Q: What is my chiropractor feeling in my spine?
Have you ever wondered what your chiropractor is feeling in your spine while touching your back?
Physical examination by using the hands or fingers is called palpation.
When performed by a skilled chiropractor, palpation can provide some very useful information.
Ultimately, palpation of the spine can reveal muscle tension, muscle imbalances, inflammation of joints, fixated (stuck) vertebrae, and improper joint movement, among other things.
Spinal palpation is one of our best tools for determining when and where an adjustment is needed.
It takes many years of practice to become skilled at palpating the spine. As a result, each chiropractor will have a different technique based on their experience.
My Personal Spinal Palpation Technique
When a patient lies on my table, my first objective is to gauge their level of relaxation.
To do this, I simply place both hands flat on their back and wait. If they’re tense, I’ll instruct them to take a few deep breaths to help calm their body and mind.
A healthy spine should feel “springy” (not rigid), when moved in certain ways, so this is what I check for next.
To accomplish this, I’ll apply some light pressure around the hips and spinal column.
Basically, I’m feeling for how much their spine is resisting me. Resistance means tension, and tension in the spine while lying down is not a good thing.
I also feel for muscle imbalances, such as one side of the spine being “tighter” than the other.
If I detect a region where the spine feels rigid, I’ll get more specific and check each individual vertebra in that area for reduced mobility and inflammation.
There are many ways to palpate the spine both sitting and standing, but I’m still looking for the same things.
Aside from palpation, there are various additional criteria chiropractors use to determine when and where to adjust someone. These include x-ray findings, orthopedic testing, neurological testing, etc.
How Can You Tell That You Need An Adjustment?
*An adjustment should only be delivered to fixated / stuck vertebrae and only in the proper direction. Twisting and “cracking” yourself DOES NOT accomplish this and can actually cause damage.
If you ask anyone how they know they need to be adjusted, most people would answer: PAIN!
But pain is the worst way to tell if you need an adjustment.
First, pain can be confusing because it doesn’t always show up where the problem is located.
And second, the pain signal is actually very helpful in that it both restricts and guides your movements. The purpose of this is to stop you from doing things that might cause further injury.
Pain also directs the brain toward areas of the body that need healing.
Pain is an effect, and treating the pain signal with drugs or other therapies never addresses the actual cause.
If you have a cavity and it’s causing you pain, simply taking a pain pill doesn’t fix it. Doing so might relieve the symptoms briefly, but the cavity is still there.
The fact that pain is an effect (not the cause) is why chiropractors recommend some kind of ongoing maintenance once your pain is under control and good function has returned to your spine.
Your specific needs can only be determined by your chiropractor, so allow them to guide you.