If you have visited different chiropractors you probably noticed there were some differences. It takes many years to learn how to apply these techniques well, which is why adjusting the spine is often considered an artform. A chiropractor’s main focus is to improve spinal function with the goal of improving overall function of the body.
Improving spinal function can be done in many different ways
Regardless of what technique your chiropractor uses, most will still check and adjust your spine where they find areas that are not moving properly, what they call a subluxated area of your spine.
Your Health Choice
No one way is necessarily better than any other but you may prefer one or more of these various techniques, so find a chiropractor that feels just right for you and your needs.
If you have visited several different chiropractors you probably noticed there were some differences. This is because chiropractors can study and learn many different techniques. In this video we will share with you some of these different techniques that are available. It takes many years to learn how to apply these techniques well, which is why adjusting the spine is often considered an artform.
Remember a chiropractor’s main focus is to improve spinal function with the goal of improving overall function of the body.1 2 Improving spinal function can be done in many different ways. Regardless of what technique your chiropractor has specialised in, most will still check and adjust your spine where they find areas that are not moving properly, what they call a subluxated area of your spine.3
Where they choose to adjust you is not random or simply because you are in pain. They will be checking for how the segments move and feel. They might poke on a segment to see if it feels tender to you. They might also take into account your posture and how you move. The subluxated segment often doesn’t move appropriately like the other segments do and they are often tender to touch.4 You may not even have noticed they were sore until your chiropractor poked on that part of your spine.
Some chiropractors have specialised in other techniques also to determine how best to improve the function of your spine and body.3 So you may have some x-rays taken or various other scans. They may also test the strength of some of your muscles.1
Some chiropractors focus on the top of your neck only.3 Others will check how well your joints are functioning in your entire body including your jaw, elbows, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and skull bones. Any one technique is not right or wrong, they are just different. So are chiropractors. So try to find a chiropractor that feels just right for you and your needs. As healthcare professionals we want what is best for you and your health and if that means you go see another chiropractor, that is perfectly fine with us.
When it comes to adjusting you chiropractors again have many different options to choose from. They can adjust you with their hands and are usually trained in several different techniques so that they can do so effectively and safely.1 5 6 This is a skill that takes many years to master which is why chiropractors study for five years or more at University level before they can be registered as a primary health care professional. Not only do they learn about anatomy, physiology and pathology but they spend many years developing their skills to be able to gently adjust spinal segments, to best serve you.
Other ways they can adjust you is with an instrument.3 There are several different types of instruments available such as the Activator or the Impulse. Some use these instruments and adjust you according to a set protocol that has been developed over many years. Others use these instruments as an alternative to adjusting you by hand. We know from research studies that the instrument assisted adjustment is faster and even more gentle than adjusting by hand and that they activate the same neural tissues as manual adjustments, or hand adjustments. But we also know that manual adjustments, or adjustments done by hand, can be more effective at producing results for some people.
However, we don’t yet know enough about what is best for you at any particular time. One study showed that if you are in acute pain that you get faster pain relief from adjustments done by hand as compared with adjustments done while following the Activator protocol.7 So if you are in acute pain and want to get out of pain as fast as possible you might want to get adjustments done by hand first.
Another way that chiropractors can adjust is by using a special table where parts of the table can drop away slightly but suddenly.3 These special drop-piece tables take advantage of that sudden drop where one part of your spine is firmly lying on the table while the vertebrae above it is not supported on the table. This again can very gently help restore proper function to spinal segments. Again there are some who have developed a whole adjusting protocol around the use of such special tables, while others use them simply as a means to get the right adjustment done for the person they are working with.
There are still many, many more ways a chiropractor can adjust you. They can use special foam blocks to put under your pelvis.2 By using your body weight this can ease or stretch your pelvic ligaments. There are also many techniques that focus on correcting poor posture or help improve non-spinal joints such as wrist and ankles or jaws and cranial bones. Your body is one big complex interconnected system.
Some chiropractors will give you exercises and stretches to do at home. Some have specialised in nutrition or homeopathy and so much more. No one way is necessarily better than any other but you may prefer one or more of these various techniques. We want you to get the most out of your chiropractic care by becoming aware of what’s available.
- Rosner AL. Chiropractic Identity: A Neurological, Professional, and Political Assessment. J Chiropr Humanit 2016;23(1):35-45.
- Haavik Taylor H, Holt K, Murphy B. Exploring the neuromodulatory effects of the vertebral subluxation and chiropractic care. Chiropr J Aust 2010;40(1):37-44.
- Cooperstein R, Gleberzon B. Technique systems in chiropractic. New York: Churchill-Livingstone, 2004.
- Triano JJ, Budgell B, Bagnulo A, et al. Review of methods used by chiropractors to determine the site for applying manipulation. Chiropr Man Therap 2013;21(1):36.
- Alcantara J, Ohm J, Kunz D. The safety and effectiveness of pediatric chiropractic: a survey of chiropractors and parents in a practice-based research network. Explore (NY) 2009;5(5):290-5.
- Gouveia LO, Castanho P, Ferreira JJ. Safety of chiropractic interventions: a systematic review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2009;34(11):E405-13.
- Schneider M, Haas M, Stevans J, et al. A comparison of chiropractic manipulation methods and usual medical care for low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. In: Johnson C, ed. Association of Chiropractic Colleges Research Agenda Conference. Orlando, Florida, USA, 2014:55-82.