Is it normal to feel worse after seeing a chiropractor?

Updated on March 18, 2023

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In modern society, it would seem as though people are so hooked on instant gratification that there is no patience for treatments that take longer than swallowing a couple of aspirin. People are also used to finding information instantly, making banking transactions in the blink of an eye, and, in general, wanting everything to be resolved right away. 

However, there are many exceptions to this rule, one of them being the possibility of feeling worse after seeing a chiropractor. If this has happened to you, read on to understand why. You know that the discomfort will only be temporary, and you should feel fine within 24 hours. You may also want to better understand the possible effects after a chiropractic adjustment by visiting It is always important to understand what you are feeling and get to the root of the problem, if there is any.

Reasons Why You May Feel Worse After Seeing a Chiropractor

It may be hard to understand why you end up in pain after receiving a treatment that you expected to have relief from pain. To come up with a logical explanation for this counterintuitive result, it is important to understand the way your body and spine work.


When you have a chiropractic adjustment, you likely need this therapy because you are recovering from a misalignment, a car accident injury, or other reasons. The fatigue and soreness you might experience after the adjustment are explained by a phenomenon known as retracing. This is a direct response to having had the misalignment of the spine corrected.

You felt pain before the adjustment because a path was blocked or obstructed in your spine. When this happens, your nervous system has a difficult time communicating with other parts of the body or receiving communications from the brain. The adjustment is the first step in correcting this communication issue.

As the body is liberated from this blockage, it realigns in a process known as retracing. Although beneficial, it may feel painful because it is reacting to multiple stimuli at once. As nerve function is reestablished, toxins are liberated, and fluids can finally start flowing freely throughout the body. The way your body reacts to all of this by a temporary shock that presents itself as soreness until the new healed state sets in.

Muscle Discomfort

Muscles do not take easily to feeling pressure or being physically manipulated, which makes them sore after any new workout. Muscles tend to respond to pain by tensing up, and this pressure can be released during a chiropractic adjustment. However, the adjustment itself can leave them feeling tender to the touch from the extra work that has been expected from them. This can feel like soreness.

As the joints and muscles are manipulated, signals are sent to the muscles that lead to a feeling of pain or tenderness. This is simply a reflection of the force that the chiropractor applied during the adjustment, which, although gentle in many cases, can end up causing tenderness which is a sign that the adjustment is doing its job.


During a chiropractic adjustment, your muscles will be moved in ways to which they are not accustomed and produce new sensations. The hands-on approach of chiropractic treatment may generate reflex reactions in muscles. In some cases, these reflexes result in muscle tone being reset, while in others, it may provoke tenderness and soreness.

How should you deal with any post-adjustment pain or discomfort?

The vast majority of patients who receive a chiropractic adjustment will either have no side effects or will have minor effects that will disappear on their own within a day. If this has happened to you, you know there is nothing to do but give it some time, and all will be well. Also, the more adjustments you have, the more your muscles will get used to them and the less pain you will experience. This is because your muscles learn to recognize the type of manipulation and react less strongly. And as your misalignments get corrected, the body has less retracing to do.

However, there are cases when you may experience soreness that lingers or feel extreme discomfort. If this has happened to you, here are some ideas on how you can naturally manage the pain and soreness:

Apply Heat and Ice

If you alternate the use of a heating pad with an ice pack, you may feel a noticeable reduction in discomfort and pain. This is because, while the heat works by allowing improved circulation, the cold reduces inflammation. Application of these extreme temperatures should not exceed 20 minutes at a time.

Massage the Area

Applying a light massage to the sore area helps improve blood flow. Do this with a feather touch since using too much pressure will only result in creating additional discomfort and pain.

Do Gentle Exercises

Taking a nice walk, performing gentle exercises suggested by your chiropractor, or swinging the affected body part around will result in faster healing and improved blood flow.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Making sure you are properly hydrated before receiving your adjustment means you are providing cushioning for your muscles. This can also help them once the treatment is over. Remember to drink plenty of water to prevent any muscle pain.

Get Enough Rest

Although it is highly recommended that you move during the day, getting enough restful sleep at night is equally important. What the body does while you sleep is recharge, realign, and give you the elements needed to fight any lingering pain or soreness.

Talk to Your Chiropractor

If you feel too much pain, soreness, or discomfort after a chiropractic adjustment and none of the above techniques seem to provide the needed relief, talk to your chiropractor. There may be other reasons why you are experiencing these feelings, and you may need to be evaluated again. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.