What is a Chiropractic Adjustment?

Chiropractic adjustments are the main treatment used by chiropractors to ease back, neck and other pain.

About Chiropractic Adjustments and Spinal Adjustments

Chiropractic adjustment is the chiropractic term for a procedure otherwise known as spinal manipulation. When used by straight chiropractors, it is specifically intended to correct vertebral subluxations.

Spinal manipulation has documented use as far back as Hippocrates and the ancient Egyptians. The techniques were often handed down from generation to generation by families of bonesetters. The modern form of spinal manipulation techniques have characteristic bio mechanical features, and are usually associated with an audible "popping" sound. There is strong evidence that this sound is the result of a phenomenon known as cavitation. Many adjustment techniques and methods have been developed through the years by chiropractors, not all of which involve high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) thrust manipulation.

Adjustment Methods

As the chiropractic profession engaged in the pursuit of improving health through adjustments to the nervous system, individual practitioners and institutions proposed and developed various proprietary techniques and methods. While many of these techniques did not endure, hundreds of different approaches remain in chiropractic practice today. Most cite case studies, anecdotal evidence, and patient testimonials as evidence for effectiveness. These techniques include:

  • Toggle Drop - this is when the chiropractor, using crossed hands, presses down firmly on a particular area of the spine. Then, with a quick and precise thrust, the chiropractor adjusts the spine. This is done to improve mobility in the vertebral joints.
  • Lumbar Roll (aka side posture) - the chiropractor positions the patient on his or her side, then applies a quick and precise manipulative thrust to the misaligned vertebra, returning it to its proper position.
  • Release Work - the chiropractor applies gentle pressure using his or her fingertips to separate the vertebrae.
  • Table adjustments - The patient lies on a special table with sections that drop down. The chiropractor applies a quick thrust at the same time the section drops. The dropping of the table allows for a lighter adjustment without the twisting positions that can accompany other techniques.
  • Instrument adjustments - often the gentlest methods of adjusting the spine. The patient lies on the table face down while the chiropractor uses a spring-loaded activator instrument to perform the adjustment. This technique is often used to perform adjustments on animals as well.
  • Manipulation under anesthesia (MUA) - this is performed by a chiropractor certified in this technique in a hospital outpatient setting when the patient is unresponsive to traditional adjustments.

    Adjustment Techniques

    There are many techniques which chiropractors can specialize in and employ in spinal adjustments. Some of the most notable techniques include:
  • Activator Methods - uses the Activator Adjusting Instrument instead of by-hand adjustments to give consistent mechanical low-force, high-speed clicks to the body. Utilizes a leg-length analysis to determine segmental aberration.
  • Active Release Therapy (Active Release Technique) - soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.
  • Blair Upper Cervical Technique - an objective upper cervical technique focusing primarily on misalignments in the first bone of the spine (Atlas) as it comes into contact with the head (Occiput).
  • Cox Flexion-Distraction - a gentle, non-force adjusting procedure which mixes chiropractic principles with osteopathic principles and utilizes specialized adjusting tables with movable parts.
  • Hole-in-one technique - developed by B.J. Palmer. He, at some point, claimed that the "pure, unadulterated & straight" chiropractors should only treat the upper two cervical vertebrae (C1-C2) , which is the cause of most, if not all, disorders by being misaligned.
  • Directional Non-Force Technique - utilizes a diagnostic system for subluxation analysis consisting of gentle challenging and a unique leg check allowing the body to indicate the directions of misalignment of structures that are producing nerve interference. A gentle but directionally specific thumb impulse provides a long lasting correction to bony and soft tissue structures.
  • Diversified - the classic chiropractic technique, developed by D.D. Palmer, DC. Uses specific manual thrusts focused on restoring normal bio mechanical function. Has been developed to adjust extremity joints as well.
  • Gonstead Technique - Developed by an engineer enthusiast turned chiropractor, this technique uses a very specific method of analysis by the use of nervoscopes, full spine x-rays and precise adjusting techniques that condemns "torquing" of the spine, which may harm the Inter vertebral disc.
  • Kale Technique (Specific Chiropractic) - gentle technique which utilizes a special adjusting table that helps adjust and stabilize the upper cervical region surrounding the brain stem.
  • Logan Basic Technique - a light touch technique that works to "level the foundation" or sacrum. Its concept employs the use of heel lifts and specific contacts.
  • NUCCA Technique - manual method of adjusting the atlas subluxation complex based on 3D x-ray studies which determine the correct line of drive or vector of force.
  • Thompson Terminal Point Technique (Thompson Drop-Table Technique) - uses a precision adjusting table with a weighing mechanism which adds only enough tension to hold the patient in the "up" position before the thrust is given.
  • Toggle Recoil Technique - a quick thrust and release to the upper cervical vertebra, the recoil is to allow the vertebra to oscillate into its proper position.

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