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Chiropractic Medicine

Updated on August 14, 2012
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Chiropractic medicine focuses on the health of the spine and its surrounding tissues by facilitating nerve conduction and circulation. This is accomplished by a corrective procedure called an adjustment, which is administered by a chiropractor. The purpose of an adjustment is to help the spine and other joints achieve maximum nerve conduction and circulation, proper alignment, range of motion, and optimal function. Chiropractic medicine uses no drugs and may or may not incorporate different therapies such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation.

Picture of an activator
Picture of an activator | Source

Different Adjustment Techniques

There are many different ways an adjustment can be performed, and each chiropractor possesses their own unique style. One common method is the osseous adjustment. This type of adjustment is the one most people associate with chiropractic care because it produces the "cracking" sound, or cavitation. A cavitation the sound produced when trapped gas leaves a joint. Osseous adjustments take a joint to end-range and deliver a high-velocity/low-amplitude thrust. Though osseous adjustments may sound rough, these can be very gentle and relief is often felt immediately.

Another popular method of delivering an adjustment is using an activator. An activator is a spring-loaded instrument which delivers an impulse to a vertebra or joint, stimulating nerve conduction. Though osseous adjustments are perfectly safe, the use of an activator involves no stress on the joints, discs, blood vessels, or bones. Activators are often used with patients who have osteoporosis, extremely high blood pressure, or are recovering from a stroke or surgery. You may prefer an activator simply because it is more comfortable or you don't like the sound that the cavitation produces. Many chiropractors have great results and administer adjustments with an activator.

A drop table is another tool which chiropractors can use for adjusting. Drop tables are specialized chiropractic tables which allow for adjustments to be lighter and more specific. The table has sections that elevate with a lever. The chiropractor will position you on the table, and set the tension to support your body weight and administer a light thrust to the joint. The speed of the table absorbs the impact of the force. Adjusting with drop tables work well for people with recent surgeries and disc problems. If you are extremely flexible, you may find having your low back and sacrum adjusted with a drop table more comfortable than an osseous adjustment.

There are other methods of adjusting patients as well, however in my practice, these are the three which I primarily use.

Muscle Work is an Important Part of Treatment

Strictly speaking, an adjustment is not when a chiropractor works on your muscle tissue. However, because muscles are attached to bones (i.e. vertebra), healing the surrounding muscular tissue is an important part of treatment.

When the muscles are loosened and the "knots" are worked out, adjustments are more effective, gentle, and specific. Sometimes the work performed on the muscle tissue can be more intense than the actual adjustment. However, muscles recover faster than joints and the less stress the joints have to bare, the more comfortable the adjustment.

Sometimes muscles are contracted for so long, it is difficult for them to remain in a relaxed state. They must then be re-educated so they learn not to "tighten up." This neuromuscular education allows the adjustments to hold for longer periods of time and achieves faster results.

Conditions Treated by Chiropractic Medicine

Chiropractic medicine is highly effective for relieving back and neck pain, but also treats a variety of ailments. It can work with traumas due to sports-related injuries and motor vehicle accidents (whiplash). Chiropractic medicine relieves headaches due to both tension and migraines and can also relieve symptoms of vertigo. It is a very effective means of treating osteoarthritis. Chiropractic medicine releases entrapped nerves such as in sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also be used to manage disc herniations, stenosis, and neuropathy.

Receiving chiropractic adjustments may also benefit internal conditions as well. Because it effects the nerves and blood vessels in all parts of the body, it can strengthen the immune system and improve digestion and respiration. Symptoms of asthma and allergies are reduced. Because adjustments can break up mucus, chiropractic medicine can be used to relieve cough and congestion.

Chiropractic medicine can also help treat gynecological complaints. By realigning the vertebrae and working with muscle tissue, pain and discomfort associated with menstruation can be alleviated. Pregnant women also find relief from the physicological changes which affect posture, spinal alignment, and fluid distribution (i.e. swollen ankles). The Webster Technique is a specific form of adjusting which assists in turning a baby in utero from a breech position into a healthy one.

How many times do I have to get treated?

Treatment duration varies upon your individual needs. Some people need to be treated about every four to six weeks, while others may require once a week. New patients and acute injuries may receive treatments grouped close together for the first week and adequate progress has been made. Chronic conditions, such as neuropathy, may require treatment for a month before relief is felt. It depends on you and your condition.


It has been said that chiropractic medicine is both an art and a science. Though styles and procedures may vary from doctor to doctor, the positive impact that it can have on the body is amazing. Email me if you have any questions and I will be happy to answer them.

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    • profile image

      Joesplace52 4 years ago

      As always, your articles are very informative and answer in layman's terms.

    • elanger333 profile image
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      elanger333 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Thank you so much!

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