Glossary

Some terms in this glossary have more than one definition or are used ambiguously by chiropractors. The definitions below are consistent with the use of these terms on Chirobase and this website and reflect what chiropractors usually mean. If you would like other terms explained, please let me know.

  • Activator Adjusting Instrument. A handheld instrument used by chiropractors who assert that slightly misaligned vertebrae can be tapped back into place with a mallet.
  • Acute back pain. Back pain that lasts a short while, usually a few days to several weeks. Episodes lasting longer than three months are not considered acute.
  • Applied kinesiology. An unscientific method of testing muscle strength to detect the presence of disease, vitamin deficiency, and other problems.
  • Atlas subluxation complex (ASC). An alleged entity that some chiropractors feel is the most common and the most serious vertebral misalignment. Chiropractors who practice specific "upper cervical techniques" focus on the ASC.
  • Atlas. Topmost vertebra of the neck.
  • Atlas orthogonal technique (A.O.T.). One of many methods of correcting cervical "subluxations" claimed to be responsible for problems anywhere in the body.
  • Barge analysis. A contemporary technique, developed by a straight chiropractor, used to locate alleged shifting of a disk nucleus said to cause tortipelvis/torticollis, spinal distortions, or curvatures. Rotation of a spinous process toward the wide side of a disk space on the concave side of a spinal curve (the opposite of what is normally seen) is thought to indicate that the disk is improperly centered.
  • "Big Idea." The chiropractic concept that the body heals itself when interference to the proper functioning of the nervous system is removed.
  • Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.). A nonsensical method that involves measuring leg length to determine whether "imbalances" exist in the body's electromagnetic field. The chiropractor allegedly corrects these imbalances by placing his hands on certain "contact points" to transfer electromagnetic energy to the patient.
  • Bio-kinetics. A new technique in which a special adjustment with an instrument is made between the atlas and the skull to relieve dozens of ailments ranging from asthma to psoriasis. This cure-all spinal adjustment corrects subluxations and "reconstructs the spine."
  • Blair upper cervical technique. Another technique that concentrates upon correction of vertebral misalignments at the top of the neck as a method of removing nerve interference in the spine. A "Blair head clamp" is used to position the head for cervical x-ray examination.
  • C.A. Abbreviation for "chiropractic assistant."
  • Carver technique. Method developed by Willard Carver, an early Palmer student who formulated his own theories about subluxations and nerve interference and opened the Carver Chiropractic college in 1908. Carver developed a technique in which traction and pressure is applied to the spine just before making a manual thrust, which he called the "Tracto-Thrust" system.
  • Cavitation. Pop that occurs in a spinal joint when vertebral surfaces (facets) are separated to create a vacuum that pulls in nitrogen gas.
  • Cervical vertebrae. There are seven vertebrae in the cervical or neck area of the spine.
  • Chiropractic Biophysics (CBP). Method of chiropractic analysis and treatment in which spinal corrections are based on theoretical calculations related to posture and spinal curvature. This technique advocates adjustments, traction, and exercises intended to develop "normal" neck and low-back curvature. This is the primary modality that Dr. Bob practices.
  • Chronic back pain. Back pain episode that lasts more than three months.
  • Concept therapy. Method of using a positive state of mind to help "innate intelligence" heal the body, thus making any chiropractic technique more effective. Its founder taught that once you know the "great secret" taught in Concept Therapy, you can make any technique work.
  • Contact Reflex Analysis (CRA). A nonsensical testing procedure in which diagnoses are made by testing muscle strength while placing manual pressure on alleged "reflex points." The results are then used to prescribe vitamin supplements and/or homeopathic products.
  • Contour analysis. Useless procedure in which an angled light is passed through a grid to the surface of the patient's body to produce a pattern of shadows that is viewed on a screen and/or photographed. The resultant picture resembles a topographic map. Also called moire contourographic analysis.
  • Cox flexion-distraction technique. Method of applying manually controlled distraction or stretching to specific spinal segments with the assistance of a movable table. Not a manipulation technique.
  • D.C. Abbreviation for "doctor of chiropractic."
  • D.C.M. (Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine). New degree being considered by at least one chiropractic college, which believes that some form of drug therapy may be appropriate for a properly specialized chiropractic practice.
  • Derefield leg check. Test alleged to detect pelvic dysfunction by measuring leg length in a prone (facedown) position. Measurements are obtained with the legs straight and with the knees bent. Leg checks are used by Activator practitioners and others who purport to measure and correct pelvic "imbalances."
  • Directional nonforce technique (DNFT). Method of diagnosing and correcting subluxations by applying thumb pressure to the spine and checking leg length, which supposedly changes when correction is made.
  • Dynamic thrust. Chiropractic adjustment delivered suddenly and forcefully to move vertebrae, often resulting in a popping sound.
  • Enzyme replacement system. Nonsensical approach that correlates recurring "subluxation patterns" with the results of a 24-hour urinalysis (purported to identify "enzyme deficiencies") so that spinal adjustments and nutritional measures can be combined.
  • Flexion-distraction technique. Useful method of stretching the spine in a facedown position on a table that allows manually applied flexion and traction to be applied to specific spinal segments.
  • Full-spine technique. Method of adjusting or manipulating any of the vertebrae from the neck down.
  • Gonstead technique. System of correcting pelvic and sacral "subluxations" to correct secondary subluxations elsewhere in the spine. The alleged problem areas are located by motion palpation and skin-temperature instrument measurement and "confirmed" with full-spine x-ray examination.
  • Grostic procedure. Upper cervical technique that depends upon x-ray examination to measure and detect misalignments between the atlas and the skull. Adjustment can be made with an instrument or be done manually by placing pressure on the side of the neck at the base of the skull.
  • Hole-in-One (H.I.O.). Method of adjusting the atlas (the topmost vertebra at the base of the skull). Proponents claim that this will improve health and facilitate correction of subluxations elsewhere in the spine.
  • Innate Intelligence. An alleged inborn ability of the body to heal itself, which chiropractors believe is enhanced by spinal adjustments.
  • Intervertebral disk. The tough cartilage that serves as a cushion between two vertebrae. Each disk has a gelatinous-like center (nucleus pulposus) that may protrude to form a disk herniation.
  • Kale method. Variety of upper cervical adjustment in which a "toggle adjustment," or a sudden, shallow thrust is applied to the side of the neck to correct atlas subluxations, often in a knee-chest position on a special table.
  • "Killer subluxations." Allegedly misaligned spinal bones that some chiropractors feel can result in fatal illness. The concept is promoted by posters that depict an unrealistically large spinal nerve being pinched by an unrealistically displaced vertebra.
  • Laser Therapy. Laser was designed by a team of doctors and leading medical engineers to harness the therapeutic application of advanced low energy laser.  In human tissue the resulting photochemical reaction produces an increase in the cellular metabolism rate which expedites cell repair and the stimulation of the immune, lymphatic and vascular systems. The net result is the apparent reduction in pain, inflammation, edema and an overall reduction in healing time.
  • Leander's method. Method that utilizes a motorized table for loosening or mobilizing the spine with flexion-distraction-type stretching before a spinal adjustment.
  • Leg-length testing. An unsubstantiated method used to detect alleged subluxations. It is used as part of Activator Methods, Logan basic, Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique, Thompson terminal point technique, and Sacro occipital technique.
  • Listing. Abbreviated description of the position or movement of a "subluxated" vertebra. Many techniques have their own listing system, which can make it difficult for chiropractors to communicate with each other.
  • Locked spinal joint. Sudden binding that occurs when two joint surfaces are shifted out of their normal alignment by an awkward movement that triggers muscle spasm. The result may also be called an "acute locked back."
  • Logan method. A nonthrusting method in which thumb pressure is used to correct alleged sacral subluxations and leg deficiency claimed to affect the entire spine.
  • Long-lever manipulation. Method of spinal manipulation in which a general technique is used to stretch or loosen several vertebrae at a time.
  • Low-force technique. Use of an adjusting machine and/or reflex technique said to be an alternative to forceful manipulation ("dynamic thrust"). It may not be an appropriate substitute for properly performed spinal manipulation. Advertising it is often a promotion gimmick.
  • Lumbar vertebrae. The five bones in the lower-back portion of the spine.
  • Lumbo-pelvic techniques. Technique used to adjust any "manipulative lesion" in the joints of the lumbar spine and pelvis. Lumbo-pelvic "distortions" are attributed to postural alterations, leg-length inequality, tilting of the lumbar vertebrae, loss of mobility, and other "lesions" that require manipulation over the pelvis and lower back. Leg-length testing is often used to detect lumbo-pelvic distortions.
  • Lumbosacral strain. Strain or injury of joints or ligaments at the base of the spine where the last lumbar vertebra (L5) is connected to the sacrum. Strain or disk degeneration in this area is probably the most common cause of low-back pain.
  • Maintenance care. Subluxation-based program of periodic spinal examinations and "adjustments" alleged to help maintain the patient's health. Also called "preventive maintenance" or "preventative maintenance."
  • Manipulation under anesthesia (MUA). Procedure in which a chiropractor performs manipulation while an anesthesiologist keeps the patient asleep. MUA has little appropriate use and is potentially dangerous. Because the normal protective reflexes are abolished, the manipulated joint can be overstretched.
  • Mercy Guidelines. Common name for the report issued following the chiropractic consensus conference held at the Mercy Conference Center in Burlingame, California, on January 25­30, 1992. The report is a step toward establishing parameters and guidelines for the profession. Many insurance companies use it as a guide to the appropriateness of chiropractic treatment.
  • Meric system. Chiropractic system based on the theory that specific spinal joints are associated with specific organs, requiring adjustment of certain vertebrae for certain diseases. ChiroSite contains a very vivid portrayal of this system.
  • "Mixer." Chiropractor who uses physical therapy and other natural treatment methods in addition to manual manipulation of the spine.
  • Mobilization. Method of manipulation, movement, or stretching to increase range of motion in muscles and joints that does not involve a high-velocity thrust.
  • Moire contourographic analysis. See Contour analysis.
  • Motion palpation. Useful method of locating fixations and loss of mobility in the spine by feeling the motion of specific spinal segments as the patient moves.
  • Musculoskeletal. Referring to structures involving tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints.
  • Nerve root. One of the two nerve bundles emerging from the spinal cord that join to form a segmental spinal nerve.
  • Neural Organization Technique (NOT). Method purported to "organize" the nervous system and activate helpful reflexes by using applied kinesiology muscle-testing to identify and correct food allergies and dysfunctions claimed to affect the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain.
  • Nervo-Scope. A handheld, dual-probe thermocouple gadget purported to locate "subluxations" by measuring skin temperature on both sides of the spine.
  • Neuro Emotional Technique (NET). Method purported to correct disease-causing subluxations that result from negative emotions that "lock in" a "neuro emotional complex (N.E.C)."
  • Neurocalometer. The heat-detecting instrument originally developed in 1924 for locating subluxated vertebrae.
  • Nimmo method. Technique that uses digital pressure on trigger points to relax muscles said to be pulling vertebrae out of alignment.
  • Nonforce techniques. Various reflex techniques and muscle-treatment methods that do not involve forceful manipulation.
  • Objective straight chiropractors. Chiropractors whose sole objective is to "correct vertebral subluxations -- not because they cause disease or are associated with any medical condition, but simply because the body works better without them . . . . and that alone justifies their correction."
  • Orthogonal methods. Upper cervical measurements and techniques that often require use of instruments and machines to correct what are claimed to be minute but all-important subluxations of the atlas.
  • P.A.L. technique (positive anatomical leg length). "New" technique for detecting differences in leg length. Commonly used by chiropractors to do "health screenings" in malls and at health fairs. X-ray examination is then recommended to locate the cause of the deficiency and its effect on the spine, so that correction can be made with spinal and pelvic adjustments. Most structural leg deficiencies with associated compensatory spinal curves and pelvic rotations are not significant and are not correctable.
  • Pelvic deficiency (P.D.) -- An alleged condition that proponents of Activator Methods define as an "apparent" difference in leg-length, not an anatomical difference. Also called "functional short leg." To determine where the alleged problem is located, the practitioner holds the patient's feet in various ways while the patient lies facedown on an examining table
  • Pettibone method. Upper cervical adjustive technique that utilizes an instrument to adjust the atlas. Orthogonal lines are used to measure the full spine.
  • PI -- Abbreviation for "personal injury." Used in the phrases "PI practice" and "PI seminar," which focus on patients with occupational or auto injuries.
  • Pierce-Stillwagon method. Technique similar to Sacro-Occipital Technique which involves contacts and other maneuvers applied to cervical and pelvic areas to produce effects in remote muscles, organs, and joints. A full-spine x-ray examination is considered essential for pelvic analysis. Uses a heat-detecting instrument (Derma Therm-O-Graph) to monitor subluxation correction.
  • Sacro-Occiptal Technique. Pseudoscientific diagnostic and treatment method said to involve analysis and correction of sacral and cranial distortions to improve circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. The degree of alleged correction obtained is monitored by checking leg length.
  • Sacrum. The triangular bone that serves as a base for the spinal column and connects the pelvic bones.
  • Short-lever manipulation. A method of spinal manipulation in which contact is made on a vertebral process to move a single vertebra.
  • SMT. An abbreviation for "spinal manipulative therapy."
  • Spinal "adjustment." A chiropractic term that most chiropractors use to describe whatever method(s) they use to correct spinal problems, whether by hand or with an instrument. Some equate the terms "adjustment" and "manipulation." Others, particularly those who espouse subluxation philosophy, think that the term "adjustment" implies that their method(s) are superior to those of nonchiropractors.
  • Spinal manipulation. A forceful, high-velocity thrust that stretches a joint beyond its passive range of movement in order to increase its mobility. Manipulation is usually accompanied by an audible pop or click. Because of the speed involved, the patient does not have control and the potential for injury is greater than exists with mobilization.
  • Straight chiropractor. Chiropractors who tend to cling to chiropractic's original doctrine that most health problems are caused by misaligned spinal bones ("vertebral subluxations") and are correctable by manual manipulation of the spine.
  • Stressology. Intricate but nonsensical use of a mathematical analysis to locate stress points in the spinal analysis. Like the gobbledygook of applied kinesiology and some other chiropractic analyses, Stressology is a language that is spoken only by "Stressologists."
  • Subluxation. The medical definition is incomplete or partial dislocation -- a condition, visible on x-ray films, in which the bony surfaces of a joint no longer face each other exactly but remain partially aligned. Chiropractors use the term many ways and cannot agree among themselves what it means or how "vertebral subluxations" should be diagnosed.
  • Super-straight chiropractors. Chiropractors who believe that their treatment affects "Innate Intelligence." Their sole purpose is said to be locating and correcting vertebral subluxations, rather than diagnosing or treating disease.
  • Surface electromyography (SEMG). An unsubstantiated procedure that measures skin temperature and electrical activity in muscles surrounding the spine. Chiropractors who use it claim that it provides evidence of nerve dysfunction associated with vertebral subluxations. This procedure differs from needle electromyography, a legitimate neurologic test in which needles are inserted into the skin.
  • Surrogate testing. A senseless method of diagnosing problems by testing the muscle strength of a third person who is touching the patient. Some chiropractors use this method to diagnose allergies, deficiencies, and other alleged problems in infants and small children.
  • Sweat method. Atlas orthogonal technique in which the atlas is adjusted using a special table and a solenoid stylus placed against the side of the neck just behind and below the ear.
  • Thermography. A diagnostic procedure that images heat from body surfaces. Commonly used by chiropractors but has not been found to be effective in locating pinched nerves or subluxated vertebrae.
  • Thompson terminal point technique. A chiropractic adjustment performed on a table in which the supporting cushions drop an inch or two when a thrust is applied to the spine. Practitioners locate "subluxations" by checking leg lengths with the legs straight, the knees bent, or the head turned to either side.
  • Thoracic vertebrae. There are twelve vertebrae in the thoracic or upper-back portion of the spine.
  • Toftness method. Method in which a handheld "Toftness Radiation Detector" is used to locate subluxated vertebrae and pinched nerves so that they can then be corrected with spinal adjustments. Although the FDA has banned the device, a few chiropractors still use it.
  • Toggle recoil technique. Manipulation performed with a sudden shallow thrust (toggle) followed by quick withdrawal (recoil) of the chiropractor's hands while the patient is relaxed.
  • Total body modification (T.B.M.). Method that involves locating stressed organs or body areas so that "tried and tested reflex points and muscle testing" can be used to stimulate specific areas of the spine. This supposedly restores balance to the nervous system by stimulating nerve cells in the brain, which enables the brain to regain control of the body and guide it back to health.
  • Upper cervical specific. Technique that uses a number of specific chiropractic adjustments designed to correct atlas and upper cervical subluxations.
  • Vax-D (vertebral axial decompression). A high-priced form of traction using a device that stretches and releases the spine while the patient lies facedown.
  • Vertebra. Bony segment of the spine that encircles and helps protect the spinal cord and nerves. The plural of vertebra is vertebrae.
  • Vertebral artery. Arteries, one on each side, that thread through holes in the six upper cervical vertebrae. Sudden rotation during neck manipulation can injure them and interrupt blood flow to the lower part of the brain, causing a stroke.
  • Vertebral subluxation complex. A "modern" chiropractic term for the chiropractic subluxation.
  • Vitalism. The concept that the functions of an organism are due to a "vital principle" or "life force" distinct from the physical forces explainable by the laws of physics and chemistry. Chiropractors refer to that force as "Innate Intelligence."

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