Chiropractic treatment techniques

Chiropractic treatment techniques

Many chiropractic treatment techniques are available for use by chiropractors.

Although the chiropractic profession is primarily based on the use of the spinal adjustment, many other techniques exist for treating the spine, as well as other joints and tissues. A modern chiropractor may specialize in spinal adjustments only, or may use a wide range of methods intended to address an array of neuromusculoskeletal and general health issues. Examples include soft tissue therapy, strength training, dry needling (similar to acupuncture), functional electrical stimulation, traction, and nutritional recommendations. Chiropractors may also use other complementary alternative methods as part of a holistic treatment approach.



Procedures received by more than 1/3 of patients of licensed U.S. chiropractors (2003 survey)[1]
procedure % of
% of
Diversified technique
96.2 71.5
Physical fitness/exercise
98.3 64.9
Corrective or therapeutic
98.3 63.2
Ergonomic/postural advice 97.3 61.9
Self-care strategies 96.6 60.6
Activities of daily living 96.6 57.9
Changing risky/unhealthy
96.6 54.9
97.7 51.8
Relaxation/stress reduction
96.4 50.1
Ice pack/cryotherapy 94.5 48.5
Extremity adjusting 95.4 46.8
Trigger point therapy 91.0 45.3
Disease prevention/
early screening advice
90.8 39.7

Spinal manipulation, which chiropractors call "spinal adjustment" or "chiropractic adjustment", is the most common treatment used in chiropractic care;[1] in the U.S., chiropractors perform over 90% of all manipulative treatments.[2] Spinal manipulation is a passive manual maneuver during which a three-joint complex is taken past the normal physiological range of movement without exceeding the anatomical boundary limit; its defining factor is a dynamic thrust, a sudden force that causes an audible release and attempts to increase a joint's range of motion. More generally, spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) describes techniques where the hands are used to manipulate, massage, mobilize, adjust, stimulate, apply traction to, or otherwise influence the spine and related tissues; in chiropractic care SMT most commonly takes the form of spinal manipulation.[3] The medicinal use of spinal manipulation can be traced back over 3000 years to ancient Chinese writings. Hippocrates, the "father of medicine" used manipulative techniques,[4] as did the ancient Egyptians and many other cultures. A modern re-emphasis on manipulative therapy occurred in the late 19th century in North America with the emergence of the osteopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine.[5] SMT gained mainstream recognition during the 1980s.[6] Chiropractors consider themselves to be expertly qualified providers of spinal adjustment, manipulation and other manual treatments.[7]

Manipulation under anesthesia or MUA is a specialized manipulative procedure that typically occurs in hospitals administered under general anesthesia.[8] Typically, it is performed on patients who have failed to respond to other forms of treatment.[9]

Spinal adjustment

"Spinal adjustment" and "chiropractic adjustment" are terms used by chiropractors to describe their approaches to spinal manipulation, as well as some osteopaths, who use the term "adjustment".

Claims made for the benefits of spinal adjustments range from temporary, palliative (pain relieving) effects to long term wellness and preventive care. Some claims are controversial, particularly with regard to indications and health benefits. There is debate concerning the safety of some of the procedures used in spinal adjustments, particularly those including upper cervical manipulations.

The original spinal adjustment was a variation of a procedure known today as spinal manipulation. This form of treatment has documented use as far back as Hippocrates and the ancient Egyptians and was carried through the ages by families of bonesetters. The modern form of spinal manipulation techniques have characteristic biomechanical 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.

Most frequently used techniques

Chiropractors may include any of hundreds of available techniques and methods in their practices. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners has rated the following as the most frequently used techniques, here listed with percentages of chiropractors who use them and patients who are treated with them as of 2003:[1]

Technique % of Chiropractors
using technique
% of Patients
treated with technique
1. Diversified technique 96.2 71.5
2. Extremity manipulating/adjusting 95.4 46.8
3. Activator Methods 69.9 23.9
4. Thompson 61.3 28.2
5. Gonstead 57.2 26.2
6. Cox Flexion/Distraction 56.5 23.5
7. Sacro Occipital Technique [SOT] 49.6 15.3
8. Manipulative/Adjustive Instruments 40.3 15.7
9. Cranial 38.0 10.3
10. Applied Kinesiology 37.6 12.9
11. NIMMO/Receptor Tonus 33.6 13.4
12. Logan Basic 26.0 5.2
13. Palmer upper cervical [HIO] (Hole-in-One) 25.7 6.7
14. Pierce-Stillwagon 15.4 5.1
15. Meric 15.1 4.3
16. Other 12.5 10.4

WebMD listing of techniques

Over the years, many variations of these techniques have been delivered, most as proprietary techniques developed by individual practitioners. WebMD has made a partial list:[10]

  • Activator technique
  • Advanced BioStructural Correction
  • Applied Kinesiology
  • Atlas Orthogonal
  • Auricular
  • Barge Analysis
  • Bio Magnetic
  • Bio-Energetic Synchronization
  • Bio-Geometric Integration
  • Biomechanics
  • Blair
  • Body Restoration Technique
  • Carver Technique
  • Cervical Care
  • Cervical Drop
  • Chiropractic Biophysics
  • Clinical Kinesiology
  • Concept Therapy
  • Contact Reflex Analysis
  • Cox
  • Craniosacral Therapy
  • Directional Non-Force
  • Diversified technique
  • Flexion-Distraction
  • Gonstead
  • Grostic
  • Hole in one [HIO]
  • Kale
  • Leander
  • Logan Basic
  • Manual Adjusting
  • Meric
  • Motion Palpation
  • Network
  • Neural Organization Technique
  • Neuro Emotional Technique
  • Neuro Muscular Technique
  • Neuro Vascular Technique
  • Nimmo
  • Palmer Package
  • Thompson
  • Thompson Terminal Point
  • Toftness
  • Toggle Recoil
  • Torque Release
  • Total Body Modification
  • Traction
  • Upper Cervical
  • Vector Point Therapy
  • Versendaal

Canadian Chiropractic Association outline according to purpose

Most of these techniques can be divided according to the purpose:[11]

Manual articular manipulative and adjustive procedures

  1. Specific Contact Thrust Procedures
    1. high-velocity thrust
      1. high-velocity thrust with recoil
      2. low-velocity thrust
  2. Non-Specific Contact Thrust Procedures
    1. mobilization
  3. Manual Force, Mechanically Assisted Procedures
    1. drop tables and terminal point adjustive thrust
      1. flexion-distraction and traction-type tables
  4. Mechanical Force, Manually Assisted Procedures
    1. pelvic blocks
      1. mechanical adjusting devices

Manual non-articular manipulative procedures

  1. Manual Reflex and Muscle Relaxation Procedures
    1. muscle energy techniques
      1. neurologic reflex techniques
        1. myofascial ischemic compression procedures
          1. miscellaneous soft tissue techniques

Miscellaneous procedures

  1. Neural retraining techniques

Non-manual procedures

  1. Exercise and Rehabilitation
  2. Back school/spinal care courses
  3. Electrical Modalities
  4. Laser Therapy
  5. Thermal Modalities including Ultrasound
  6. Nutritional counselling
  7. Acupuncture

Manipulation under anesthesia (MUA) is spinal manipulation performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. This procedure is used in the hospital setting for patients whose condition is unresponsive to other forms of treatment.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Christensen MG, Kollasch MW (2005). "Professional functions and treatment procedures" (PDF). Job Analysis of Chiropractic. Greeley, CO: National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. pp. 121–38. ISBN 1-884457-05-3. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  2. ^ "About chiropractic and its use in treating low-back pain" (PDF). NCCAM. 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  3. ^ Winkler K, Hegetschweiler-Goertz C, Jackson PS et al. (2003). "Spinal manipulation policy statement" (PDF). American Chiropractic Association. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  4. ^ Swedlo DC (2002). "The historical development of chiropractic". In Whitelaw WA (ed.) (PDF). Proc 11th Annual History of Medicine Days. Faculty of Medicine, The University of Calgary. pp. 55–58. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  5. ^ Keating JC Jr (2003). "Several pathways in the evolution of chiropractic manipulation". J Manipulative Physiol Ther 26 (5): 300–21. doi:10.1016/S0161-4754(02)54125-7. PMID 12819626. 
  6. ^ Francis RS (2005). "Manipulation under anesthesia: historical considerations". International MUA Academy of Physicians. Retrieved 2008-07-06. 
  7. ^ World Federation of Chiropractic (2005). "WFC consultation on the identity of the chiropractic profession". Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  8. ^ Cremata E, Collins S, Clauson W, Solinger AB, Roberts ES (2005). "Manipulation under anesthesia: a report of four cases". J Manipulative Physiol Ther 28 (7): 526–33. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2005.07.011. PMID 16182028. 
  9. ^ Michaelsen MR (2000). "Manipulation under joint anesthesia/analgesia: a proposed interdisciplinary treatment approach for recalcitrant spinal axis pain of synovial joint origin". J Manipulative Physiol Ther 23 (2): 127–9. doi:10.1016/S0161-4754(00)90082-4. PMID 10714542. 
  10. ^ Chiropractic Applications. WebMD
  11. ^ Chapter 10 - Modes Of Care And Management. Canadian Chiropractic Association

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