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By Silsden Osteopathy, Oct 27 2014 04:58PM



Osteopaths and chiropractors use joint manipulations as part of their treatment for various conditions and complaints.


What is spinal manipulation?


The osteopath will use small movements of a joint to bring all the tissues surrounding the joint onto tension. This is known as “winding up” the joint. It is important to state that the combination of different vectors of movement used mean that no joint is ever taken beyond its physiological range of movement in the wind up. Once the osteopath feels the point of tension, they will use their body weight or arms to put a short, sharp thrust movement through the specific joint they want to target. As the tissues are all on tension, the thrust movement is transferred directly to the joint itself, suddenly gapping the two surfaces away from each other.


A “pop” or a “crack” known as a cavitation is sometimes achieved from these techniques. This sound is nitrogen being released from the fluid in the joint capsule, as the sudden change in pressure from the gapping of the joint causes the nitrogen to turn into gas bubbles, and these are what make the pop as they escape from the fluid.


Reflex relaxation of tissues


The physiological effects of spinal manipulation have been difficult to prove, and there are various theories as to how it actually helps. One theory is that the sudden thrust movement puts a rapid stretch on the joint capsule, which is densely innervated with nerve endings. This stretch can be like pressing the reset button to the joint, tricking the brain into giving the joint more range of movement instantly. This reflex relaxation that occurs after manipulation is also thought to affect the spinal muscles directly around the joint and also any other structure in the body that is innervated by that segment of the spine. This could refer to other muscles, internal organs, peripheral joints etc.


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