Does exercise do the same thing as a chiropractic adjustment?

We sometimes have people ask us why they need to get adjusted when they exercise or when they do yoga or Pilates regularly? If I did enough of these, would I still need to be adjusted?

Essentially, what it comes down to, is this…if I asked you to move your misaligned and stuck 4th vertebra in your neck 2 mm to the left, could you? The answer is no, for many reasons.

The biggest reason is that you have no voluntary control over these segmental and deep spinal muscles. Your brain absolutely is connected to them through nerves, and controls them, but you have no voluntary or conscious control of them.

This is unlike say your elbow, a joint as well, where if you contract your biceps, or triceps, you can voluntarily move it. The elbow joint is a much simpler joint than your spinal joints, it only has one plane of motion, and is way less complex because you don’t have a spinal cord passing through it.  

So in your body, there are some muscles and joints you can voluntarily move.  

Closeup medical doctor woman pointing on spine model and explaining female patient her problem. Healthcare concept.

Your spine isn’t one of them. You can control the larger muscles around your spine, but you can’t voluntarily control any of the smaller spinal muscles controlling the specific movement of any of the 24 vertebra in your spine.

Then what about exercise? Doesn’t exercise move the vertebra in your spine?  

Absolutely. You can do neck stretches, or neck retraction exercises, or low back or mid back exercise or stretches, and these will absolutely move the vertebra and joints of your spine in these areas, but not specifically.

When you stretch your neck to the side, you move all the vertebrae.

Moscow, Russia – May 2014. Yoga stretching neck. Public yoga classes. Exercise Stretching the neck. Girl with eyes closed stretches neck with his right hand.

When you bring your knees into your chest, you move all the vertebrae in your low back.  

This can be a good thing. But it is not specific.  

If you have one or two or five vertebrae that are shifted or stuck, these stretches or exercises will bring motion into the area, but not specifically to that stuck joint or misaligned vertebra.

A stretch or exercise will not move these individual vertebrae or joints. They are stuck, and in some cases have scar tissue and fibrosis built up in them from years of damage, or arthritic degeneration.

Stretches and exercises can be good, but not in all cases. If there is damage, in some cases this can aggravate it.  

This is why the adjustment is different.  

This is why we do an assessment, and X-rays, to measure and know the exact vertebra and joints that need adjusting.  And this is why we don’t do a generalized mobilization, like a stretch, but adjust the specific vertebra or joint that needs it.

The chiropractic adjustment brings the joint into something called the paraphysiological space, which is a space and movement beyond your regular active or passive range of motion. That is sometimes accompanied by that “popping” sound, but not in all cases.  

This movement into the space breaks up scar tissue and fibrosis unlike anything else, and starts to restore the proper movement into the joint and vertebra again, and normal nerve function.

This type of movement from the adjustment is different from any other active or passive movement…no exercise or stretch can duplicate the effect on the joint, on the nerve, and on your brain function.  

This is why exercise or stretching or yoga or Pilates are not the same as a chiropractic adjustment.

Now, let us clarify, we love exercises and stretches and yoga and Pilates and many other things. They are good, and we personally have done and do many of them.  They are good, healthy practices.  

But they are not the same as a chiropractic adjustment, both on the motion and function of your spine, the prevention and reversal of arthritis, and your neurological and brain function.  

The adjustment is unique in what it can do for each of these, which is why chiropractic has been around as long as it has, and why millions of people get adjusted every single day, from babies to 90 year olds, from the inactive to pretty much every major professional athlete in the world.

Dr. Byron Mackay

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