Most professions have a set of terms that only those within their profession would be expected to know and understand, and the chiropractic industry is no different. We all know that the primary purpose of a chiropractor is to apply a specific amount of force and pressure to the spine in order to change the alignment, which in turn improves nervous system functioning. But do you know the most common chiropractic terms used and what they actually mean? In this post we will break down the meaning of the most common terms used in the chiropractic industry.
You have probably heard someone say they went to a chiropractor for an “adjustment”. This term seems to be pretty straight-forward since the purpose of a chiropractor is to ensure your spine is properly aligned. A chiropractic adjustment is the standard treatment referred to when discussing chiropractic care. When a chiropractor performs an adjustment, they use their hands to manually adjust and realign joint subluxations. This is done by the chiropractor carefully applying pressure and force to targeted motion segments to realign them in the center. The purpose of a chiropractic adjustment is typically to realign the vertebrae of the spine, so the nerves are able to properly transmit signals throughout our bodies, which results in an overall improvement in our physical well-being.
You may have picked up on another term you are unfamiliar with in the last section, subluxation. The term subluxation is used to describe the misaligned relationship between bones in the spine. Subluxations are the primary medical concern chiropractors treat. It is important to understand that the term subluxation tends to have a lighter meaning within the chiropractic industry than it does to other medical doctors. The term subluxation, when used by a chiropractor, refers simply to a misalignment between the vertebrae of the spine because of shifts in the joints and tissues between the spine. On the other hand, when the term subluxation is used by a medical doctor, it tends to refer to a partial dislocation of the vertebrae, which is a much more serious condition that can cause severe spinal cord injury, paralysis, or even death.
While the first term, adjustment, is included in the term “manipulation, this term is a much more general term that includes spinal changes resulting from other things such as massage therapy, physical therapy, and general exercise. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, spinal manipulations results in mild to moderate lower back pain relief and can work as well as more standard treatment methods like using pain killers. While there are several types of providers who can be licensed to use manipulations with a grade of 1 to 4, generally speaking only specialists such as chiropractors, physical therapists, and osteopathic doctors can be licensed to use grade 5 mobilizations as these apply a direct and more forceful pressure than spinal manipulations with a lower grade.