately what allows us to keep moving and living an active lifestyle; that alone can be enough to prevent recurring concerns of the spine’s ability to properly support the body.

Not only can restoring range of motion enhance overall spinal stability for the long-term, pinpointing where mobility is disrupted can actually open the door for a corrective approach.

One study found that a single chiropractic adjustment was enough to improve range of motion, movement time, and performance on the Fitts rotation test. [2]

Another study also demonstrated that chiropractic neck adjustments not only improved neck range of motion, but participants also demonstrated increases in grip strength suggesting a strong neurological effect as well. [3]

Finally, it should be appreciated that long term chiropractic care demonstrated continual increases in range of motion. [4].

Chiropractic Neck Adjustments Boost Brain Function

The brain is the master control system for the entire body.

It is constantly sending and receiving signals to the body with specific instructions on how it should function.

When there is interference in this signalling neuro-feedback loop, it alters the environment the brain perceives itself to be in, which then negatively impacts all downstream functions.

One of the most important chiropractic neck adjustment benefits is the fact that it can boost and enhance brain function.

Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to enhance the sensorimotor integration of the brain with the body. [5678]

In fact, a single chiropractic adjustment was powerful enough to alter processing at the cortical level of the brain. [9].

Chiropractic Neck Adjustments Improve Stress Response and Boost Mood

We think stress reduction is one of the underappreciated chiropractic neck adjustment benefits. Neck adjustments have been shown to balance nerves in a way that calms the body.  This is like hitting the reset button on a computer when it is malfunctioning. [101112]

Another study found that chiropractic adjustments may have an even bigger impact on your body than you think.

We all know that stress plays a major role in our health, and if there’s one thing that will kicks the stress response in overdrive, it's an unhealthy spine.

Scientists in Japan wanted to get a more objective picture of how chiropractic adjustments impact the nervous system, so they used PET scans to monitor brain activity and saliva samples to track hormone changes. [13]

After receiving a chiropractic neck adjustment, patients had altered brain activity in the parts of the brain responsible for pain processing and stress reactions.

They also had significantly reduced cortisol levels, indicating decreased stress.

Participants also reported lower pain scores and a better quality of life after treatment.

As scientists learn more about the human body and the role of the nervous system, it’s clear that chiropractic can play a powerful role in promoting true wellness, rather than just symptom relief.

When To See a Chiropractor

You can experience these chiropractic neck adjustment benefits. If you find that you are frequently cracking your neck and it doesn't offer relief, then it might be time to schedule a visit with your chiropractor to have your joints aligned.

This will help you feel relief, improve range of motion, enhance brain function and mood, and experience other related chiropractic neck adjustment benefits!

A few other reasons why you should consider seeing a doctor of chiropractic includes:

  • Swelling of the neck, which could be a sign of a fluid buildup, injury, or infection.
  • When you feel pain in the joint area.
  • When your joints start to feel pressure or pain, which gives you the urge to crack your neck.
  • When you start to lose flexibility or mobility in your neck.
  • When you notice that you have poor posture