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A Glossary of Chiropractic Terms - Part 2


Chiropractic Terms

Chiropractic terms refer to specific body parts, disorders, techniques and tools. They can sound strange to the uninitiated, so here is a brief guide to some of the more common chiropractic terms.

  • Activator adjusting instrument. A hand held instrument used by some chiropractors to tap misaligned vertebrae back into place
  • Adjustments. A technique that involves gentle, yet firm pressure to a bone that is out of alignment. The technique uses a high velocity, low amplitude thrust to restore the bone to its original position.
  • Atlas. A large vertebra, or upper bone, in the upper cervical spine.
  • Axis. A large vertebra, or lower bone, in the upper cervical spine.
  • Blair upper cervical technique. A technique that removes nerve interference to the spine by correcting vertebral misalignments on the top of the neck.
  • Bone spurs. Also called osteophytes, these are overgrowths of bone material that occur because of a breakdown in existing bony structures. Sometimes, bone spurs can exert pressure on nerves, and this leads to pain.
  • Bulging disc. A common spinal disc disorder. Bulging discs may push into the spinal canal, causing misalignment and pain.
  • Bursitis. This condition occurs when the bursa, the fluid filled sacs that cushion joints, become swollen.
  • Cervical spine. The neck, or upper portion of the spine.
  • Coccyx. Also known as the tailbone, this is the small, triangular bone at the bottom tip of the spine.
  • Compressive neuropathy. This refers to nerve disorders or compressions in the spine.
  • Cox flexion-distraction technique. A technique involving a movable table that is used to stretch various segments of the spine.
  • Disc. A thin wafer of cartilage that separates the spinal vertebrae and acts like a cushion. The disc operates like a shock absorber for the spine, protecting the nervous system from harm.
  • Disc degeneration. A thinning of the disc as a result of excessive use and age.
  • Disc degenerative disease. A disorder in which the vertebral discs leak proteins that inflame the surrounding nerve roots.
  • Dynamic thrust. A chiropractic adjustment delivered suddenly and forcefully, which moves vertebrae quickly, often resulting in a popping sound.
  • Ergonomics. The science of designing jobs, equipment and other workplace factors to optimize workers’ well-being. A chiropractor may suggest an ergonomic chair, for example, for patients with a bad back.
  • Facet joint syndrome. This is a condition in which the cartilage in spinal joints starts to wear thin and the body produces bone spurs to shore it up. This bony material can cause stiffness in the joint. Facet joint syndrome can also cause inflammation, muscle spasms, and, over the long term, osteoarthritis.
  • Flexion-distraction. This is a form of treatment in which the patient lies on a specialized table that gently stretches the spine. This allows the chiropractor to pinpoint trouble spots while flexing the spinal column. The end result is that the chiropractor can gently move the disc away from an affected nerve, which alleviates inflammation and pain.
  • Golfer's elbow. A condition involving pain near the bony protrusion of the elbow. It can be caused by a tear or rupture in the tendon supporting the elbow bone.
  • Heat therapy. A form of therapy used for patients who have chronic, or long-lasting pain. It can involve many kinds of methods, from heating pads, wraps, and gel packs, to techniques such as therapeutic ultrasound, but the goal is always to relax the muscles and increase circulation to the affected area. It can be used in tandem with ice therapy, which is used to reduce swelling.
  • Herniated disc. This condition occurs when a disc ruptures, usually at its weakest point. Most herniated discs occur in the lower back or lumbar region. When the disc ruptures it usually shifts to a position that irritates the nearby spinal nerve.
  • Ice massage (cryotherapy). This therapy uses ice to treat many kinds of injuries, but chiropractors use it primarily to treat back or neck pain. The application of cold constricts the veins in the affected tissue, which reduces blood flow and dulls pain. When the ice is removed the veins open wider, allowing a large volume of blood to rush to the affected area, bringing chemicals that aid in the healing process.
  • Interferential current (IFC). A form of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy that uses high-frequency electrical impulses to reduce pain.
  • Lumbar roll. For this chiropractic adjustment the patient lies on his or her side, then the practitioner applies a firm, quick thrust to a misaligned vertebra.
  • Lumbar stabilization. A physical therapy program that strengthens the muscles supporting the lower spine. This helps to alleviate lower back pain.
  • McKenzie Method. Named after Robin McKenzie, a New Zealand physical therapist, who created a regimen of repeated flexing or extending of the lower back in order to treat a variety of spine problems. This has been recognized as an effective self-treatment plan for low back pain.
  • Motion palpation. A chiropractic hand technique which is used to determine if a patient’s vertebrae are aligned properly.
  • Neuropathic pain. A form of chronic pain that results from peripheral or central nervous system damage.
  • Pelvic blocking. A chiropractic treatment that uses cushioned wedges under the hips. The chiropractor gently maneuvers the pelvic area, allowing gravity to pull the affected disc away from the nerve it is pressing on.
  • Peripheral neuropathy. A degenerative nerve condition that affects the arms, hands, legs, and feet. Because this condition can cause nerve endings to deaden, people with it often report a loss of feeling in their fingers and toes.
  • Piriformis syndrome. This happens when the sciatic nerve is pinched as it exits the spinal column, causing pain or numbness in the legs or feet.
  • Release work. A form of chiropractic adjustment in which the chiropractor uses gentle pressure with the fingers to separate the vertebrae.
  • Sacroiliac joint disorder. The sacroiliac joint links the bottom of the spine with the pelvic bone. It can become damaged or impaired, causing many of the same symptoms as a herniated disc.
  • Slipped disc. This term is incorrect. Discs don’t slip, they rupture, or herniate.
  • Stenosis. A condition in which the spinal openings, or bony canals, become blocked or narrowed, causing nerve irritation.
  • Subluxations. These are misalignments in the vertebrae. They create pressure or irritation on the various nerves in your spine, and can cause a wide variety of symptoms, which affect many of the body’s systems.
  • Synovium. This is an inflammation of the lining in spinal joints.
  • Toggle drop. A chiropractic technique that uses firm pressure on a target area of the spine using the chiropractor’s crossed hands.
  • Vertebral discs. These are the shock absorbers that are found between the vertebrae. Each disc is composed of collagen, with a soft inner core sandwiched between a tough outer one.

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