Chiropractic and Your Extremity Joints

Chiropractic care is not only for your spine. We also treat shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and feet daily. These areas can be stressed by daily activity such as poor posture, repetitive movements, lifestyle and previous injury.

The chiropractic adjustment is to increase the all-around health of each individual joint by helping to reduce wear and tear on the joint, normalizing motion and reduce discomfort in the affected area.

When you find yourself in our office for an issue associated with your extremities, your care provider will most likely be aiming to improve the function of the joints in your feet, ankles, hands, and wrists. This way, you should have increased range of motion in the extremities.


How prevalent is it among chiropractic patients to seek care for shoulder pain? To find out, researchers in Australia mailed 1,037 surveys to New South Wales-based chiropractors. A total of 192 surveys were returned completed. Results revealed that “the Prevalence of shoulder pain symptoms as reported by the practitioners was 12% of the total weekly patients, with the major cause of symptoms related to overuse (32%). … Rehabilitation strategies were also used by 89% of practitioners with a main emphasis placed on rotator cuff strengthening”   (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 2009; 23:107-17).

The advantage of chiropractic care for rotator cuff injury of the shoulder is its natural, multifaceted approach. Instead of invasive surgery, chiropractors use gentle, safe maneuvers called chiropractic adjustments, combined with specific exercises and physiotherapy that prove effective in alleviating shoulder pain (Chiropractic Osteopathy Journal 2005;16:20).

One report in the prestigious medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at 150 patients with shoulder problems. All patients received standard medical care. Half of the patients also underwent manipulative therapy of the shoulder joint. After 12 weeks, 43 percent of the manipulative therapy (adjustment) group had recovered, compared with only 21 percent of controls. When researchers checked back with the patients after one year, the same difference in recovery rate persisted.

“Manipulative therapy for the shoulder girdle in addition to usual medical care accelerates recovery of shoulder symptoms,” concluded the study’s authors (Ann Intern Med 2004;141:432).


Chiropractic adjustments alleviate common elbow problems, such as “tennis elbow” (lateral epicondylitis) and “golfer’s elbow” (medial epicondylitis).
For instance, a single chiropractic adjustment to the neck (cervical spine) can produce a significant reduction in pain associated with lateral epicondylitis, according to one study (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics 2008;31:678-81). As a part of the experimental, sessions where preformed on two separate days, at least 48 hours apart. At each session, participants received either a cervical spine adjustment or manual contact. Findings showed that the adjustment produced an immediate drop in pain and increase in grip strength (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics 2008; 31:678).

Other research conducted at the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia reveals that a specific type of adjustments to the elbow itself produces an immediate and dramatic drop in pain for patients with tennis elbow. As part of the study, researchers tested pain-free grip strength in24 patients before and after receiving manipulation to the elbow or a placebo process procedure. Findings showed “a significant and substantial increase in pain-free grip strength of 58 percent” during treatment but not during placebo and control (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics 2003; 6:205-12).


Adjustments to the wrist may also keep elbow conditions at bay. You see, as forearm muscles tighten, they pull on the attachments at the wrist bones (carpal bones). Realigning the wrist bones can reset the tension of those muscles. One experiment enrolled 28 patients with tennis elbow. The subjects received either manipulation of the wrist or a standard physical therapy protocol (ultrasound, friction massage, muscle stretching and strengthening exercises).
A growing body of research indicates that chiropractic care is a winning solution for wrist pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and the lesser-known conditions that mimic it. (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 2007; 30:50-61)

Findings showed that the drug-free chiropractic approach was as effective as medical treatment, without the potentially hazardous side effects of painkillers (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 1998;21:317-26).

Chiropractic care is also effective for the lesser-known disorders that are often misdiagnosed as CTS. One such condition is ulnar tunnel syndrome (UTS). One scientific case study tracked a 45-year-old woman with UTS. Her symptoms resolved following four chiropractic visits during which she received wrist adjustments (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 2003; 26:602-7).


Knee pain is associated with a restriction in joint connecting the two bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula). This joint –the tibiofibular joint – is located at the outer base of the knee.

When the knee joint is out of alignment, the kneecap (patella) may be thrown slightly off track during walking and other activities requiring the knee to bend. One study demonstrated that chiropractic adjustments not only subdue the knee pain, but they also help restore proper tracking to the kneecap (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 1990;13:539-49).

Another scientific report reviewed a case of knee pain that afflicted a patient for five years. According to the study, chiropractic adjustment of the tibiofibular joint “resulted in immediate and dramatic relief of symptoms.” (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 1992; 15:382-7).

A third study described a patient with a torn knee meniscus. Menisci are bundles of connective tissue that cushion the inner-knee joint. This tear was confirmed by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Although three separate medical physicians recommended surgery, the patient chose to try chiropractic intervention first:   consisting of adjustments to the knee and homeopathic remedies. The result? A complete resolution of pain and disability (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 1994; 17:474-84).

Pain at the front of the knee (anterior knee pain) is typically associated with sacroiliac joint dysfunction. This critical joint located in the pelvis, connects the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) with the ilium (pelvic bones). The theory is that SI dysfunction may contribute to muscle inhibition, leading to knee pain.

In one study, researchers divided a group of 20 patients into two groups: 10 who received SI adjustments and 10 who received adjustments to their tibiofemoral (knee) joint. While both groups experienced a boost in muscle strength, researchers noted a more “significant improvement within the SI manipulation group.” (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 2006; 29:145-9.)

Ankles and Feet

Did you know that there are 26 bones in each of your feet? Injuries, changes in age, footwear and pregnancy can allow the bones of the feet to shift out of alignment causing foot and heel pain, ankle or even back pain.

Scientific evidence supports the use of chiropractic for ankle and foot injuries. In one analysis of 30 patients with sprained ankles, researchers found that chiropractic ankle adjustments were superior to ultrasound therapy. Adjustments significantly reduced pain and increased ankle range of motion and function (Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 2001; 24:17-24).