Joint mobilization is a type of passive movement of a skeletal joint in a way that you cannot move yourself. The doctor initiates small movements between the actual bone surfaces to introduce movement to restricted joints. This can help increase range of motion and to align the articulating surfaces of a joint. When applied to the spine, it is known as spinal mobilization.
Extremity adjustment is used to correct joint fixations anywhere in the body other than the spine. This includes many troublesome areas, such as the jaw (TMJ), ribs, shoulders, wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome), elbows, hips, knees, ankles and the bones in the foot. When any joint is fixed, or does not move properly, it stretches the attached ligaments triggering sensory receptors to signal the brain. The result is pain in the affected joint. The brain sends a signal back to the adjacent muscles, reducing their strength in order to protect them. After manipulation of the extremity by a properly trained chiropractor, the stretched ligament goes back to its normal length, and the brain allows full strength to return to the adjacent muscles. Pain also decreases immediately. Sometimes lax or overstretched ligaments and tendons make a joint unstable and let it move too much. In this case, adjusting the joint alone is not enough to correct the problem. Strengthening exercises and perhaps taping must be used to permit the ligament to tighten and restore stability to the joint.