what does a chiropractor do

What Does A Chiropractor Do?

Chiropractor in Amarillo and Orthopedic Fellow, Dr. Jeff Williams, explains

The question of ‘What does a chiropractor do’ is big. The reason it is a big question is that there are so many different kinds of chiropractors in the world. The chiropractic profession is not very standardized. For example, if you go to the doctor with an ear infection in any part of the country, you pretty much know what treatment you’re going to get. 

If you go to a chiropractor from town to town, you have no clue what you’re getting into. Some will see you a short amount of times, teach you to self-manage any aggravations of the pain, get your condition resolved, and move on down the line. I call these evidence-based, patient-centered chiropractors. We are very much involved in helping patients learn to move better all over, feel better, understand what hurts & why it hurts, and then help a patient understand how they can do their part to control the pain on their own. Unless they REALLY need us, of course. 

Some will take x-rays and, based on the x-rays, convince you that you need to be seen 30, 40, 50, or more times at a cost of thousands of dollars and will set up a system where you are mostly dependent on them and their clinic. They tell you they’re going to fix your allergies, and asthma, and maybe even cancer. Obviously, this is not the type of office I recommend. 

That is the first hurdle to jump; picking the right kind of chiropractor. 

That does not mean to avoid chiropractors. It simply means avoid THAT kind of chiropractor. The right evidence-based, patient-centered chiropractor can absolutely be a part of your healthcare team and can change your life in a very positive way. Just do your homework. 

Back to the question of what does a chiropractor do. Let me begin this part of the article by saying that chiropractic is a profession. It is not a treatment modality. Chiropractic does not mean popping bones. Otherwise known as spinal manipulative treatment (SMT). Chiropractic has a lot of things that fit under its tent. Things like:

  • Spinal manipulative therapy. Which is the cornerstone of most chiropractic offices, including mine. 
  • Exercise-rehabilitation. These are physical therapy-like activities to help our patients stretch, move, and recover quicker than they would without them. 
  • Instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation (IASTM). This is the use of tools to help with muscle spasms. Much like the Graston technique if you are familiar with that. 
  • Massage. We have 4 incredible massage therapists performing all kinds of techniques to help our patients. I commonly say that my job as a chiropractor is to take care of the frame and make sure it is moving properly while our massage therapists take care of everything attached to the frame. 
  • Acupuncture. We have an excellent acupuncturist here at Creek Stone. While they are trained in all sorts of Eastern Medicine techniques, Western research has shown significant effectiveness in treating headaches, migraines, chronic pain of all kinds, and stress and tension disorders. Most notably PTSD. 
  • Low-level laser. Chiropractors have been using the low-level laser, also known as cold laser, for years and years now to help their patients reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and recover from injuries and sore joints faster. 
  • Balance and Proprioceptive Training
  • Non-surgical Spinal Decompression- Decompression helps treat herniated and bulging discs better and safer than anything else I have ever seen on the market. Plain and simple. 
  • Sports preparation and recovery. There is a reason every professional sports team has a doctor of chiropractic on staff working as a team with orthopedic surgeons, trainers, and others. 

That is just naming some of the treatment options a modern chiropractor has as part of their toolbox. 

As mentioned, spinal manipulative therapy is what chiropractors are most known for. Moving bones and popping bones. I’ll be honest, chiropractors love the sound and most of our patients love it too! But, what exactly does this do to help a patient?

The thrust a chiropractor applies is called high velocity, low amplitude treatment. It is commonly shortened to HVLA. We will cover the more complicated and technical version first and then will boil it down to the easy-to-understand version. 


The complicated version:

According to Dr. Malik Slosberg in his article for Dynamic Chiropractic - July 29, 2010, ”A joint that is injured, inflamed, degenerated, restricted in motion or painful results in reflex inhibition, delayed activation and progressive atrophy of the multifidus muscle innervated by that segment. By clinical examination, the chiropractor identifies such a lesion (subluxation / joint complex dysfunction) and then applies an HVLA thrust to the joint.

This high-velocity force rapidly stretches the segmental ligaments, joint capsules, intertransversarii and interspinales muscles, and intervertebral discs, and intensely stimulates their numerous stretch receptors. This results in ligamentomuscular reflex activation of the multifidus, which attempts to stabilize the joint and protect it from possible injury as a result of the high-velocity stretch. The segmental multifidus, which has been reflexively inhibited and is atrophying, is stimulated to contract. This may reverse the reflex inhibition, progressive atrophy, and delayed muscle response documented to occur in the segmental multifidus which overlies a dysfunctional joint; and restore dynamic function and contractility to this primary joint stabilizer."

Or, if you wanted to beef it up, it activates "a cascade of neurophysiological changes" that mostly work together to decrease pain and inflammation while improving tissue recovery and area neurological mechanisms through various cytokines and other chemical mediators.

The easy version:

For your back or any joint for that matter, to function correctly and without pain, it needs 2 things.  

  1. Mobility
  2. Stability - some patients actually need strengthening rather than more movement. Many chiropractors just pop anything and everything but if a person needs stability rather than mobility, the adjustments could be doing harm rather than good. It is important to go to a chiropractor that knows when to mobilize and when to stabilize. 

Simply put it needs WD40 and duct tape. Adjustments increase mobility {WD40} and your exercises increase stability {duct tape}.

According to the best research, a spinal adjustment does the following for the recipient:

  • Firstly, it acts as a natural analgesic much like Ibuprofen.
  • It decreases venous stasis which means it increases blood flow at the segment treated. This increases healing potential but also creates more space in potentially confined spaces. Spaces where every millimeter can make a difference. 
  • It increases the descending pain inhibitory complex. This means fewer pain signals are allowed to actually make it up into the higher centers of the brain in the first place. 
  • It increases proprioceptive information. Proprioception is our sense of where our body is, what position our body parts are in without looking, and how they move. Spinal adjustments help our brains to recognize the bones and parts of our back more clearly which allows better, more functional movement from the top down. This is especially important for chronic pain sufferers. Those suffering from chronic pain have a smudged map of their joints within their brain. That means the bones don’t always move efficiently. These people commonly hear pops and cracks and maybe even grinding. Through spinal adjustments and encouraging healthy movement in the joints, they commonly have that little brain map cleared up and less aberrant movement as a result. 

That’s the long and the short of it. At the end of the day, the question of what does a chiropractor do can be answered shortly by say, “A lot!” Understanding that back pain is the number one leader of reasons for disability, then the most important thing a good, evidence-based, patient-centered chiropractor can do is to change lives. We do it just about every day. 


Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM is a Fellowship-trained Neuromusculoskeletal specialist and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast (http://www.chiropracticforward.com). Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] about Dr. Williams and his practice at https://www.amarillochiropractor.com.


Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Care at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.

Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM

Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM


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