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Chiropractic Care – Understanding the Different Techniques Used in Chiropractic Care

    Chiropractic Care

    In general, chiropractors use hands-on manipulation to help ease neck pain and back problems. In some cases, a chiropractor may use an adjusting tool.

    Several types of chiropractic techniques are used by chiropractic services like Wirth Chiropractic, including Gonstead and diversified techniques. They are commonly centered on the spine but can also include extremity manipulation (hands-on manipulation of joints outside the spine). Most manual manipulation methods involve high velocity, low amplitude thrusts.

    Activator Technique

    The Activator Method is a hand-held, spring-loaded instrument-based spinal manipulation/adjustment technique. It provides a lighter, quicker thrust than can be delivered manually by the chiropractor’s hands. This method is often used in place of manual adjustments or for patients who prefer a less forceful approach to treatment, such as infants, elderly patients, pregnant women, and those with osteoporosis.

    Once the chiropractor locates a misaligned spinal joint, they will apply some initial pressure followed by a quick impulse from the Activator instrument. This is similar to how doctors test reflexes on a knee with a reflex hammer. This rapid thrust allows muscles to relax before the adjustment, which helps facilitate better treatment outcomes.

    This low-force technique can also adjust temporomandibular joints (TMD), extremities, and other body areas. It is particularly effective in treating chronic back pain, neck pain, and headaches. 

    Gonstead Technique

    Clarence Gonstead spent his childhood learning how to take apart and rebuild items on the family farm, which would eventually prepare him for a career in mechanical engineering and help him develop a method of chiropractic care used worldwide today. Known as the Gonstead technique, this system of treatment addresses joint dysfunctions and spinal misalignments.

    Gonstead chiropractors focus on the pelvic girdle, or the foundation of the spine, and aim to achieve maximum balance and stability in the spinal column. They also concentrate on identifying and adjusting primary subluxations or spinal misalignments.

    Chiropractors who use the Gonstead system are known for thoroughly evaluating the patient using visualization, digital palpation, motion palpation, and instrumentation. The most common tool employed is called a Nervoscope, which is guided down each side of the spine to detect uneven distributions of heat that indicate inflammation and nerve pressure. In addition, X-rays are often taken to examine the spinal segments and their relationship with the rest of your musculoskeletal system.

    Diversified Technique

    The Diversified technique is the most widely used method for spinal adjustments and can be applied to all body joints. It involves a quick thrust of the hands (no tools or machines are used) to a joint to correct misalignment and reduce abnormal movement.

    This technique is what causes that famous popping sound during a chiropractic adjustment. When the chiropractor applies a rapid short thrust, it displaces the joint fluid (synovial) and releases trapped gasses causing cavitation.

    This precise, high-velocity low, amplitude manual thrust technique requires years of training and practice. The diversified technique can be combined with Thompson Technique or table-assisted drop piece technique to enhance the adjustment and decrease the thrust force. Ninety-six percent of chiropractors report that they use diversified techniques in their practice. 

    Spinal Manipulation

    Some people turn to a chiropractor when home remedies and other treatments aren’t working. But knowing there’s more than one way to adjust your neck or spine for pain relief can be confusing.

    The most common technique used by chiropractors is spinal manipulation. This involves a quick, short lever arm thrust that targets specific vertebrae. This usually results in an audible “pop” and a relieving sensation.

    Spinal manipulation has been shown to reduce back pain and improve movement in the lumbar area. It works by breaking up spinal joint adhesions and stretching surrounding dysfunctional tissue, restoring normal joint motion and reducing nerve irritation.

    However, some pre-existing conditions, patient size, pathology, and comfort level may require a gentler approach, generally referred to as spinal mobilization. These techniques avoid twisting the body and forceful thrust. These techniques are also generally safer than cervical and thoracic manipulation. Regardless, patients should always discuss their concerns with their chiropractors.

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