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Should You Exercise After a Chiropractic Adjustment?

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Normally, it’s fine to head to the gym after you get a chiropractic adjustment. However, you still have to give some thought to a few facts. Adjustments are meant to produce improved movement in your body. During your chiropractic appointment, your chiropractor will usually show you some sort of exercise and watch as you do it. These exercises are created to help fix whatever is wrong. Chiropractors work to do more than relieve your current pain. They want to focus on everything you do in your life, which includes exercises.

Decrease Back Pain with Exercise After Chiropractic Adjustments

PubMed uses indexed medical research articles to understand the effectiveness of chiropractic treatments. Studies show patients who exercise after chiropractic adjustments heal faster than those who don’t or those who only get a chiropractic adjustment. Exercise and adjustments are good for relieving back, neck, or leg pain originating in your back.

I continuously inform my patients that there is a precise formula to follow to get rid of neck or back pain. First, you must get restored and suitable movement back into your neck and back. Then, you must stimulate the muscles in that area of the body and condition them to work properly. This proves a mixture of stability and strength, both of which are vital if you want to fully recover.

If a chiropractor prescribes rehab exercises, it’s best if the patient follows the recommendations.

lady on chiropractic table performing exercise with chiropractor's help

Spinal Malformations Fixed With Exercises After Chiropractic Adjustments

If you play golf, likely you are aware that the constant movement you perform when swinging your club can cause back pain.  A golfer ends up with damage to their muscles from overusing them and continuous playing. There is a type of elbow problem called golfer’s elbow. But the area of the body that gets injured most for golfers is their back.

The Journal of Physical Therapy Science has published many case studies about golf injuries. The researchers utilized 3-D technology to examine the backs of golfers. Then, the golfers visited the chiropractor’s office two times a week for a month. As they received back adjustments, they also practiced an hour of rehab exercises. They performed mobilization methods, exercised their core, and did proprioceptive exercises.

These golfers showed improvement using this method of care. The case studies recorded an improvement in pelvic tilt, going from eight millimeters to two millimeters or five and a half degrees to 0.2 degrees. Their lumbar lordotic angle improved from 16 to  36 degrees. They also noted incremental trunk length during this treatment option. Plus, their lumbar strength improved peak torque extension, going from 2.13 Nm/kg in the pretest to 2.91 Nm/kg when the study ended.

The research revealed that the low back pain the golfers had involved both muscular as well as joint and bone challenges. As you can see, exercising and a chiropractic adjustment covers the challenges most folks face with low back pain. Therefore, the answer to is it ok to exercise right after a chiropractic adjustment, is “yes.”

What If the exercises hurt?

If you are in pain while exercising, you should not continue the exercise. Any exercise should not cause pain greater than a two on a scale of 10. The scale works by zero meaning you don’t have any pain, five means moderate pain you can’t ignore, and 10 is the worst pain you ever had your whole life.
For instance, if you are doing an overhead press exercise, and your shoulders start to pinch as you do the motion, then it’s time to rest. A 2 on the pain scale might mean regular muscle burn from the exercise. If the pain is worse than a mere pinch, you might be making it worse if you keep going.

The identical rule can be applied to pain in the back. A lot of people have injured their lower back and if so, consider these pain levels:

  • One in a scale of 10 is a mild way of your body reminding you that you have an injured back. It’s probably still ok to do the exercise.
  • Two on a scale of 10 means your back is nearly healed. You may still have some problems (since healing can take a whole year). For instance, if you experience sudden spine pain during moderate weighted dead-lifts, it’s time to talk to the chiropractor.
  • Three on a scale of 10 means you likely should stop exercising. It may also mean you should use lighter weights. You can also speak with your chiropractor to get an alternate exercise less likely to cause you injury.

What Happens During a Chiropractic Adjustment

I was always told during my career that the popping noise you hear in your back is called cavitation. However, I found out later that it wasn’t really a good word for what is going on. Cavitation occurs when propellers on a boat are cutting quickly through water. When the propeller blades turn, bubbles form on the prop blade and collapse quickly. This actually damages the prop’s surface. However, this is not what occurs when someone cracks their knuckles or their spine.

The popping noise during an adjustment is actually tribonucleation.  When the chiropractor does a spinal adjustment, he concentrates on the part that’s not moving as intended. During the adjustment, he is adjusting the joint, distracting the joint’s surface. This causes the release of surface tension that goes into your synovial fluid. That causes a popping sort of sound.

It is kind of like having some water between two panels of glass. You could glide over both glass surfaces smoothly using the water for a lubricant. But, if you took the panels of glass apart, it would be hard unless you released the existing surface tension. If you did that you may hear a popping noise.

How Much Time Must I Wait To Do Exercises?

Researchers who study tribonucleation in the knuckles have found that a knuckle joint should not be popped again for at least 20 minutes. For what it’s worth, they also discovered that popping the knuckles doesn’t cause arthritis.

So, if you want to exercise after chiropractic adjustment, you should wait around a half hour to exercise strenuously. Plus, it’s a good idea to do some sort of warmup first. When the half hour has passed, your joints are going to be more stable. This gives your muscles the time they need to catch up.

A chiropractic adjustment helps tight muscles relax through quickly stretching the muscles. The adjustment hits a reset button on your tight muscles. Once the muscles have relaxed, your muscles send a signal to your spinal cord and the brain. Therefore, they get re-adapted to the proper position of the joint. You should ensure you give your body the proper amount of time to reset before exercising.

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