There are many types of chiropractic therapies available. Each individual patient is able to choose a chiropractor based on their philosophy, such as “straight” or “mixed”. With each type of chiropractor, there are techniques that might be employed to maximize the adjustments and benefits for their clients. Straight chiropractors are less common, but they tend to feel that “adjustments to the spine can solve nearly all of the ailments”, according to Dr. Paul Curcio.1 Originally, Daniel Palmer and Dr. Andrew Still both, separately developed the theory that diseases are caused by displaced bones, muscles, and misalignments in the spine. The latter are known as subluxations. The idea is that the body’s own ability to heal injuries and diseases is impeded by blocks in the nervous system from spinal misalignment.2 On the other hand, mixed chiropractors “opt for an overall broad-spectrum approach to wellness”. They are the more common form of chiropractor, and they will employ multiple techniques including physical therapy, massage, nutrition, exercise, and other methodology in treating clients. Mixed chiropractors also often work with the patient’s medical doctor to find the best way to maximize that patient’s overall health. Prescription medications and surgery should not be the first option offered, and the goal of chiropractors is to find an alternative solution that is not as severe and irreversible as traditional treatment options.3
The most common chiropractic technique is spinal manipulation, also called “spinal adjustment” and “chiropractic adjustment”. In general, this means that “hands are used to manipulate, massage, mobilize, adjust, stimulate, apply traction to, or otherwise influence the spine and related tissues.” It involves a force, or sudden (audible) thrust, in order to increase the range of motion of a joint. In fact, adjustments have been done for at least 3000 years in China, during the time of Hippocrates (Father of Medicine), and in other ancient cultures. Spinal manipulations (SMT) have become a “mainstream” treatment since the 1980s.4
Diversified Technique (DT), is the most common, “generic” adjustment method used by chiropractors. It is a “high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust”.5 A chiropractor will find which vertebrae is out of place, by palpating, and then perform a quick and precise adjustment to realign the bone.6 This causes a “cavitation of a joint”, or the “popping noise” most associated with chiropractic manipulations.7 Diversified methods may also be used to adjust joints in the extremities, making it extremely useful for treating injuries caused by activities such as sports. This type of adjustment does not utilize any instruments because the chiropractor performs their own, controlled thrusts to fix small misalignments. Function and structure will be restored to the adjusted joints.8
Arlan Fuhr developed an “alternative to manual manipulation of the spine or extremity joints” called the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique (AMCT). In this method, a softer version of an adjustment, the chiropractor uses a mechanical force manual assisted (MFMA) instrument. It creates a small impulse to the spine through spring activation. Its aim is to create just enough force to make the vertebrae adjust, but without injury. In AMCT, a chiropractor will have a patient lie down, examine the length of the patient’s legs, and see if one is shorter. The chiropractor will also do various other arm movement tests to figure out where there might be a misalignment (by seeing if the leg lengths change). Due to its more gentle nature, the Activator method is often used for nervous children, though chiropractors are still able to realign children by hand.9
Clarence S. Gonstead developed a method of chiropractic assessment that involves 5 criteria: Visualization (looking for movement changes), Instrumentation (“The Nervoscope detects uneven distributions of heat along the spine which can be indicative of inflammation and nerve pressure”), Static Palpation (feeling the spine when the patient stands still), Motion Palpation (feeling the spine when the patient is moving), and X-Ray Analysis (to examine for disc problems and misalignments).10 Full spine radiographs are a large part of the Gonstead Technique. The radiograph is studied with measurements drawn onto the film to analyze relative positions of adjacent vertebrae and the pelvis to find the area that is not aligned. A variety of types of tables are used to position patients for Gonstead adjustments. The Hi-Lo table was specifically modified for Dr. Gonstead’s use many years ago. Dr. Gonstead also developed unique techniques to use with the knee-chest table and cervical chair.11 “Gonstead adjustment is to be as specific, precise and accurate as possible, addressing only the problem areas (areas of subluxation).” Chiropractors do not wish to waste the time of their patients and try to perform their manipulations as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible.12
1, 3 http://comparechiropractic.com/chiropractic-education/neck-pain/chiropractic-types-straight-or-mixed
See more chiropractic techniques.