Chiropractic Terms for Treating the Spine

The marble falls chiropractors includes its own set of words to explain what they do.

From the chiropractor’s standpoint, the main thrust of the work of this profession is to employ a calculated push to spinal joints in order to effect a change in alignment and therefore improve the functioning of the nervous system. The chiropractic profession considers that a well-aligned spine positively impacts the overall health of a person.

Now that you understand how a chiropractor works, can you talk chiropractic-​ese? Below are a few of the most commonly used chiropractic terms.

1 Subluxation

Subluxation is a term that communicates a misaligned connection between adjacent spinal bones. Subluxations are the main pathology treated by chiropractors.

It is important to say that the term subluxation means something very different to health physicians than to chiropractors. To medical doctors, a subluxation refers to a partial dislocation of ​a vertebrae; a serious condition often due to trauma which can lead to a spinal cord injury and consequent paralysis and/or death. On an x-ray, a traditional subluxation is an obvious disconnect between the vertebrae.

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The chiropractic version of subluxation is much more subtle and refers to a”misaligned” vertebrae. Rather than the usual disconnect between the vertebrae, sublaxation in this context refers to position changes in the joints and soft tissues of the spine. This”misalignment of vertebrae” is considered to lead to abnormal and pain intervertebral joint motion.

This gap between the conventional medical definition of the term as well as the chiropractic use of the term might cause some people to dismiss those treatments. Since the principal focus of chiropractic therapy is often treating sublaxations, this may result in the disregard of the practice altogether unless this difference in language is known.


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The chiropractic adjustment is the hallmark of chiropractic treatment. It is the manual adjustment (done with the physician’s hands) that can be used to realign joint subluxations.

An adjustment entails applying force to movement segments to bring back them to a centered alignment.

The idea behind adjustments is that by realigning the vertebrae, the nerves can transmit signals unimpeded, leading to a positive impact on general well-being.


A manipulation is a general term that includes, but is not restricted, to alteration. Other kinds of suppliers besides healers give manipulations.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, spinal manipulation also includes things like exercise, massage, and physical therapy. They say that it yields mild to moderate relief of low back pain and that it works as well as some conventional treatments such as taking over-the-counter medications.

Spinal manipulation can, in turn, be divided into different grades of mobilizations. Practitioners of several disciplines may be licensed to do grade 1 to grade 4 mobilizations depending on their instruction. In general, just physical therapists, osteopathic physicians, and chiropractors are licensed to do regular 5 mobilizations, a sort of mobilization that is more forceful and direct that lower levels of spinal manipulation.​

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(Most massage therapists, athletic trainers, and personal trainers aren’t licensed to perform spinal manipulations).

So far as efficiency, a review printed in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews at 2012 didn’t locate spinal manipulation to be of any greater advantage than non-manipulation therapies for severe low back pain, but only small clinical trials have been published up to now. A 2016 review discovered that chiropractic manipulation appeared to be equally effective as physical therapy for the treatment of low back pain. As with any form of therapy, it’s very likely that outcomes vary from person to person as well as various chiropractors.

There are also potential dangers with spinal manipulation. Though uncommon, cervical, carotid, and vertebral artery dissections have happened with manipulation of the neck, and spinal disc herniation has been reported with manipulations of the lower back.

4Motion Segment

Motion segment is a technical term used by chiropractors and surgeons alike. It refers to two adjacent vertebrae and the intervertebral disc situated between them. This is the area chiropractors assess and adjust.

A Word From Verywell About Chiropractic Terms

A lot of people choose chiropractic therapy for a variety of ailments, most notably back pain. Just like any sort of healthcare, it is important to be your own advocate on your care and find a professional who you trust. Knowing the terminology used, and the reasoning behind these conditions, allows you to ask educated questions as you talk about your symptoms.

While chiropractic adjustments or manipulations are a backbone of the maintenance, many chiropractors today address factors like diet which can contribute not only to your distress but your overall level of health.