Are chiropractic adjustments painful?

woman receiving chiropractic shoulder adjustmentChiropractic adjustments are manual procedures that involve a controlled and sudden force applied to a joint to restore its mobility, alleviate pain, and improve its function. While this therapy has been found to be effective in treating a range of musculoskeletal conditions, many people wonder whether chiropractic adjustments are painful.

In this article, we will explore the possibility of pain associated with chiropractic adjustments, why it may happen, and how it can be avoided, minimized or managed.

Do chiropractic adjustments hurt?

Some people may experience mild discomfort during an adjustment, while others may not feel any pain at all. The possibility and level of pain experienced during a chiropractic adjustment can vary depending on several factors, including the individual’s pain threshold, the condition being treated, and the technique used by the chiropractor.

Some patients report feeling a mild to moderate discomfort or pressure during the adjustment, which typically lasts only a few seconds. In some cases, patients may feel soreness or stiffness in the treated area for a few hours after the adjustment, but this usually subsides within a day or two.

What might cause pain during a chiropractic adjustment?

Pain during a chiropractic adjustment can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Gases being released from joints during an adjustment: These gases can cause a popping or cracking sound, which can be unsettling for some patients.
  • Muscle tension: The muscles surrounding the joint being treated may be tense, which can increase the resistance to the adjustment and cause discomfort.
  • Joint inflammation: Inflammation in the joint can make it more sensitive and painful during the adjustment.
  • Misaligned joints: Misaligned joints can cause pressure and pain, and correcting the alignment may cause some discomfort during the adjustment.
  • Pre-existing injuries or conditions: Patients with pre-existing injuries or conditions such as herniated discs, osteoporosis, or arthritis may experience more pain during the adjustment.

How can pain be avoided, minimized or managed during a chiropractic adjustment?

Fortunately, there are several ways to manage pain during a chiropractic adjustment, including:

  • Communicating with the chiropractor: Patients should mention any discomfort or pain they feel during the adjustment. By explaining each step of the process and answering any questions the patient may have, chiropractors can help to reduce anxiety and discomfort during the adjustment. Additionally, the chiropractor may be able to adjust their technique or use a different approach to minimize discomfort. One common technique is to use a gentle, low-force approach that is less likely to cause pain or discomfort.
  • Specialized equipment: Chiropractors may utilize tools such as a drop table, which allows them to apply a gentle, precise force to the affected area. This can help to reduce discomfort and improve the effectiveness of the adjustment.
  • Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization can help patients relax their muscles and reduce tension, making the adjustment less painful.
  • Ice or heat therapy: Applying ice or heat to the treated area before or after the adjustment can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to manage pain after the adjustment, but patients should consult with their chiropractor or primary care physician before taking any medication.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water before and after the adjustment can help reduce muscle tension and soreness.


In conclusion, chiropractic adjustments may cause mild discomfort or pain, but most patients report feeling better after their adjustments. Chiropractors are trained to use a variety of techniques to minimize discomfort during adjustments, so it is important for patients to communicate with their chiropractor throughout the adjustment process.


Chiropractic Adjustment. American Chiropractic Association, 2021.

“Chiropractic: In-Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2021,

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