There are many types of chiropractic therapies available. Each individual can choose a chiropractor based on their philosophy, such as “straight” or “mixed”. With each type of chiropractor, there are techniques that can be employed to maximize the adjustments and benefits for their clients.
Chiropractic Techniques: Straight vs. Mixed
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, whereas 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.1
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.2
Diversified Technique (DT), is the most common, “generic” adjustment method used by chiropractors. It is a “high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust”.3 A chiropractor will find which vertebrae is out of place, by palpating, and then perform a quick and precise adjustment to realign the bone.4 This causes a “cavitation of a joint”, or the “popping noise” most associated with chiropractic manipulations.5
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).6
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).7 “Gonstead adjustment is to be as specific, precise and accurate as possible, addressing only the problem areas (areas of subluxation).”8
See more chiropractic techniques.