Over the years, chiropractic has continually evolved to the point where there are now more than a hundred types of adjustments or techniques that can be used to treat a wide array of mechanical disorders related to the musculoskeletal system. Depending on one’s diagnosis and symptoms, a chiropractor will use a combination of these varying techniques to achieve the best outcome for the patient.
If you are a first-time patient of chiropractic, it helps to go in for your first examination with some knowledge on the types of techniques used, and learn what to expect in terms of intensity, side effects (if any), and benefits. While there is a lot to learn about this alternative medicine, understanding the basics is important. So, today we are talking about the two umbrella techniques of chiropractic that are referred to as ‘spinal manipulation’ and ‘spinal mobilisation’.
What is the Difference Between Spinal Manipulation & Spinal Mobilisation?
To put it simply, spinal manipulation, also known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust (HVLA), is a more intense technique wherein the chiropractor will apply some amount of force in the form of a sudden thrust to a specific joint. This is done with their hands or a special chiropractic tool or device. Although spinal manipulation involves a forceful approach, it is a safe technique for most patients who are in a fit state to receive the treatment. Common side effects of the techniques include muscle soreness and/or stiffness for a short period of time.
Spinal mobilisation, on the other hand, is a gentle approach that chiropractors perform by mobilising joints with slow but firm movements. This particular technique is generally recommended for patients with deformities, bone pathology, osteoporosis, sensitive nervous systems, and other conditions. In some cases, patients who do not have any of these conditions or problems but are experiencing chronic pain will also be advised to opt for spinal mobilisation instead of HVLA adjustments. These are just a few factors among many others that your chiropractor will consider before deciding on an appropriate chiropractic technique for your body and diagnosis.
What are the Different Techniques of Spinal Manipulation & Spinal Mobilisation?
Now that we have explained the difference between spinal manipulation and spinal mobilisation, let’s talk about some of the most common techniques used by chiropractors when performing either of the treatments.
Spinal Manipulation Techniques & Benefits
This is, perhaps, the most traditional manual adjustment used in spinal manipulation. In this technique, the chiropractor will position the patient’s body in accordance with the adjustment they are going to perform. Once the body and limbs are properly positioned, the chiropractor will then place their hands over the restricted joint(s) and apply some amount of force in the form of a quick thrust that only lasts for a second. The primary benefit of a diversified technique is to restore one’s natural joint mobility function.
Also known as the Thompson Terminal Point Technique, a specially designed chiropractic table is used to perform these HVLA adjustments. As the patient lies flat on the table, a section of it will drop (only a few inches) while the chiropractor simultaneously applies a gentle thrust. This combined technique helps adjust the patient’s spine and/or other extremities of the body.
Otherwise known as the Palmer-Gonstead technique, it differs only slightly from a traditional diversified technique. One notable difference is the way in which the body is positioned during the adjustment which often uses special tables or chairs. Other than that, the chiropractor performs an HVLA adjustment much like the diversified technique to help realign the spine and facilitate an improved range of motion to the restricted joints.
Spinal Mobilisation Techniques & Benefits
A tool called the ‘Activator’ is used to perform this mobilisation technique. It is designed to apply a quick, low-force impact to the targeted area with the help of a spring-like function. This method is typically used to relieve neck or back pain, as well as pain experienced in the extremities. Along with treating various painful symptoms in these different regions, the Activator tool is also used to adjust extremity joints and the spine, albeit gently.
Like the Thompson Drop technique, the toggle drop also uses a special table that enables a section to drop down during the treatment. Here, however, the chiropractor will not use a thrusting technique or apply an HVLA adjustment; instead, they will use both hands to gently yet firmly press down on a specific region of the spine, and in the same moment, the drop table will also spring into action. This allows the adjustment to take place without applying much manual force.
Also known as the Cox Flexion Distraction Technique, for this method, the patient is positioned on a segmented table that will move as the chiropractor gently manipulates the spine. This non-force technique keeps the body moving back and forth in a slow, rocking motion, all the while gently stretching the lower spine. The primary goal is to adjust vertebrae, however, chiropractors also use this technique to relieve pain in the neck, back, arms, and legs.
While it is important to understand the difference between spinal manipulation and spinal mobilisation, only a professionally trained, licensed, and experienced chiropractor will be able to determine which technique is suitable for you. This is decided upon after a thorough examination is conducted, along with considering the patient’s medical history. At MSK Therapy, we are committed to a step-by-step process to ensure that patients receive the proper chiropractic treatment that yields the best results. So, if you are in need of chiropractic care, schedule an appointment with us today to rid your body of pain, stress, and discomfort!