Glossary of Chiropractic Terms

Listed below are some basic chiropractic terminology that may be of use to you. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you will be able to better understand your prognosis and know the appropriate questions to ask your chiropractor at your appointment.

Active Release Techniques (ART) – a patented, soft tissue massage-based technique that is used to eliminate adhesions or scar tissue from overused muscles.

Acute (traumatic) Injuries – Injuries that are a result of a traumatic single event such as a fall, car accident, or sports injury. These may include a sprained ankle or fractured hand. Pain from acute injuries usually last less than three months.

Adhesions – “knots” or scar tissue that develop from an acute injury or repetitive stress on a soft tissue.

Adjustments – Chiropractic techniques in which pressure is applied to specific bones to relieve pressure from the spinal nerves and correct any subluxations. The goal is to restore proper motion and function in the spinal joints.

Arthritis – A joint disorder which results in inflammation of one or more joints. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, muscle aches, tenderness, and difficulty moving the joint.

Bulging Disc – Occurs when a soft spinal disc, which acts as the cushions between the bones, shifts out of alignment with the spine.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is caused by pressure on the median nerve (a nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm of the hand). Symptoms include paresthesia, pain, numbness, weakness, tingling and can result in muscle damage in the hand and fingers.

Cervical Vertebrae – Composed of seven vertebrae in the spine that are located right behind the skull, in the neck region.
Chiropractic – A noninvasive health care profession that focuses on diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system; Spinal adjustments are the most common therapeutic procedures used in chiropractic.

Chiropractor – A doctor of chiropractic (D.C.) who diagnoses and treats a wide range of physical ailments related to the muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems.

Chronic Back Pain – Back pain that lasts more than three months.

Coccyx – A triangular shaped bone located at the base of the spine. Commonly known as the tailbone.

D.C. – Abbreviation that stands for Doctor of Chiropractic.

Degenerative Disc Disease – General term used to describe a spinal condition in which vertebral discs have been damaged. Most common causes include natural aging process and injuries.

Electrotherapy – A therapy technique used to manage pain by applying electrical stimulation to the affected nerves and muscles. It promotes soft tissue healing and reduces symptoms of pain by encouraging the body to release pain-killing chemicals like opiates and endorphins.

Exercise Therapy – A pain management technique used in chiropractic to heal damaged soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Exercise therapy helps restore normal range of motion in these tissues.

Heat Therapy – Heat therapy helps to relax the muscles and increase circulation in the tissues. It is often used to provide relief for patients experiencing chronic pain.

Herniated Disc – A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc is damaged and shifts to a position that causes irritation of spinal nerves. Herniated discs often affect the lower back.

Ice Therapy (Cryotherapy) – A common form of therapy used to treat injuries. Ice is applied to the location of the injury to reduce swelling and provide pain relief.

Lumbar Roll – A form of chiropractic manipulation in which the patient is positioned on his or her side while the chiropractor applies a firm, quick thrust to the misaligned vertebra in order to restore it to the proper position.

Lumbar Vertebrae – Refers to the lower back which is composed of the five moveable vertebrae.

Manipulation – The most common form of chiropractic treatment in which a gentle, yet firm, pressure is applied to the bones in order to relieve pressure from the surrounding spinal nerves. Manipulations aim to relieve pain and restore the body to its normal range of motion.

Maintenance Care – Some patients may prefer preventative maintenance when it comes to chiropractic care. Maintenance care involves chiropractic adjustments to fix any subluxations and maintain a proper spinal alignment in the body.

Migraine – A chronic condition that is characterized by severe, painful headaches and may include symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.

Sciatica – A painful nerve condition caused by injury or pressure to the sciatic nerve. Results in pain, weakness, numbness and tingling sensations in the leg.

Scoliosis – A medical condition in which there is an abnormal curving of the spine.

Slipped Disc – Another term for a herniated disc.

Soft Tissues – Refers to tissues that connect, envelope, and/or support structures surrounding it. Some examples include muscles, tendons, fascia and ligaments.

Spinal Column – Composed of a series of bones (vertebrae) that supports the head and protects the spinal cord.

Strengthening Exercises – Exercises that promote the strengthening of the core muscles in your body including the abdominal and back muscles.

Stretching Exercises – Exercises that aim to improve flexibility, muscle tone, and range of motion by stretching specific skeletal muscles.

Subluxations – When spinal bones are misaligned due to stress, trauma, or chemical imbalance. This can cause pressure on the spinal nerves and can result in a number of health problems.

Table Adjustments – A type of chiropractic adjustment in which the patient lies on a special chiropractic table with sections. When the chiropractor applies pressure onto the patient’s spine, the corresponding section of the table will drop.

Therapeutic Massage – A type of massage in which firm pressure is applied to the soft tissues of the body in order to release knots (or adhesions).

Thoracic Vertebrae – Refers to the middle segment of the vertebral column, between the cervical vertebrae and the lumbar vertebrae. It is composed of 12 vertebrae.

Ultrasound therapy – In physical therapy, an ultrasound is used to heat soft tissues in the body. A chiropractor will use a sound head and apply it to a body part to create heat in that area. This increases blood flow circulation and helps loosen the muscles.

Vertebral Body – Main component of the vertebra which supports 80% of the load while standing and provides an attachment for the spinal discs.

Vertebral Discs – Acts as a cushion between each vertebra and helps connect them together in a flexible way. There are 23 discs in the spine.

Whiplash – An injury to the neck as a result of a sudden jerk or “whipping” motion of the head. Commonly occurs in automobile accidents.