What Toxins are Released After a Chiropractic Adjustment? Debunking the Myth

What toxins are released after a chiropractic adjustment?

Written by Dr. Derek Larsen DC

Last Updated on February 15, 2024

As we delve into the subject of the toxins released this week, we frequently encounter one recurring question: “What toxins are released after a chiropractic adjustment?” After engaging in comprehensive research and based on extensive professional experience, the short answer remains unchanged: none. It’s a common misconception that a chiropractic treatment or a chiropractic adjustment is a mechanism that directly induces the release of toxins from your body. However, this isn’t the case.

In reality, a chiropractic adjustment initiates a chain reaction of processes within the body that enhance the body’s inherent healing abilities. It’s worth noting that this treatment doesn’t directly induce a toxic release. Instead, when your body is functioning optimally and is in the process of healing, it can efficiently filter out harmful toxins that may have accumulated in various tissues.

Therefore, it’s essential to clarify that the role of chiropractic treatments and adjustments extends beyond the notion of releasing toxins. A chiropractic treatment aims to foster a conducive environment for the body to manage toxins independently and promote overall well-being.

The purpose of this article is to elucidate this concept further and provide comprehensive insights into why such a question often emerges from chiropractic patients. It’s also intended to dispel any misconceptions regarding toxic release symptoms post a chiropractic adjustment, to better inform and guide those considering this form of treatment in their wellness journey.

Understanding Toxins

Toxins are substances that can be ingested, injected, or absorbed into the body and, in turn, cause damage to the body’s tissues. Toxins are usually harmful in nature, and their effects can vary depending on the quantity and the individual’s body response.

Known Toxins: An Example

A prominent example of a universally recognized toxin is lead. If ingested, lead can cause significant harm and potentially necessitate emergency medical attention due to lead poisoning. Such instances underscore why it’s vital to prevent the release of harmful toxins within the body, especially during treatments like chiropractic adjustments.

Personalized Toxicity: The Shellfish Example

In some instances, what counts as a toxin can be highly individual-specific. Take shellfish as an example. For many, consuming shellfish poses no problems. However, for others, shellfish act as toxins, causing damage to bodily tissues due to a hypersensitivity they have developed. This type of toxin, while not universally toxic, can nonetheless cause significant discomfort or harm to certain individuals.

Life-Stage Specific Toxicity: The Honey and Infants Case

Toxins can also be specific to certain life stages. A common example is the recommendation against feeding honey to infants under two years old. This is due to the potential presence of botulism toxin in honey. Although not harmful to adults in the quantities found in honey (since an adult body can metabolize the toxin), it can be potentially toxic to infants who don’t yet have the same ability.

Dose-Dependent Toxicity: The Vitamin C Scenario

The toxicity of any substance is also reliant on the amount ingested or absorbed. This concept, often referred to as dose-dependent toxicity, can be summarized by the adage “too much of a good thing can be bad.” A practical example of this is vitamin C. A dosage exceeding 2000mg can potentially induce diarrhea, which is a manifestation of the body’s attempt to rid itself of excess substances it doesn’t need.

To recap, while there’s a persistent misconception that chiropractic adjustments release toxins, the procedure simply aids the body in its natural healing and detoxifying processes. Symptoms often associated with toxic release after chiropractic, such as flu-like symptoms, are usually indications of the body’s response to changes in the nervous system and musculoskeletal alignment rather than a direct result of toxin elimination.

The Body’s Natural Detoxification Process

Our bodies possess a complex and efficient system to detoxify and eliminate various harmful substances, including toxins. This mechanism involves several organs and processes, each playing a pivotal role in maintaining our overall health and well-being.

Primary Detoxification Organs: The Liver and Kidneys

Two of the major organs involved in the body’s detoxification are the liver and kidneys. Their primary function is to filter the blood, removing any substances found in excess, including potential toxins.

Liver: The Body’s Chemical Factory

The liver, often referred to as the body’s chemical factory, metabolizes and detoxifies substances that would otherwise be harmful. It breaks down toxins into safer compounds, which can then be eliminated via natural excretion processes.

Kidneys: The Body’s Natural Filters

The kidneys further assist in toxin removal by acting as natural filters. They sift through the blood, removing waste products and toxins, which are then expelled from the body through urination.

Additional Detoxification Avenues: Sweat, Urination, and Defecation

While the liver and kidneys play significant roles in the detoxification process, other bodily functions contribute to the expulsion of toxins.

Sweating: A Natural Detoxifier

Recent studies have identified sweat as another potential avenue for toxin removal. These research findings indicate that sweat can contain quantities of lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, none of which are utilized in any known bodily processes. Despite not being the most efficient method for toxin removal, sweating contributes to reducing the body’s toxic load.

Urination and Defecation: Essential Excretion Processes

Urination and defecation serve as primary methods for toxin expulsion. The body filters harmful substances, which are then excreted in the form of urine or feces. This process, in conjunction with the others, helps ensure that potentially harmful toxins are promptly and effectively removed from the body.

It’s important to note that while there’s a common perception that chiropractic adjustments make patients release toxins, this isn’t accurate. Chiropractic treatment does, however, aid the body in its natural healing and detoxifying processes. Any symptoms commonly associated with toxic release, such as flu-like symptoms, are generally indicative of the body’s response to adjustments within the nervous system and musculoskeletal alignment rather than a direct expulsion of toxins.

Decoding the Chiropractic Adjustment: Myths and Realities

Unpacking the Misconception: Toxins and Chiropractic Adjustment

When people ask, “What toxins are released during a chiropractic adjustment?” it’s essential to examine why such a question might arise. One probable explanation is the common occurrence of soreness following a chiropractic adjustment, which some individuals might attribute to toxin release. However, this isn’t the case. Let’s delve into the anatomy involved to provide some clarity.

The Anatomy of a Chiropractic Adjustment

Before we proceed, let’s familiarize ourselves with the relevant anatomy, focusing on the lower back, specifically the spinal stabilizers of the low back.

Unmasking the Spinal Stabilizers

In the image below (Image 1), we are looking at a view of the spine from the back right side of an individual’s low back. For context, if you touch your own back, the hard bony bumps that you feel are the spinous processes, labelled at the bottom of the image.

The large muscles you can feel to the right and left of your spinous processes are your erector spinae muscles. In this image, they have been removed. Now, there are several muscles left behind in the image. Each of these muscles serves two functions, primary stabilization and secondary movement.

Understanding Muscle Contraction and Joint Movement

All muscles are designed to contract or shorten. When they do so, they act with the joint as levers to pull a bone in a specific direction. On the opposite side of a joint, another muscle pulls the bone in the contrary direction.

Take, for instance, the intertransversarii muscle.

When contracted, it will make you bend to the right or left. When the opposite side contracts, it pulls the spine to bend in the opposite direction. However, as the image illustrates, this muscle is quite short, so it can’t shorten much and, therefore, doesn’t allow for much joint motion.

Focus on Stabilization Over Movement

This muscle, like many smaller muscles, does more work with stabilization than movement. They excel at staying put and preventing the joint from moving when it’s not supposed to move. Here is a link to a video) that discusses the importance of these stabilizers, specifically the multifidus, along with some of the research about them.

Understanding this anatomy helps us understand why soreness and pain might occur following a chiropractic adjustment. However, contrary to popular belief, it has little to do with the release of toxins. The symptoms observed following a chiropractic adjustment, often likened to flu-like symptoms, are likely the result of the body responding to changes in the nervous system and musculoskeletal alignment.

Experiencing Spinal Stabilizers in Action: A Simple Exercise

Let’s take a break and engage in a quick, simple exercise to help you physically understand the function of these stabilizers in your spine.

Your Personal Guide to Feeling Spinal Stabilization

1. Stand Up and Prepare: Stand comfortably with your feet hip-width apart. Let your arms hang naturally by your sides.

2. Locate Your Spine: Place one hand on your back, feeling the muscle beside your spine. This is where your spinal stabilizers reside.

3. Engage in Movement: Allow your other hand to hang loosely by your side. Gradually raise this arm – the one not touching your back.

4. Detect the Change: As you raise your arm, you should feel a subtle tightening or contraction in the muscles of your spine under your other hand. That’s your stabilizers kicking in!

Unraveling the Mystery of Spinal Stabilization

What you’re experiencing is the fundamental role of these small muscles. Your spine isn’t visibly moving, but it needs to be stabilized during any limb movement. This stabilization is the primary job of these spinal muscles.

Whether you’re performing a simple task such as lifting your arm or participating in strenuous exercise, your spinal stabilizers are working continuously, protecting your spine and aiding in your body’s overall balance and coordination.

This active engagement of spinal stabilizers also ties into the chiropractic care treatment, providing context to some post-chiropractic adjustment symptoms, like soreness or flu-like symptoms. It’s a natural response of the body to changes in the nervous system and musculoskeletal alignment, rather than the release of harmful toxins.

Exploring Spinal Misalignment and the Role of Chiropractic Adjustment

The Implications of Spinal Misalignment

As you go about your daily activities, your spinal muscles tirelessly work to maintain alignment and protect your spinal cord, which is encased within your spine’s bone structure. Any trauma affecting the spine can potentially result in the bones becoming misaligned, a condition known as subluxation.

What is a Subluxation?

Subluxation refers to a minor misalignment of one vertebra in relation to another. This subtle shift can trigger these small muscles to contract in an attempt to stabilize the region and realign the bone. Faced with a genuine subluxation, these muscles struggle to counteract the impact of the trauma. Thus, they do what they’re best at: contracting to maintain stability until alignment is reestablished in the spine. This misalignment can also affect the larger erector spinae muscles of the spine and significantly impact the nervous system. However, our focus for now is solely on the small stabilizing muscles. We’ll delve deeper into the subject of subluxation and its neurological implications in another session.

The Power of Chiropractic Adjustment

When misalignment happens, the chiropractic adjustment comes into the picture. The spine is scrutinized to identify the site of misalignment. Based on how the bone is misaligned, the chiropractor applies a precise force along the joint plane to nudge the body towards restoring mobility and alignment.

How Does Chiropractic Adjustment Affect Muscles?

Once alignment is achieved, these muscles can finally relax and move again. It’s worth noting that these muscles have likely been contracted for a prolonged period, which could lead to lactic acid build-up. This build-up can result in muscle soreness, akin to the discomfort and pain relief experienced after a strenuous gym workout involving muscles that haven’t been exercised for a while.

Revisiting the Toxin Release Myth: What Happens After a Chiropractic Adjustment?

To conclude, it’s crucial to dispel the common misconception that a chiropractic adjustment releases toxins. Simply put, that doesn’t happen. What does occur, however, is the restoration of lost motion and improved alignment. Consequently, this allows muscles that have been overworked in their attempt to stabilize the spine to relax. When relaxation occurs, those muscles may experience soreness.


Should you have any further queries about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to assist and look forward to serving as your chiropractor in Juneau.

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