Glossary of Chiropractic Terms
Acute Back Pain
Back pain that lasts a short while, usually a few days to several weeks. Episodes lasting longer than three months are not considered acute.
The specific application of forces used to facilitate the body's correction of nerve interference.
Topmost vertebra of the neck and supports your head. Misalignment of the atlas can place stress on your neuromusculoskeletal system.
Another name for the second cervical vertebra, which is located in your neck. This is an important joint that contributes significantly to your neck's range of motion.
"Big Idea"
The Chiropractic concept that the body heals itself when interference to the proper functioning of the nervous system is removed.
The body's mechanics, such as how muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments work to produce movement.
Pop that occurs in a spinal joint when vertebral surfaces (facets) are separated to create a vacuum that pulls in nitrogen gas.
Cervical Spine
The area of your spine containing the seven vertebrae that compose the neck.
A primary health care profession in which professional responsibility and authority are focused on the anatomy of the spine and immediate articulation, and the condition of nerve interference. It is also a practice, which encompasses educating, advising about and addressing nerve interference.
Chronic Back Pain
Back pain episode that lasts more than three months.
Commonly called the tailbone, the coccyx is composed of four separate but fused vertebrae that make up the bottom of your spine.
Distraction Technique
Method of applying manually controlled distraction or stretching to specific spinal segments with the assistance of a movable table.
Abbreviation for "doctor of Chiropractic.
A comprehensive process of evaluation of the spinal column and its immediate articulation to determine the presence of nerve interference and other conditions that may contraindicate Chiropractic procedures.
Dynamic Thrust
Chiropractic adjustment delivered suddenly and forcefully to move vertebrae, often resulting in a popping sound.
Extruded Disc
Also known as a herniated disc, a condition in which the outer portion of the vertebral disc is torn, enabling the inner portion to herniate or extrude through the fibers.
Facet Joints
Small joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae. There are two facet joints at each level of the vertebral column, providing stability to the spinal column while allowing movement.
Flexion-Distraction Technique
Useful method of stretching the spine in a face down position on a table that allows manually applied flexion and traction to be applied to specific spinal segments.
Full-Spine Technique
Method of adjusting or manipulating any of the vertebrae from the neck down.
Spine fusion surgery involves using a bone graft to cause two vertebral bodies to grow together into one long bone, stopping motion at that segment. In general, a lumbar spinal fusion surgery is most effective for those conditions that are associated with instability (spondylolisthesis) and in cases that have only one level involvement.
Herniated Disc
Also known as an extruded disc, a condition in which the outer portion of the vertebral disc is torn, enabling the inner portion to herniate or extrude through the fibers.
Innate Intelligence
The alleged inborn ability of the body to heal itself, which many Chiropractors believe is enhanced by spinal adjustments.
Intervertebral disk
The tough cartilage that serves as a cushion between two vertebrae. Each disk has a gelatinous-like center (nucleus pulposus) that may protrude to form a disk herniation.
A meeting point of two or more bones in your body that functions like a door hinge. Joints, like hinges, sometimes get stuck, or subluxated.
An exaggerated curvature of the upper (thoracic) spine that creates a hunchback appearance. It can result from developmental problems, degenerative diseases (such as arthritis), osteoporosis with compression fractures of the vertebrae, and trauma to the spine.
Tissue that bonds bone to bone. Ligaments are strong and provide excellent support, which is especially important in joints like your ankle.
Abbreviated description of the position or movement of a "subluxated" vertebra. Many techniques have their own listing system. Locked Spinal Joint
Locked Spinal Joint
Sudden binding that occurs when two joint surfaces are shifted out of their normal alignment by an awkward movement that triggers muscle spasm. The result may also be called an "acute locked back."
Long-Lever Manipulation
Method of spinal manipulation in which a general technique is used to stretch or loosen several vertebrae at a time.
Lumbar Vertebrae
The five bones in the lower-back portion of the spine.
Lumbosacral Strain
Strain or injury of joints or ligaments at the base of the spine where the last lumbar vertebra (L5) is connected to the sacrum. Strain or disk degeneration in this area is probably the most common cause of low-back pain.
Maintenance Care
Subluxation-based program of periodic spinal examinations and "adjustments" to help maintain the patient's health. Also called "preventive maintenance" or "preventative maintenance."
The forceful passive movement of a joint beyond its active limit of motion. It does not imply the use of precision, specificity or the correction of nerve interference. Therefore, it is not synonymous with Chiropractic adjustment.
Method of manipulation, movement, or stretching to increase range of motion in muscles and joints that does not involve a high-velocity thrust.
Motion Palpation
Useful method of locating fixations and loss of mobility in the spine by feeling the motion of specific spinal segments as the patient moves.
Contractile tissue that allows body parts to move.
Referring to structures involving tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints.
Nerve Root
The portion of the nerve that runs through the bony canal and exits at each vertebral segment of the spinal cord.
Neuromusculoskeletal System
A broad term referring to the neurological system, including the brain, spinal cord and nerves, the muscle system, which includes muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissues, and the skeletal system, which includes bones of the skull, spine and limbs.
Nimmo Method
Technique that uses digital pressure on trigger points to relax muscles said to be pulling vertebrae out of alignment.
Nonforce techniques
Various reflex techniques and muscle-treatment methods that do not involve forceful manipulation.
Ossification is the process in which cartilage is transformed into bone.
A degenerative arthritis is a condition that involves the chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints leading to painful joint inflammation. In the spine, facet joint osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative arthritis or spinal arthritis, causes a breakdown of cartilage between the facet joints in the back of the spine.
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by abnormal bone loss, causing increased susceptibility to fracture.
PI (Personal Injury)
Used in the phrases "PI practice" and "PI seminar," which focus on patients with occupational or auto injuries.
Practice Objective
The professional practice objective of Chiropractic is to correct nerve interference in a safe, effective manner. The correction is not considered to be a specific cure for any particular symptom or disease. It is applicable to any patient who exhibits nerve interference regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms or disease.
Radicular Pain
Radicular pain is a type of pain that radiates into the lower extremity directly along the course of a spinal nerve root. Radicular pain is caused by compression, inflammation and/or injury to a spinal nerve root arising from common conditions including herniated disc, foraminal stenosis and peridural fibrosis.
Ruptured Disc
The term ruptured disc is often used interchangeably with the term herniated disc and is a condition in which the outer portion of the vertebral disc is torn, enabling the inner portion to herniate or extrude through the fibers.
Sacroiliac Joint
The joint between the sacrum and the ilium, which is a flat bone that helps compose your pelvis.
The triangular bone that serves as a base for the spinal column and connects the pelvic bones.
Short-Lever Manipulation
A method of spinal manipulation in which contact is made on a vertebral process to move a single vertebra.
An abbreviation for "spinal manipulative therapy."
Spinal Adjustment
A Chiropractic term that most Chiropractors use to describe whatever method(s) they use to correct spinal problems, whether by hand or with an instrument. Some equate the terms "adjustment" and "manipulation."
Spinal Manipulation
A forceful, high-velocity thrust that stretches a joint beyond its passive range of movement in order to increase its mobility. Manipulation is usually accompanied by an audible pop or click.
Your spine supports your body and protects the delicate spinal cord and nerves. It comprises 33 vertebrae, grouped into different categories based on location and anatomy. These locations are the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal regions.
Straight Chiropractor
Chiropractors who tend to cling to Chiropractic's original doctrine that most health problems are caused by misaligned spinal bones ("vertebral subluxations") and are correctable by manual manipulation of the spine.
The medical definition is incomplete or partial dislocation -- a condition, visible on x-ray films, in which the bony surfaces of a joint no longer face each other exactly but remain partially aligned.
Thompson Terminal Point Technique
A Chiropractic adjustment performed on a table in which the supporting cushions drop an inch or two when a thrust is applied to the spine. Practitioners locate "subluxations" by checking leg lengths with the legs straight, the knees bent, or the head turned to either side.
Thoracic Vertebrae
There are twelve vertebrae in the thoracic or upper-back portion of the spine.
Toggle Recoil Technique
Manipulation performed with a sudden shallow thrust (toggle) followed by quick withdrawal (recoil) of the Chiropractor's hands while the patient is relaxed.
Upper Cervical Specific
Technique that uses a number of specific Chiropractic adjustments designed to correct atlas and upper cervical subluxations.
Bony segment of the spine that encircles and helps protect the spinal cord and nerves. The plural of vertebra is vertebrae.
Vertebral Subluxation Complex
A "modern" Chiropractic term for the Chiropractic subluxation.
Vertebral Subluxation
Also referred to as nerve interference, is a misalignment of one or more of the 24 vertebrae in the spinal column, which causes alteration of nerve function and interference to the transmission of mental impulses, resulting in a lessening of the body's innate ability to express its maximum health potential.
The concept that the functions of an organism are due to a "vital principle" or "life force" distinct from the physical forces explainable by the laws of physics and chemistry. Chiropractors refer to that force as "Innate Intelligence."

Whiplash of the neck is caused by any sudden involuntary forced movement of the head in any direction, and the resultant rebound of the head or neck in the opposite direction. Consequently there are injuries to the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Whiplash may occur without you being aware of it. Because of the degrees in which it occurs, symptoms may not always appear immediately. What occurs during the accident is ligaments are stretched beyond their limit for which they were intended. This will result in muscle spasms, alteration of the normal curve of the neck and spine and the resultant limitation of movement. An experienced Doctor of Chiropractic can diagnose and correct these problems with spinal adjustments and physical therapy/ rehab. to the effected area.

If you were involved in an accident or suffer from trauma to the head or neck, consult a Doctor of Chiropractic for evaluation.


An X-ray is a diagnostic test that images bones by shooting an x-ray beam through the body. The calcium in bones blocks penetration of the x-ray beam and the image of the bones is picked up as a shadow on a film positioned on the other side of the patient. X-rays provide for excellent bony detail because bone consists mainly of calcium. X-rays can be used to diagnose tumors, fractures and spinal misalignment. However, discs and nerve roots do not have any calcium, so an x-ray does not capture an image of these structures.

An x-ray cannot be used to diagnose lumbar disc herniation or other causes of nerve pinching.


Yoga is a gentle, low impact exercise system that focuses on body posture, breathing, and meditation. Yoga originated as an ancient Indian practice and has become a reputable therapeutic technique in Western Medicine. By adopting very basic and sometimes very complex body postures and breathing techniques, the goal of yoga is to provide the practitioner with a number of physical and mental benefits. Yoga can help relieve back pain by rehabilitating injured back muscles and preventing re-injury through stretching, strengthening and body alignment. Yoga can also increase oxygen to the brain and induce a relaxation response to alleviate muscle tension and stress.

Yoga is a very safe form of exercise for most people, but may aggravate symptoms of specific back conditions. If you have a back condition, talk to your Chiropractor about this option.

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