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What is Chiropractic Manipulation or Adjustment?

Some confusion seems to be present around which term is best used to describe what chiropractors do. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, if I were to boil down what chiropractors do, I would describe our treatment as moving misaligned joints back into proper alignment thus breaking up fixations within those joints and in doing so improving the health of those joints and the body as a whole.

The term used by medical doctors to describe this process is a “manipulation”. When medical doctors speak of chiropractic manipulations I know what they mean. But chiropractors use the term “adjustment”. The reason I, and most chiropractors, prefer this term is that it has connotations of specificity. The chiropractic adjustment is more than simply manipulating a joint. That is to say, more than just moving it around. The adjustment entails finding a specific line of drive to correct the misalignment of an injured joint so as to bring that joint back into correct alignment. This process also takes into consideration the surrounding joints and the body as a whole.

Some medical doctors may actually perform their own manipulations. However, they do not, despite their comprehensive medical background, have the extensive training in this area for which chiropractors have devoted their education and career to perfecting.

Physical therapists have their own word for this process and, in fact, perform a variation of it themselves. Physical therapists use the term “mobilization”. This is a bit better because mobilizing the joints and eliminating fixations is a key part of the benefit of the chiropractic adjustment. But the term does not address the specific direction of that mobilization and the whole body benefits of restoring the motion and alignment.

An important aspect of the chiropractic adjustment is the awareness that bringing improved alignment and mobility to a joint affects the entire body via the nervous system. A joint that is not moving properly, this is particularly true in the spine, may cause nerve interference that affects the rest of the body.

Basically, I’m a big believer in finding excellence within one’s craft – even as it is important to have a good general knowledge so as to know when something is no longer within your sphere of influence. Many times as I work on patients it becomes time for me to refer them to a medical doctor or a physical therapist when my chiropractic adjustments are no longer fully addressing their needs. But when it comes to healthcare issues that fall within the sphere of chiropractic that is where the “chiropractic adjustment” excels.