After a chiropractic adjustment, you may feel great relief or even exhilaration. However, you may also experience soreness and muscle aches.
Is it normal to feel sore after the chiropractor? Some soreness after an adjustment is perfectly normal. However, if you are sore for days after a chiropractic adjustment, it may be a sign that something is wrong.
How do you know the difference between normal pain and pain that warrants a call to your chiropractor? Here is a summary of why some soreness may occur after a chiropractic adjustment, how long it typically lasts, and when to call the chiropractor for help.
4 Reasons You May Be Sore After a Chiropractic Adjustment
Chiropractic adjustments involve manually manipulating joints and the spine, which can sometimes cause soreness afterward. There are a few reasons for this:
1. Stretched Muscles and Ligaments
The controlled movements stretch tissues surrounding joints and may cause temporary soreness. Like starting a new exercise routine, you may feel mild discomfort as your body adjusts to the new motions. This is normal and should subside within a day or two. Staying active and using heat or ice packs can help relieve any soreness.
2. Joint and Tissue Inflammation
Manipulation stimulates local blood flow and immune response, which can inflame tissues as part of the healing process. It’s common to experience some swelling around the treated joint or mild body aches afterward. Using cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and ease any discomfort. Stay hydrated and continue your normal activities to allow proper healing.
3. Use of Force
A controlled, targeted force is applied during adjustments to move the joints. This can irritate surrounding nerves and muscles. You may feel some tenderness or soreness from the force. Inform your chiropractor if the discomfort persists for more than a day or two. They can modify the adjustment technique to make it more comfortable.
4. Preexisting Injury or Condition
Those with joint injuries, arthritis, and muscle tightness are more prone to soreness when treated. If you have a pre-existing condition, inflammation and discomfort may last slightly longer after adjustments. Inform your chiropractor about any injuries or chronic issues so they can tailor the treatment to your specific needs. Applying ice packs as needed can help reduce soreness.
Post-adjustment soreness is usually mild, localized, and subsides within 24-48 hours. If pain lasts longer than two to three days, worsens significantly, or spreads, contact your chiropractor. Severe or radiating pain could indicate injury.
Why Pain After a Chiropractic Adjustment Is Normal
There are a few reasons why some soreness after a chiropractic adjustment is normal:
- The controlled movements and techniques used during the adjustment stretch muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding joints and the spine. This stretching can cause mild neck pain and soreness, similar to starting a new exercise routine as the tissues adapt.
- Adjustments stimulate increased blood flow to the area being treated. This localized inflammation is part of the healing response and recovery process, but it can temporarily cause some aches and soreness.
- Targeted and controlled force is applied during adjustments to move the joints into proper alignment. This manual manipulation can irritate nerves and muscle tissues.
- Patients with pre-existing joint injuries, arthritis, muscle tightness, or other conditions may be more prone to post-adjustment soreness since their tissues are already inflamed or damaged.
- As joints regain mobility and range of motion, surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments must adjust to the new positioning. This can initially cause soreness.
Communicating with your chiropractor can help minimize discomfort. With repeated adjustments, patients often report less soreness over time.
Common Causes of Post-Adjustment Soreness
Tight muscles and joints restrict normal range of motion. This can lead to pain, limited mobility, and reduced function over time. Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy aim to loosen these tight tissues.
When manually stretched or manipulated, tight tissues can cause mild muscle soreness afterward. Here’s why:
- Unaccustomed stretching: Tight muscles are forced to lengthen and move beyond what they are used to. This unaccustomed stretching triggers soreness.
- Microtears: Tiny tears in muscle fibers and connective tissue can occur from sudden stretching. Inflammation follows as the microtears heal.
- Lactic acid: Stretching muscles vigorously causes a temporary build-up of lactic acid, which irritates nerve endings.
- Increased circulation: More blood flows to the area that is being stretched. Swelling from the increased circulation can contribute to soreness.
- Spinal joint mobilization: Moving tight joints and vertebrae through their full range of motion can cause muscle strains and pain in surrounding ligaments, causing ache.
This soreness is usually localized, mild, and temporary. It dissipates within a day or two as the tissues heal and become stronger and more flexible. Staying hydrated, resting the treated areas, and using ice packs help minimize any discomfort.
Managing and Minimizing Soreness After Chiropractic Adjustments
To manage and minimize your soreness after a chiropractic adjustment, be patient with your body’s adjustment process. Apply ice packs, rest the sore area, and be sure to stay hydrated. You may want to try gentle stretches, over-the-counter pain relievers, and muscle massage.
In addition to taking these measures before an adjustment, maintain good posture to reduce strain on your muscles as they adjust to their new alignment. Proper posture reduces strain on muscles adjusting to new alignment. You should also wait 48 hours after an adjustment before exercising, as strenuous activity too soon can re-injure your healing muscles.
When to Contact Your Chiropractor About Excessive or Worrisome Pain
Not all pain is normal after a chiropractic adjustment. If you experience pain that rates above a three or four on a 10-point scale, soreness that persists for longer than 48 hours, or burning pain after a chiropractic adjustment, it may be time to contact your chiropractor.
Tingling, numbness, weakness, muscle spasms, cramps, and stiffness that limits your range of motion can all be signs that something is off. If your neck is sore after a chiropractic adjustment or you experience joint swelling, headaches, bruising, disorientation, or radiating pain, let your chiropractor know.
It’s normal to have some mild soreness that resolves within a day or two. However, excessive, progressive, or worrisome pain warrants a call to your chiropractor to evaluate if complications have arisen. Don’t hesitate to speak up if you think something may be wrong. The team at Naples Community Injury Center is here to help.