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Different Types of Chiropractic Therapy Techniques

Chiropractic Treatments are typically broken up into 4 separate categories:

  1. Manual Treatments - typically involving adjustments, traction techniques, and spinal decompression.
  2. Instrument Led Treatments - some of these techniques  include the Activator and Graston
  3. Chiropractic Therapies - heat/ice, ultrasound and electrical stimulation
  4. Nutrition & Exercise - anti-inflammatory dietary counseling and functional movement exercise

The Ultimate Chiropractic Technique Guide | Cobb Chiropractic

Posted by Cobb Chiropractic Clinic on Jun 10, 2019 4:16:01 PM

Understanding Your Chiropractor's Techniques

Whether you have been hurt in a car accident, sports injury, or you just have a nagging pain that won't go away, your chiropractor has an extensive toolbox of treatment techniques that can solve your problem.

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Part of the appeal of chiropractic care is the natural and noninvasive approach they take to their treatment methods. That means no surgery and no potentially addictive medication

Instead, with chiropractic care, you receive treatment that is manual and holistic. When you come in with a pain symptom, your chiropractor understands the inner workings of your body's spine, musculoskeletal system, and nervous system. 

Quick fact: A little secret that chiropractors keep in their mind when treating patients is that the actual culprit of your pain symptom is typically either upstream or down-stream. That means your chiropractor will check the muscles, joints, and bones above and below your pain symptom to see if your nagging injury is just a front for an issue that is actually occurring someplace else. 

So what are these many techniques that your chiropractor stores in their toolbox?

Let's jump into them.

Manual Treatments

1. Spinal Adjustment/Manipulation

This is the most basic and readily available treatment method for chiropractors.

Spinal manipulation is a controlled and quick thrust and adjustment. Chiropractors uniquely focus heavily on the spine and fully understand the relationship between the spine, your nervous system, and how that can lead to various pain symptoms and conditions.

Once the spinal adjustment has been completed, your overall alignment will be enhanced along with many of your joints. The goal is to allow each joint to return to its natural range of motion.

A common occurrence during spinal adjustments, which chiropractors are especially known for, is the "popping" sound made during the treatment. This cavitation is entirely healthy, expected, and draws the chiropractor's attention to areas that needed the adjustment.

This type of controlled force is done manually, occasionally with your chiropractor using their weight as assistance, and can help your upper back, lower back, neck, and the joints in your arms and legs.

This primary technique is also referred to as the diversified technique. Other Forms of spinal manipulation include:

  • Gonstead Technique: The Gonstead Technique applies the same force and quickness of a typical spinal adjustment, but the chiropractor will specify a particular joint that needs to be focused on. This treatment often needs special positioning. Chiropractors that apply Gonstead technique typically have certain tables and chairs that allow the method to work properly.
  • Thompson Terminal Point Technique:  This technique utilizes a particular table that has a section "drop" as the chiropractor applies the controlled force. The idea here is that the slight dropping of the table facilitates the joint's movement and aids in the treatment process.

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2. Spinal Mobilization

Spinal mobilization is similar to spinal adjustments, but the thrust used by the chiropractor tends to be a little gentler. The goal is still the same as spinal manipulation -- to restore and enhance joint movement and help realign the body.

Instead of quick, controlled thrusts, spinal mobilization uses slower movements to mobilize the joint.

A chiropractor may elect to use spinal mobilization instead of spinal manipulation because of the patient's preference, if their nervous system is noticeably sensitive, to reduce muscle spasms, if the patient is in severe pain, or if the patient is significantly overweight.

  • Cox Flexion Distraction is a type of spinal mobilization that is quite gentle, yet beneficial. This works great on the lower spine as the body rocks and stretches, allowing the vertebrae to adjust. The lower half of the table lowers, enabling the safe, calculated stretching in the lower back. This is a fantastic technique for any patient, especially older individuals, and the entire duration of the treatment the chiropractor can keep their attention on the spine and keep an eye out for muscle spasms and critical areas.
  • Toggle drop is a little similar to Thompson Terminal Point Technique. Again, the chiropractor applies force along with a particular section of the table dropping to add movement. This allows chiropractors to target specific joints and sections of the spine or optimal results.


3. Spinal Decompression

The goal of spinal decompression is to stretch and relax the lumbar spine.

Patients lie on a traction table that may or may not be motorized which allows the spine to bend and stretch. The half of the table holding the patient's lower back and legs lowers which provides a seamless, pain-free, and healthy stretching motion for the spine.

This technique is excellent for patients suffering from herniated and slipped discs. The stretching of the lower spine coaxes discs to realign and manually return to their proper place. Outside of back pain and bulging discs, spinal decompression can also be used for patients who are experiencing leg pain.

While the patient will feel the stretching of the spine, there is no feeling or irritation or pain reported during the treatment.


4. Traction

It is up to the chiropractor's discretion and the location of the pain symptoms that determines whether or not Traction is done manually or with the help of an instrument.

As a form of spinal decompression, the traction technique helps stretch the back, spine, and joints to enhance movement and relieve tension.

When it comes to traction, there are three common ways for the method to be conducted. These include the following:

  1. Manually: In this case, the chiropractor may use their hands and/or a pulley system to help stretch the spine
  2. Wedge: With the use of a wedge, the chiropractor can apply traction to the lower spine and even work on joints in the patient's limbs
  3. Mechanically: This allows mechanical pulleys to assist stretching the spine and also inversion tables where the patient's own weight and gravity help the spine relieve tension.


Instrument-Assisted Treatments

While all these treatments combine to create a chiropractor's metaphorical toolbox, many chiropractors realistically do have some tools at their disposal.

The following methods are manual treatments with the assistance of instruments.

1. Activator Method

The Activator technique is a wonderful treatment that is typically done with the patient lying face-down on the table. This method can help your chiropractor locate and treat neck pain, back pain, and even headaches.

This method utilizes a small, hand-held chiropractic instrument that delivers a pulsing force to the spine with the intention of restoring optimal motion to the joint or spine. Similar to spinal manipulation, the force instrument offers is low, but the pulse is quick. 

This method offers pulsing so quick the muscle being focused on does not have time to tense in response and since all the motion is handheld, there is very little need for the patient's body to have to bend in any way that is uncomfortable. 

This is incredibly beneficial for older individuals and patients with severe pain.

While utilizing the activator technique, chiropractors often pay close attention to leg length discrepancies, as this can have a significant impact on the spine and pelvis.


2. Graston Technique

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Another instrument-assisted chiropractic method is the Graston Technique

This method mobilizes the soft-tissues in your body by gently massaging and scraping at the skin. By massaging and breaking up the scar tissue, the affected areas become less restricted. 

By receiving the Graston technique, you will essentially:

  • Rearrange the structure of the soft-tissue that is being treated
  • Offer an optimal healing environment for the soft-tissue
  • Break down the scar tissue and restrictions that were caused by trauma (can include tendons, ligaments, and strained muscles)

The instruments used in Graston technique are steel and have a rounded, concave-convex shape to them. The round edge of the instrument is rubbed and massaged over the affected area. 

Small amounts of trauma will necessarily be inflicted, and the patient may notice temporary inflammation, however, the intention is to encourage the treated area to promote healing and recovery.

The typical process for Graston technique includes:

  1. Possibly cardio exercise (stationary bike) for a small period of time
  2. Heating treatment or ultrasound to warm the soft-tissue prior to the technique
  3. Utilizing the steel tool in calculated massing patterns
  4. Discomfort may be reported, but the soft-tissues will be rearranged and promote healing

Application of the Graston technique provides quicker healing time, lower overall inflammation, and a decreased treatment time.


3. Sacro-Occipital Technique

Sacro-Occipital Technique (SOT) is actually a form of spinal mobilization, but it does, in fact, use an instrument.

This technique is used by chiropractors to assist in realigning the pelvis. The way it works is the chiropractor will place a wedge under the patient's pelvis and apply a little low-force pressure. 


Chiropractic Therapy Techniques

Outside of manual and instrument-assisted methods, chiropractors have additional ways to alleviate pain, reduce tension, increase mobility, and help the recovery process along.

Some of the following include methods that will be used during your session and others will be tips and suggestions that your chiropractor expects you to do on your own.

Important note: It is incredibly effective for the enhancement of your treatment and your overall recovery to follow the "homework" recommended by your chiropractor. It may seem tedious and easy to get lost in the daily work of the day, but the upside to following through with their suggested regiments is monumental.

1. Heat/Ice Therapy

Heating and icing your affected joint is a fantastic way to relax the soft-tissue and aid in recovery.

Depending on your condition, your chiropractor may use only heat, only ice, or switch between both. The icing is effective at minimizing inflammation and making the joint numb. 

On the other hand, the heat pad will restore blood flow and promote better and faster healing.

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2. Ultrasound

Your chiropractor can apply ultrasound directly to your spine and sore joints.

The way ultrasound is effective is its ability to micro-massage the soft-tissues and joints. It is incredibly high-frequency, beyond our hearing range, and can be significantly therapeutic for patients. Similar to heating, this can promote better healing, restore blood flow, and reduce pain and stiffness.


3. Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrodes are placed on the skin of the patient's affected area and submit impulses throughout the body. The name may imply pain or electric shock connotations, but that is not the case. The sensation experienced during electrical muscle stimulation can be quite soothing for patients.

Electrical muscle stimulation is an effective way to curb muscle spasms, as it adds fatigue to the muscle which allows it to relax. 


4. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators (TENS)

Similar to electrical muscle stimulation, TENS also used electrodes on the painful area of the patient to emit low-voltage electrical stimulation.

The goal of TENS is to block or scramble pain signals that travel along your nerves to elicit relaxation instead, and also release natural endorphins within the body. This works as a natural and healthy painkiller. 


5. Diathermy

Diathermy is a short-wave, electromagnetic therapy that offers heat to denser tissues. In this therapy, the patient will feel a relaxing and warm sensation as the muscles, and connective tissues relax.

By increasing circulation, diathermy can:

  • Accelerate the recovery process
  • Relieve pain and soreness
  • Improve tissue mobility as they heal


6. Hydrotherapy

Some chiropractic clinics may offer hydrotherapy which can involve saunas, baths, and pools that vary in temperature.

This can have similar results to the hot and cold therapy, but with hydrotherapy patient's have a more excellent ability to submerge in the therapy fully and the chiropractor can control the pressure of the water, not just the temperature.

The use of hydrotherapy is fantastic at numbing patient's pain and increasing overall blood flow. 


Nutrition and Exercise

Here comes the "homework" part of chiropractic care.

Not only does your pain relief and therapy come during your sessions, your chiropractor will provide suggestions on what you can do to enhance your recovery on your own at home or during your free time.

More often than not, these recommendations will fall under either nutrition or exercise.

1. Nutrition

The same way that your chiropractor wants to heal your body using natural therapies, adjustments, and remedies; they also encourage you to eat as natural as possible.

Your chiropractor may suggest types of foods they prefer you to eat, diet plans, and full-on eating regiments. The key is less processed and trans fat foods in favor of naturally grown food.

Also, many chiropractors offer supplements which can benefit patients that are lacking or deficient in particular areas. Whether it is due to diet or medical reasons, chiropractors carry multiple supplements that can assist any patient in being well-rounded.

Some of these include:

  • Omega 3 Fish Oils
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium

Omega 3 fish oils, probiotics, and magnesium. 

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2. Exercise

Part of feeling better and aiding in your treatment process is by stretching and moving around.

While your chiropractor may suggest sticking to light activity or taking it easy on certain joints, they will always provide an exercise or stretch that can be done quickly in your free time and have massive benefits to your recovery.

It's amazing what a little cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching can do for the body once combined with chiropractic care.

Chiropractors have stretches and exercises that are great for low back pain, leg pain, pelvic pain, and overall joint pain.

One particular method is the McKenzie Exercise Treatment. This exercise is optimal for centralizing and managing pain.


Make the Right Call For Your Body

Whether you have general back pain or neck pain or more specific conditions such as sciatica or carpal tunnel, chiropractic care offers the best treatments to help alleviate your pain.

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It's not a one remedy fixes all, and at Cobb Chiropractic Clinic they take the time to get to know their patients, understand their accidents and pain symptoms, and develop fully personalized treatment plans specific to that patient. With that type of focused care, anyone is bound to regain mobility, reduce pain, and develop a healthier lifestyle.

Let Cobb Chiropractic relieve your pain and find out what makes us different from the rest.

Click the link below and start your path to recovery today.

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Tags: Chiropractor, Spinal Adjustment

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Our Personal Injury Chiropractors in Greensboro specialize in Auto Accident Injuries and Treating Injury Conditions that can affect your quality of life.

For over 40 years our doctors have prided themselves on providing excellent care and the highest level of patient education.

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