Chiropractic Terms for Treating the Spine

The chiropractic profession has its own set of words to describe what they do. 

From the chiropractor's perspective, the main thrust of the work of this profession is to apply a calculated force to spinal joints in order to effect a change in alignment, and therefore improve the functioning of the nervous system. The chiropractic profession believes that a well-aligned spine positively affects the overall health of an individual.

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


A chiropractor adjusts a patient.
Chiropractic may help prevent stenosis and relieve back pain. Andy Crawford/Cultural Exclusive/Getty Images

Subluxation is a term that expresses a misaligned relationship between adjacent spinal bones. Subluxations are the main pathology treated by chiropractors.  The terms subluxation means something different to medical doctors than to chiropractors.  The chiropractic version of this word is much more subtle, which may be prompt some people from the conventional medical industry to dismiss or disregard it.


Chiropractic adjustment
Chiropractic adjustment. ADAM GAULT/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

The adjustment is the hallmark of chiropractic treatment. It involves applying force to motion segments to bring them back into a centered alignment. The idea behind this is that by realigning the vertebrae, the nerves can transmit signals unimpeded, and this has a positive effect on overall well-being.

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Does chiropractic make for a good scoliosis treatment?
Does chiropractic make for a good scoliosis treatment?. Deeblue

A manipulation is a general term that includes, but is not limited, to adjustment. Other types of providers besides chiropractors also 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 pain-relieving drugs.

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Motion Segment

Chiropractic motion segment
Chiropractic motion segment. Inti St Clair/Blend Images/Getty Images

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


Spinal Manipulation for Low-Back Pain. NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website.

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