A Comprehensive Guide to the Different Techniques Used by Chiropractors


Chiropractors use manual (hands-on) techniques to address musculoskeletal disorders, including back and neck pain. They also perform spinal manipulation and offer nutritional counseling to improve their patient’s health.

Those who support using physical signs to identify misalignment points claim that it helps them avoid relying too much on X-rays, which may cause them to overlook critical underlying issues.

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Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation involves using your hands or a device to apply a controlled force, or thrust, to a spine joint. It is often combined with a rhythmic, nonthrust movement of your spine and pelvis called spinal mobilization.

Greenville chiropractor uses short thrust movements during spinal manipulation to release pressure within joints and increase their movement. An audible “crack” sound usually accompanies these movements and can be uncomfortable for some patients.

Spinal manipulation may improve pain and function in people with low back or neck pain. However, in some cases, serious adverse events have been reported after spinal manipulation. These include cerebrovascular accidents and disk herniation progressing to cauda equina syndrome.


Flexion-distraction is a form of spinal manipulation that increases spine motion, reduces disc bulges and herniations, and relieves pressure on the spinal nerves in the lumbar region. This treatment is done on a segmented table called the Cox Table and incorporates a combination of movements that will stretch and decompress your spine.

This technique effectively treats herniated discs, sacroiliac syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, sciatica, spondylolisthesis, back strains, and sprains. Unlike other spinal manipulation methods, this technique is gentle and does not apply high pressure or speed. This makes it safe for patients with osteoporosis and other brittle bone conditions. This treatment uses a series of repetitive, slow movements to open up facet and joint margins along the spine.

Drop Technique

Chiropractors often use a method called the drop table technique. This involves a special precision chiropractic adjustment table that allows your chiropractor to perform low-amplitude, high-velocity spinal adjustments with less force. This method corrects spinal misalignments and promotes natural healing in the body. It is non-painful and has several benefits, including customization, comfort, and versatility. Its gentle nature is a favorite treatment among the geriatric population.

The adjusting table has segments that can drop when your chiropractor applies a thrust to the spinal area. This quick drop allows gravity to assist and work with the chiropractor’s manual thrust. It also results in a lighter adjustment than other techniques requiring twisting positions.

Gonstead Adjustment

Like the foundation of a building, your pelvis and spine are essential for stability and balance. If the foundation shifts even slightly, it can cause a great deal of deviation in the top part of the structure. This is the concept behind the Gonstead Technique.

This method’s chiropractors focus on precise spine analysis, identifying misalignments causing pain and discomfort. They manually adjust the spine’s bones by hand or with adjustment tools.

The chiropractor uses static and motion palpation to feel inflammation and nerve pressure up and down the spine. This very hands-on chiropractic technique requires much training and experience to be proficient. Unlike the Diversified and Activator techniques, Gonstead does not involve rotational movements.

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Activator Technique

The activator method uses an adjusting instrument to deliver quick impulse force to specific treatment points. Older Activator instruments were manual, but newer versions are cordless and electric. The quick impulse reduces the need for muscles to tense up and offer resistance, improving the accuracy of the adjustment.

This technique helps to shift a misalignment, or subluxation, back into its proper place within the spine, eliminating pressure on spinal nerves and releasing strain on spinal muscles. It also reduces the risk of complications during chiropractic adjustments.

Other techniques chiropractors use include flexion-distraction (which focuses on the neck) and toggle technique, which targets the upper cervical joints, namely the Atlas and Axis. These methods require specialized treatment tables with drop mechanisms to facilitate joint movements.

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